Monday, August 24, 2009

Rollover Rochester

Although I am quite delinquent in writing this blog, but so much happens at Landmark Society that sometimes it takes you very long to write about them. In early June this year, I was a part of the annual conference organized by Association of Community Design. I was fortunate enough to attend the key session on “shrinking communities” where three speakers talked about different approaches to utilize vacant land in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Flint, Michigan. They talked about innovative ways to utilize vacant land through reinvesting in the edge, urban ecological design and productive landscapes with agricultural and community gardens.

The one concept which stayed with me from these presentations, was the notion of “pop up city”. It is a design initiative started by the faculty of Kent State University in Cleveland where they develop ideas for temporary uses for vacant buildings and sites. Some of those uses were temporary market (Bizarre Bazaar), winter wonderland (Leap Night), group walks (Pop up dog park) and performances under the bridge (Bridge Mix).

Sometimes it is strange how two different concepts from completely different sources can come together and benefit from each other. I recently heard on NPR about how recession woes have afflicted the fashion industry and NYC’s Port Authority- the transportation center is opening its first Month long Pop Up Retail Outlet, where you can buy designer brands at 50% discount—there you go, another version of pop up city.

“The Fashion Center Business Improvement District has teamed up with the Times Square Alliance and the NY Port Authority to create a 2500 square foot exhibition space for fashion designers and artists. The vacant space in the ground floor of the Port Authority will host rotating designers and provide a platform to showcase their works. To make this project accessible for young indie designers, they will only be charged for the utilities plus a monthly rent of just one dollar!” I think it is an incredible idea which promotes sustainability by not building new places and recycling vacant properties, helps lower rental rates, supports local artist groups and bring the community together.

This is a brilliant concept and can be used all over the world. Rochester has many vacant properties which could be brought to some use and would encourage community get- together from the entire demographics of the city. Some ideas for uses could be an art bazaar, music shows, food festival, farmer’s market, community design show— the possibilities are endless! As for the sites, they are endless too! Some of them are as follows:

1) Western end of the Frederick Douglas under Bridge
2) McCurdy's Store in Midtown Plaza
3) Sibley
s store now MCC campus
4) Bee Bee power station
5) Industrial buildings on W Main St
6) Meat packing plant on King St. and Silver St.

For more information about Pop up City, you can go to:

Posted by Nimish
a Thakur, preservation Associate
Photo courtesy; Dan Palmer

Friday, August 21, 2009

The train was down, but I'm still not down on the train

It must have been a slow news day in Rochester on August 17 (a welcome thing, actually) because the "top stories" in several of our news outlets included the breakdown of a westbound Amtrak passenger train near Lyons, New York (about 40 miles east of Rochester).

Click here and here again to see a couple of the local news stories on the breakdown. (Warning: these stories are not very interesting.)

I was on this particular run of the Empire Service from New York City. We were clickety-clacking along just fine, at up to 79 mph, when the power went off and everything went quiet. The ponderous train continued to roll for several miles (a remarkable demonstration of momentum), then eased to a stop in the darkness.

Three toasty hours later, a CSX freight locomotive rescued us and towed us into Rochester. Sure, it was muggy and dark on the train, but in my opinion, didn't come close to being an ordeal. We could, unlike on airplane stuck on the tarmac (something that NEVER happens, right?) walk around or even lay down to sleep. My fellow passengers were patient and good-natured about the whole thing, except for one woman who said "I won't tolerate this for very long." I wanted to tell her that once she stops tolerating it, she would have her choice of stepping off the train into a swamp (right side), or onto an active track (left side). I also wanted to tell her that stalling in a train is much preferable than stalling on an airplane.

It's too bad that this was a "top story" in the news, because it adds to the bum rap that the trains get in the U.S. Even with the misfortune of the breakdown, I am glad a took the train to New York, rather than drove or flew. The scenery ranged from serene to spectacular, I met some friendly and fascinating folks, and I was able to sleep comfortably--an activity not safe or easy in cars or airplanes. Plus, I was delivered right into Penn Station and its easy access to myriad other mass transit options, and didn't have to deal with driving and parking in New York. I see trains as a supremely civilized, responsible, natural way to travel. Even if they break down every now and then.

Amtrak has come up with some very clever (and true) advertising messages to promote their service, such as Our Cabins Are Always Depressurized. And on their website, they rightfully promote the green-ness of train travel.

It's encouraging to see the nation starting to embrace the trains again--the federal government and the states are looking to rail again as an efficient, effective mode of transportation that should be better supported and even expanded. For decades our rail systems have been sadly and shamefully starved; maybe now the rail-volution is really in full swing.

So don't let the "top story" about our breakdown in the bogs of Wayne County deter you from taking the train.

by Evan Lowenstein
Coordinator, RochesterCityLiving
at the Landmark Society


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

City blocks public from talks on Main and Clinton future development

from the Democrat and Chronicle, Aug. 18, 2009

City blocks public from talks on RenSquare site

What do you think about this? Should the public and media have been allowed in? We'd love to hear from you.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Discover Rochester's livability...through Google!

Here at the RochesterCityLiving office at the Landmark Society, I took a call last week from a woman in Florida who told me that Rochester was suddenly on their very short list of places to relocate. She explained that Rochester wasn't anywhere in their consciousness until it started popping up right and left in response to internet searches for the kinds of assets, amenities, and activities that she and her family are seeking in their new hometown. She said excitedly that she kept plugging in her family's preferences for arts, culture, restaurants, recreation, neighborhoods, civic organizations, and more, and that Rochester kept appearing on her computer screen, over and over again!

It sure is gratifying to learn about and assist people who are discovering Rochester and all that it has to offer! My own story is one of a person who never expected or planned to live anywhere near Rochester, but has been pleasantly surprised since day one (which was now ten years ago) by the variety, diversity, beauty, hospitality, and livability of the City of Rochester.

by Evan Lowenstein

Evan is the Coordinator of RochesterCityLiving-- a city living information and inspiration initiative of the Landmark Society


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What My Kids Did on their Summer Vacation: Full Moon Flashlight Tours

I've taken my son lots of places, but do you know what one thing he keeps asking to do again? Full Moon Flashlight Tours, the Landmark Society's low-key, family-friendly summer event at the Stone-Tolan House. (I'm not just saying that because I work here - he really does love this event, and mentions it every time we pass the house, year-round!) I first took him two years ago, when he was 3; this year my mom took him for the third time, and he was proud to bring his little sister for her first visit. We'll be back again for the next event on August 18!

The day after the tour, I interviewed each of them to find out what they thought and what they remembered.

My interview with Caroline, age 3, about Full Moon Flashlight Tours in July 2009

How did you like the campfire night?

They had a red flashlight just my size! It was in a basket.

What else did you do?

We went in a checker room.

Why was it a checker room?

Because they had checkers. They felt like corn, and the lady said they were made out of corn.

What else did you do?

We went into some bedrooms. In one bedroom we saw a dolly with our flashlight, and we saw a bed.

What did you think about the bed?

The bed had curtains on it, and if anybody would get into it, they would close it.

Why would they close it?

So they couldn’t get out, and so their feet wouldn’t stick out.

What else did you do?

We saw a summer kitchen outside.

Why do they have a summer kitchen?

So it wouldn’t be so hot inside. They only cook wood in the summer kitchen.

What was your favorite part?

We cooked marshmallows. But some of the kids got black marshmallows!

My interview with Benjamin, 5 ½

Did you have fun?

Mm-hmm. Can we go in the fall?

What did you do?

We did the same song again.

Which one?

B-E-N song.

Were there a lot of people?

Two hundred people. Actually a favillion.

What was your favorite part?

Games. They had checkers. The checkers are made out of corn.

So your favorite part was the checkers?

No. I liked everything!

What else did you do?

I had some popcorn! [Caroline interjects: We saw a man cooking popcorn in the fire!] They cooked one in the microwave, and there was a man cooking white popcorn in the fire. And I liked seeing bunk beds. I mean, just a bed. The big bed. [Caroline interjects: There was one in the checker room, and the pillow was under it!] I liked seeing the microwave, I mean, the stove. Do you know how many fires they would use? A bunch. They had TWO BIG FIREPLACES!

The next Full Moon Flashlight Tours will take place on August 18. Take it from my kids - you don't want to miss it!

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Director of Preservation Services, with help from Benjamin and Caroline