Parcel 5: How new plans might make long-awaited development a reality

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The City is inspired by a Midwestern city, and the city and advocates are turning to the community for input

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Last month, a New York State Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) report said that $1 million of the Rochester and Finger Lakes awards would be earmarked for Parcel 5 development.

That is well under a previous request of $4.7 million from the state to renovate Parcel 5, the largest and last remaining parcel of empty land leftover from the demolition of Midtown.

“(It’s) the most beloved gravel lot in the city,” said Mary Lupien, Councilmember of the City of Rochester’s East District.

Full interview with City Councilmember Mary Lupien

Legislation said the city would spend an additional $18.8 million, bringing the project total to $23.5 million.

For years, the City of Rochester has been trying to develop Parcel 5, and after years of stalled plans and canceled projects, Chief of Staff of the City of Rochester Alex Yudelson says they’re working to have a final plan done by this year.

Though the funding has come up a little short, everyone is reaching out to the community for input.

City officials say they’re inspired and want to take elements from a Midwestern city.

“The Mayor, some of us, and some community leaders took a trip down to Kansas City to see the Power and Light district,” Yudelson said. “We thought there were elements of that we could incorporate, so elements of entertainment, green space, potentially some shops and retail, so we can have a real living room of Rochester.”

Full interview with Mayor Warren’s Chief of Staff Alex Yudelson

Lupien wants to make sure the community is heard.

“What I would like to see and what other advocates would like to see is instead of going forward and building something, taking the time to step back,” Lupien said. “(Let’s) have a real community process that is engaging and bringing in lots of people. We’ve had some public meetings, but it’s really hard to drive attendance to those, so I don’t think that we’ve heard the public — all of us.”

More more background on the $1 million funding:

According to the consolidated funding application, the city wanted to add a visitor center with restrooms, an overhead canopy, site and stage lighting, a marquee, greenspace, hardscape, and digital infrastructure to create an outdoor event space.

The language in the REDC report mirrored that used in summertime consolidated funding application, saying that the Downtown Rochester Parcel 5 Event Venue project would include:

“The City of Rochester will create a vibrant outdoor event space at Midtown’s Parcel 5 in the heart of downtown. The venue will include an expansive, translucent canopy, performance space with a stage shell enclosure marquee, green space and radiant heating.”

In a statement regarding the REDC report, Mayor Warren said in part:

“From UR Medicine Home Care coming downtown, renovations and rebirth at Xerox Tower, greater access to our waterfront at Durand Beach to laying the foundation for a year-around entertainment venue at Parcel 5 – today’s awards will help fuel Rochester’s continued growth.”

Plans for Parcel 5 previously included a new performing arts center. Those plans were eventually relocated to a separate riverside site. However, in September when the riverside hotel announced its closure, Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO had said there was little discussion regarding the performing arts center development.

“I’ve been around a long time with the performing arts center discussions. I have not heard — it’s always out there,” Duffy said in September. “I have not heard any more. I certainly heard quite a bit in the past about a Parcel 5 site. That stopped and dissipated and I have not heard anymore.”

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