Discuss Rochester's High Falls and the surrounding area here._____________________________________________________________http://www.democratandchronicle.com/app ... /701170389Let offices, housing fill High Falls, city toldReport suggests giving up on subsidized entertainment area
(January 17, 2007) — Mayor Robert Duffy says the city must face "the stark reality" that the future of the historic High Falls District might not be as an entertainment district.
Duffy's comment came in response to a consultant report, released Tuesday, that recommends city officials abandon a decadelong push to turn High Falls into an entertainment quarter and instead let private investors continue to steer development toward housing and office space.
According to the report, more than $41 million in taxpayer money has gone into High Falls since 1992. That total — from city, state and federal sources — is not much more than the private investment in office, residential, restaurant and retail development during the same period.
"The city has invested a lot of money in High Falls going back years," the mayor said. "I believe it's time to look at the stark reality that the future of High Falls may not be as an entertainment destination."
In its report, the Center for Governmental Research concluded that the city should sell off the buildings it owns, halt its operating subsidies and clean up public spaces it has allowed to languish.
No private property remains available for renovation or redevelopment, the report says — thus turning the focus to the city and Rochester Gas and Electric-controlled land and buildings. The city owns the Center at High Falls/Brown's Race Market complex. RG&E owns the land below the falls, the Beebee plant and other, smaller buildings.
The consultant suggested that the city look into breaking its contract with Cordish Co. of Baltimore, which manages the city property that is home to businesses such as Tiki Bob's Cantina and McFadden's bar. The contract runs through June 2008. One issue that likely will play a significant role in any outcome is a pending state decision on Tiki Bob's liquor license. The same company owns both bars.
In the future, niche retail shops and restaurants would primarily serve people who live and work in the district.
Mimi Tilton and her brother, Peter Freund, are spending about $1 million to renovate the four-story Perry Building into office and loft apartments and expect to welcome their first new tenant in May. Looking beyond her property, Tilton said the RG&E property "is screaming for attention," and more housing options are needed.
A spokesman said RG&E had not seen the report and declined comment.
David Luxenberg, an investor in the High Falls Button Factory building, said it's important to look at restaurants and services, too.
"(But) it needs to be re-branded in everybody's mind as the High Falls historic district, which allows it to develop naturally as an office and residential neighborhood," he said.
Creating a housing and office district was the directive from an initial city-commissioned financial and market study in 1990. R. Carlos Carballada, the city's commissioner for economic development, said that despite the city pushing in another direction, "the market has sort of evolved itself."
The report praises the city for preserving and improving the district, but it notes that public areas have been neglected as officials sought to limit ongoing subsidies. Trash and debris litter the waterwheel and streets, kiosks are outdated, and information panels are in disrepair.
"Neither the laser show nor the interpretive museum have undergone any significant updating since they were opened in 1992," the report states.
Duffy points to the lack of housing options as the largest impediment for High Falls, while Carballada adds poor marketing. According to the report, marketing — largely the responsibility of Cordish — has become venue-driven rather than district-driven and often failed to link with nearby events at Frontier Field and elsewhere.Final report here: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/ass ... 353117.PDF