Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Lesson from Raleigh

Rochester and the Northeast in general place a premium on the maintenance of old buildings.  Even when new buildings are built, they are made to fit the character of neighborhoods that are full of old buildings.  This noble cause of preservation helps maintain a certain uniqueness in an era when much of America looks remarkably the same.  Unfortunately, a fine line exists between preservation and obstruction.

A look around the country suggests that Americans are not nearly as interested in architecture as some would maintain.  As an example, Raleigh, North Carolina, one of the fastest growing metro areas in the country, is full of developments that might horrify Northeasterners.  Yet the area continues to be a magnet for...Northeasterners.

While I have zero expertise in zoning and urban development (for that, go to the amazing site Rochester Subway), the following seems like a logical approach to rebuilding Rust Belt cities such as Rochester:

  • If private money can pursue a new venture by reusing an old building, all parties can be content.
  • If private money can pursue a new venture that mandates the demolition or alteration of an abandoned structure, obstructionism to the point of derailing the development and preserving the abandoned structure is puzzling.


  1. A great example of this is what happened with the Genesee Brew House. The brewery wanted to tear down an old building and give the area a great restaurant that reused another old building that was in good shape. Preservationists wanted the company to abandon the project in order to let the first old building continue to rot and fall down on its own. Luckily, common sense won out and the area now has a great restaurant with a wonderful view of high falls (and has the jobs that go along with that).

  2. I couldn't agree more. I hope this type of common sense continues to prevail. For example, while I can appreciate the charm of the abandoned subway, the reality is that it has been abandoned for about 60 years! As such, if someone needs to alter it in order to capitalize on our riverfront, I'm not sure we should be getting in the way.