Before his death in 2016 Anthony Costello, Monroe County, and the City of Rochester touted the multi-million dollar Citygate development as a cool, chic urban shopping and living space. The development was suppose to integrate urban walkability, upscale retail shopping, living, and dining. The original proposal was in 2006 and now twelve years later sits a half finished development, vacant storefronts, Costco, and past due tax bill. It was announced this week that the company owes $2.2 million dollars in back taxes, and much of the commercial space sits empty. The restaurant Cheeburger Cheeburger was the latest casualty and many of the local residents mainly use the space for the Costco. I could go on and on listing Citygate’s failures but the biggest question is “What went wrong?
The story of Citygate and the close in proximity Collegetown undercuts the fact that the top down, big box, multi-million dollar development that the City of Rochester and County have so often used to build up Rochester is no longer viable, sustainable, or what residents want. Anthony Costello and Sons built its empire of this model but in 2018 its failings show us that this top down approach is not the best way to build diverse, inclusive, and walkable neighborhoods.
Where were the town hall meetings and charrettes that tapped into the local and regional neighbors that would be most affected by this massive and expensive development? Where were the surveys that asked local neighbors what they wanted to see. Why weren’t residents given the tools and autonomy to submit their own ideas for a development? The lack of transparency in the Citygate project, Collegetown and even Parcel 5 along with each of these projects failings should clearly articulate to developers and leaders that the way development has been done in Rochester is not the way of the future. Government leaders and officials have time and again been called out for excluding the very residents that these projects are alleged to improve. Still they repeatedly develop areas, give massive tax breaks to and break ground on large scale projects that don’t have the backing or support of the residents and tax paying citizens. When will they learn? When will this top down development stop?
Calvin Eaton aka theglutenfreechef is a freelance educator, digital content creator, and social entrepreneur. As a professional Mr. Eaton’s areas of expertise include social media and digital content creation, food blogging and recipe development, antiracism, diversity, inclusion, K-12 curriculum writing and teaching, and higher education.