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You can watch a Video of the meeting here: https://youtu.be/OMaBTil0Ih8
SouthWest Common Council Minutes - 7/20/17
SWCC Meetings are held every 3rd Thursday, 6-7:30 p.m. @ Phillis Wheatley Library
This special meeting was at the restaurant site 1500 S Plymouth Ave.
The SWCC represents leaders, community residents and stakeholders who meet to contribute to the vision and planning for the SouthWest Quadrant. SW Common Council - the place to come for grassroots community input - THE DOOR IS ALWAYS OPEN!
NEXT MEETING: August 26, 2017
In Attendance: Landy Atkinson (19th Ward Resident), John Boutet (LocationSW & SW Education), Chris Buitrago (19th Ward Community Association), Eleanor Coleman (ProsperRochester/OACES), MaryDan Cooper (19th Ward Resident), Robert Cooper (19th Ward Resident), John Curran (Rapid Cemetery Restoration), Mary D’Allessandro (So. Plymouth Business Assn), Daniel DeMarle (19th Ward Resident)), Joanne DeMarle (19th Ward Resident), Elizabeth Doucette (Cottage Street Block Club), John Laing (19th Ward Community Association), Mary Larkin (19th Ward Resident), Colleen McCarthy (UR), Bonny Mayer (Corn Hill), Dana Miller (19th Ward, City Council), Bill Nichthauser (19th Ward Volunteer), Greg Norsen (So. Plymouth Ave Bus Assn), Harlan Ost (19th Ward Community Association), Josanne Reaves (Leadership Rochester), Lynnette Robinson (COTS, SWCC Co-Chair), Jay Ross (19th Ward), Donna Sarnacki (19th Ward Community Assn), Deb Wight (19th Ward Resident)
SPECIAL MEETING: STATUS OF VACANT BROOKS LANDING RESTAURANT
(Held at restaurant site - 1500 S Plymouth Ave.)
Background from posted meeting invitation:
“In 2013, the City approved a re-subdivision for the Flats LLC to build a student housing tower / restaurant building, and a declaration of covenants and restrictions between the City and Flats LLC was recorded. The Flats (Ron Chistenson, Developer) agreed to use best efforts to lease space for a restaurant with public access. That space was reserved but not finished. The declaration of covenants outlined a process that was to be used if the Flats requested permission for an alternate use. The process includes a public hearing and written approval of City Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development.
This is not the "public hearing" that is required to alter the covenant to permit an alternate use. This is a meeting of the SWCC to which all interested members of the public are invited to study the state of affairs and consider all the options that should be considered to meet the desires and needs of the community in a practical way. Whatever proposals, if any, that come out of this meeting will need to to be evaluated and fleshed out with all the parties who would be involved, before being ready to be considered at a public hearing.”
Josanne Reaves made available a timeline Brooks - Genesee Timeline rev 7-13-2017.pdf that starts in 1983 and ends in 2017 highlighting the beginnings of development for Brooks/Genesee until now when the community is being called together to discuss the possibility of alternative uses for the restaurant space that has been empty for 3 years. John Boutet introduced Ron Christenson (RC), Owner of restaurant space at Brooks Landing.
Came up with original restaurant design in 2000; community wanted a destination restaurant (not the 14th Applebee’s); goal was to create jobs and traffic.
Originally planned as a one-story restaurant; could not financially justify the cost of a one story structure because of costly foundation requirement and returned for community approval to add additional floors for student housing.
Neighbors asked for stairway out front that would serve as an amphitheater, including a circular grassy area; this required City allowance, which was received.
City has not been successful in programming for that space.
Developer unable to give us a list of the restauranteurs who have been solicited; RC has worked with 3 leasing agencies and delivered hundreds of flyers
$10 per square foot for the 5,000 sq feet (lower than market value); additional outdoor, riverfront sq. footage available.
Substantial ventilation system required ($1.6 million for the system; $2 million realistically for total renovations).
QUESTION: Why wasn’t ventilation system done originally. ANSWER: Every restaurant is different; ventilation design for one restaurant might not be adequate for another.
PREVIOUS DEVELOPMENT in 2017: RC had an exploratory conversation with the UR about using the space as a cultural center, an international services and local engagement office. Before the space can be considered for alternative use, the community must hold a public hearing and agree to renegotiate the original contract allowing the space to be used as anything other than a restaurant. The UR has stepped away from any connection to the restaurant space and the cultural center is no longer an option. The UR will await the community’s direction.
Community Discussion, Feedback & Responses:
Dan DeMarle - This is a commercial restaurant; full kitchen build-out leaves out option for small mom/pop restaurant; RC noted that this space was not designed for mom/pop restaurants.
Ron Christenson - the key is the existing market; you can make it a restaurant or not, but is it sustainable?
Colleen McCarthy: Why are people not interested in this space? People feel there is not a market here. We have had 5 restaurants across the street - 2 have already failed; current restaurants (except Subway) are struggling. Of the current customer base, 80% of the patrons are UR students and faculty. That means that neighbors only account for 20% of the patrons of the existing restaurants.
Landy Atkinson - How much parking is available for this space? All parking space around the restaurant space is for the restaurant; student parking is across the street behind Plymouth Gardens.
Mary Larkin - Students are parking here; RC noted that parking is probably not being enforced at this time because the restaurant is empty.
Mary D’Allessandro - It takes 5 years for a business to start making money - we need to take that into consideration; the extra floor variance afforded to RC to support the restaurant should come back to the community.
Colleen McCarthy - Ron has made a lot of financial concessions to make his properties marketable and to work with the community. The $10/sq ft is lower than market value.
Ron Christenson - I lose money every year on this building; $8 million investment - there will be little return no matter what.
Greg Norsen - Slice it up into 3 sections to support smaller businesses.
Ron Christenson - Fast food is successful - is that what you want? Credit Union may still be an option. Again, will the neighborhood support whatever is brought here?
Josanne Reaves - Speaking from the aspect of having purchased the coffee shop (Breu) to keep it community-based; a lot of work has gone into identifying a restauranteur; originally were looking for something like the Distillery, a sports bar, etc. Unable to attract anyone. The Wok loses money; Breu loses money consistently; even though people asked for a coffee shop, it is not supported; College Town had an entire business team affiliated with it yet four to five of the businesses have closed. Can this be a banquet hall run by UR and open to the community?
Dan DeMarle - Arnett Pop-up Day was very successful in envisioning possibilities for Arnett; could we do a pop-up event for the restaurant; do something in the amphitheater. City could invite prospective developers; see a crowd.
Bonny Mayer - Only successful restaurant in Corn Hill is Penzari’s, affordable and designed for a small community; the rest of the businesses and come in and gone out - it is very difficult to fill small spaces even though we are downtown and host a successful festival - we still can’t keep a restaurant. Only restaurant that has proven to be successful is Rooney’s off Winton.
Lynnette Robinson - After school season, the UR students leave; don’t want a box restaurant. How do we honor the original contract? Is it still viable? We need to talk about something new. What are your suggestions for a successful economic and social business. When this space was designed, there was community art that was supposed to be included; people should know when they are coming upon this space that they are dealing with the SW; are the art $$’s still available; we need a substantial piece of art on corner of Genesee & Brooks; we need to get our neighbors to use the amphitheater. We can’t keep asking for things and walk away - need to use it.
Elizabeth Doucette - what are the parameters for the restaurant? Suggestion: The Shop Between the Genesees - a consignment shop run as a partnership between the UR’s Business School & community; use internships; UR could provide the seed money to come up with equipment, displays, accounting, etc.; organizations within the SW would work in partnership; use the SW Rotary. Use E-Bay via the shop. Amphitheater for a fashion show. This could be a pilot program for UR and SW.
Colleen Mccarthy - As Director of Local Government and Community Relationships, want to make it clear that we do not have a plan or any designs for this space; UR is not looking to come into this space; UR directed RC to community to them know of the challenges and ask for possible alternatives. UR does not want to take over the space - UR wants the space to be successful for the area’s development and the community at-large. UR does not own one property on Genesee; however, we do make this development feasible by filling the existing spaces. UR leasing dollars support the existing development. I’m a resource; I’m here to help in many ways (volunteer, financial, etc). Contact me at 273-5955; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan DeMarle - this would be a great base for small rochester foot races. Bring in the Westside Farmers Market as a winter space. Classroom space for understanding the river, river ecology, etc.
Colleen McCarthy - Ideas are plenty and very positive, but what is the reality of use for this space?
Ron Christenson - haven’t done a lot of alternative research because we were contractually bound to a restaurant. Listen to UR ideas, they are a good partner. Possibilities: expanding the buffet center at the hotel; make this an event center. The Cultural Center would have served 3300 students, 135 companies, 40 staff; we would have had customers on this side of river everyday.
Joanne Demarle - having been involved with master planning with Monroe County Parks, aware that the County was also looking to provide a place to rent for parties.
Mary D’Allessandro - in the spirit of the Cultural Center - what about a restaurant that offers foods from all different cultures.
John Boutet - What about a culinary training center? NOTE: Restaurant operated by East High School at Village Gate closed within a year. Could we find a way to have a teaching restaurant; offer different food choices? RIT has an entire culinary program.
Josanne Reaves - East High restaurant failed; what would we do different. Are we ready to negotiate with UR?
Dan DeMarle - What about a community fitness center?
John Curran - Character of neighborhood has changed over the last 10 years; character of this building has changed; put a tutoring center in it; create a multi-purpose environment that builds on the UR academic strengths and community collaboration.
Josanne Reaves - Who will pay for it?
Colleen McCarthy - UR already brings a lot of resources into the community remotely.
Mary Larkin - need to figure out a way around this problem; how do we open up the opportunities?
John Laing - MCC or RIT vs UR would be a better fit for culinary.
Ron Christenson - losing money every year; in addition, real estate taxes increasing next year.
Next Step Suggestion: Have an “event” here to publicize the space. Invite people who own the businesses in this area; network & brainstorm possibilities.
Deb White - Can’t do anything until the “restaurant only” covenant is removed.
Colleen McCarthy - Community needs to get on the same page about what we want on this space; SW is disjointed; while we are doing great work in the neighborhoods, we are not coming from a unified place which is necessary to move forward. (A lot of conflict has taken place in the community prior to this meeting. Some of the responses and emails received were unkind/hostile.)
John Boutet - Can places like WFM come in here and not pay but advertise the space.
Ron Christenson - Nice idea but we need the people who make decisions to come in here. Restaurant Only contractual obligation severely limits who would come in to explore using this space.
Dana Miller - As a neighborhood resident, an elected official, Chair of the City’s Business & Economic Development Committee, it’s my job to develop, recruit and sustain businesses citywide. Although I’m city-wide, I have an affinity for the SW; continually asked by people why we can’t have “x” - why don’t we have a drive-through ATM, fast food, what other neighborhoods have, etc.. South Ave is doing well; Thurston Rd is struggling. 19th Ward is the most populated neighborhood in the whole city; SW has one quarter of the city’s population yet we’re a food desert. When we work hard, we are able to produce results. For example, a grocery store in the neighborhood (TOPS on West Ave); yet - people drive right by. It has been stated that 80% of Brue business is not people who live in the neighborhood. We have neighborhood businesses that people are not supporting: Breu, WFM, TOPS, D&L, The Wok, etc.). Please share WHY existing businesses are not supported; important for me to know in order to move toward solution. Number of people we have does not support the lack of business. Business is great when students are hear, but it’s hard to sustain. We don’t generate enough business. What are we willing to do; how are we willing to act differently? South and Park Ave patronize their businesses. Breu hired a group of Simon School students to help understand business deficit; worked with Cam Schauf (UR Dining Services). Dollar Tree failed next to TOPS. We have to figure out how to generate and sustain businesses in our own neighborhood.
Mary D’Allessandro - Our neighborhood (So. Plymouth/PLEX) has a consistent negative focus. Constant negativity expressed by existing recognized neighborhood association has been destructive and alienating.
Bill Nichthauser - there is a fear of gentrification; Dana working on legislation to avoid gentrification; Corn Hill was bull dozed -that’s not happening in PLEX neighborhood.
Agreed that we should follow up with Dan’s idea to have a pop-up event.
Lynnette Robinson, email@example.com, (585) 953-0415
John Boutet, firstname.lastname@example.org, (585) 328-4271
Scribe Services: ProsperRochester, Inc. - Eleanor Coleman, email@example.com, (585) 224-5119
A Reply to 7/27/17 Latest Activity on Location 19's posting of SW Common Council Meeting on Vacant Brooks Landing Restaurant:
Installing a restaurant at the Brooks Crossing student high-rise at Genesee Street and South Plymouth Avenue persists as an obsolete covenant that needs a fresh perspective.
It is time to revisit the covenant and address southwest neighborhoods' needs with a new proposal: using the vacant and undeveloped first floor to create a state-of-the art tutoring facility. The tutoring center would feature 3-D printing, interactive video, group-study amenities, cutting-edge instructional technologies and a vast supply of tutors who are successful role models.
Where will the money come from? Gov. Cuomo announced this week the $48.3 Million Buffalo and Rochester Smart School Investment Plans. Pursue this plan immediately to address the creation of a tutoring center in southwest Rochester.
Step One involves the diverse southwest neighborhood residents supporting this local educational option by changing the restaurant covenant within the framework of the SouthWest Common Council. Step Two involves collaborating with the University of Rochester to create a tutoring space adapted to modern interactive learning technologies using the Buffalo and Rochester Smart School Investment Plan.
Please add your comments to gather momentum to change the outdated restaurant covenant and replace it with an educational one serving our neighborhood youth.
Note that I have added a link to a YouTube video of the meeting to the top of the Discussion post. That video is at: https://youtu.be/OMaBTil0Ih8
Thank you John for documenting this, so people can understand the space and the beauty outside. I still feel this should be developed as a restaurant, which is what the original understanding has been. I did see what Ron Christenson has tried to entice but feel not the right effort has been made. Hundreds of flyers sent out, not one person has come to look at the space.
That means the approach is wrong.
What the neighborhood wants is a restaurant that is a draw for people from throughout Rochester and even beyond. The local neighborhood does not support Brue or Wok because we have no reason to go there. Subway is a cheap place to get a lunch. In order to support the space, we need a restaurant like Two Vine, or Rooneys, or The French Quarter. Look up the river a mile, and you see Dino BBQ, which has been in business for 20 (?) years or more. And packed every lunch and dinner. So don't say it is not possible, which is the current attitude. Whoever is looking is just not doing a good job, and the marketing is not right.
I respect the ideas for non-profit such as tutoring center and if the money is available would be fine, should nothing else be possible. It is a thought that would have to be explored further, as schools should serve this objective, in current buildings already covered by tax dollars.
Paying the rent at $10 a square-foot means a highly profitable business, and that is only fair for the builder's investment. That is already a reduced rate.
If the covenant for a restaurant is to be changed, the money for other uses has to be guaranteed first. The U of R has repeatedly stated they will not be involved in this space.
I liked one person's suggestion for putting in a steak and ale house, with a ferry for bringing in people moving into downtown. We have a burgeoning market there, so let's take advantage of that, and make The Rapids a landing spot again.
no thrift shop...no UofR...no exercise space....no soup kitchen. ..no more excuses
I agree with everything you say, but it has nothing to do with Staybridge. The developer is Ron Cristenson.
John Curran made his latest proposal for a Interactive Learning Center use of the Brooks Crossing 1st floor space at the August 23rd SWCC Education Committe meeting. His presentation can be seen at https://youtu.be/N16dJC2yFDg .
Existing businesses aren't supported because they aren't any good. Dana, the places in existence do not have good food, are not worth going there. Tops is such a horrible store I hate going there if I have to pick up one item. You have to wait in line for one cashier, and maybe location in a crappy strip mall does not help. It looks like a place nobody would want to go.
If you can't have "the best restaurant in Rochester," it won't work. How you get it there is not anything I know.
What's current status on this?
A subcommittee of the SWCC is looking into inviting residents of the neighborhoods impacted by the traffic change to South Plymouth Avenue caused by the Brooks Landing and Brooks Crossing developments to propose viable uses for the space originally reserved for a "destination restaurant". Identifying a viable restaurant model could be a solution. John Curran's proposal for an Interactive Learning Center use of the Brooks Crossing 1st floor space is another option. Residents need to be informed about the whole covenant issue and familiarized with the space in question.
To draw attention to the Brooks Crossing venue another subcommittee is working to finally bring entertainment events to the amphitheater at Brooks Crossing for the spring and summer of 2018. Ron Christenson and the City are supporting the efforts of the Entertainment Committee.
Kudos for focusing on opportunities for others to share their ideas on possibilities for the vacant restaurant space. Hopefully, the preparation around entertainment in the amphitheater outside will draw even more people.
And hopefully, this will show restaurant owners that there is an audience for them!
Unfortunately, I don't think "free" concerts translates into paying customers for a destination restaurant. Neither Corn Hill nor College Town, where loads of money has been dropped, have been able to sustain their restaurants. Not feeling that our area holds a lot of promise for a different outcome. Glad that other possibilities are being explored. Unity around whatever goes into that space will be key.