Tag Archives: downtown

Rochester’s New Year’s Party is Lame

Once again, Rochester has announced its official New Year’s Eve celebration will end at 10 p.m.

That’s ridiculous.

The city describes the festivities as “family-friendly” and “wholesome.” Other cities, however, manage to hold family-friendly events and ring in the new year when the new year actually arrives.

Here’s what is happening at the Riverside Convention Center, according to the city’s press release:

The festivities will kick off with a DJ Dance Party for the whole family featuring Jimmy C’s Music Machine.  Kid-friendly inflatable attractions will include a giant bounce house,  climbing wall, obstacle course, bungee run and giant slide.  The City’s “Recreation on the Move” program will be providing crafts and games.  Visitors will be able to dress up and get their picture taken in an Old Time Photo Booth.  Also featured will be two caricature artists, henna and airbrush tattoo artists, a stilt walker, clowns and a magician.

At 9:50 p.m., the crowd will move outside the front doors of the Convention Center where they will be welcomed by Mayor Richards.  Gary Mervis, founder and chairman of Camp Good Days and Special Times, will lead the crowd in a “KazooFest” just prior to the City’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks finale which will close out the evening with an amazing aerial display at 10 p.m.

Sounds like a blast…if you still play with GI Joes and Barbie dolls.

The cities of Saratoga and Syracuse hold self-described family-friendly “First Night” celebrations that include music, activities and midnight fireworks. Buffalo has a midnight ball drop preceded by a concert.

I rang in the new millennium on the Main Street Bridge watching the city’s fireworks display. The streets were filled with people having a great time. People weren’t indoors watching their kids play house inside of a balloon. They didn’t go home at 10 p.m. to watch a ball drop on television.

Come on, Rochester, let’s have a real New Year’s Eve party. I promise we’ll behave ourselves.


Ten Predictions for 2012

RKO Palace – What Were They Thinking?

My father has never gotten over the fact the city tore down the RKO Palace Theater in the 1960s. A couple years ago, he showed me a booklet produced as a memento of the downtown theater.

It is beautiful and heartbreaking to think this was right in our center city:

“The 2916-seat theatre had provisions for every type of stage show. There was a bath for trained seals, a chute for bringing animals into the stage basement and onto the stage, and seven floors of dressing rooms that included a billiard room, kitchen and children’s playroom for the convenience and comfort of performers.”

“On its site will be erected a modern motel-office-theatre complex with twin eighteen story towers. The new 1200-seat theatre will be in the luxury class with the latest projection and sound equipment plus roomy seats that offer patrons “living room comfort.”

Nothing was ever built. It’s a parking lot on Mortimer St.

I was inspired to take out the old booklet when I read about the enormous success of Shea’s in Buffalo.


Could Rochester Make Buffalo’s “Broadway Gold?”

The New York Times reports “Broadway Hits Gold in Buffalo.”

“The Addams Family” musical packed the house at Shea’s, a 3,000-seat downtown theater, and raked in $1 million a week.


Like theaters in Cleveland and Sacramento, Shea’s in Buffalo has become important because of its reliable subscribers — 13,100 for each of its six one-week Broadway tours this year. An impressive 85 percent renew annually; the subscriber base insures that 55 percent of seats are bought even before tickets go on general sale.

“The industry has noticed how good it is to play Buffalo,” said Stuart Oken, a lead producer of “The Addams Family,” who pointed out that the show made more money per performance here than in Toronto, Miami or any other city since the tour began in September.

If it’s happening in Buffalo, couldn’t it happen in Rochester?

Rochester clearly supports shows at the Auditorium, but it doesn’t seem to compare to what’s happening at Shea’s. At 2,400 seats, the Auditorium is not as big. The facility’s location and parking are difficult. There aren’t any places to walk to have dinner before or get a drink after a show.

Of course, this is why the Rochester Broadway Theatre League desperately wants a new performing arts center. The league selected Midtown Plaza after the collapse of Renaissance Square. But at $70 million, with half of the funds coming from the public, the mayor is decidedly lukewarm. The city’s attitude will never get a new theater in downtown Rochester; getting that kind of cash requires an elected official as champion.

Reading about Buffalo’s Broadway success is a little frustrating because Rochester tore down its stately theaters. The former RKO Palace is now a parking lot. The decision to preserve and restore Shea’s ended up being a huge for downtown Buffalo.

RBTL insists a new theater would be an economic engine.

A million dollars a week…

“Fly” Over Rochester

Want to know how a proposed housing development or office building fits into your neighborhood?

Bergmann Associates, under a contract with the City of Rochester, has been creating a 3D map of the city. So far, only downtown, Eastman Business Park and University of Rochester have been plotted in detail.

The program allows users to “fly” over the city or “drive” along the streets. The technology is similar to video games. I tried it out a couple weeks ago and found it easy to use and fun.

Ultimately, the city would like to make the map available online for public use. There are even mobile versions. For now, it’s a nifty tool for architects, engineers, city planners and potential developers. It’s also a great thing for TV reporters, who often show sketches of proposed projects. Now, we’ll be able to show life-like videos!

Bergmann put this video up on YouTube of a “fly over” of Rochester. (Thanks to Zack Seward and Rochester Subway for pointing out the video via Twitter.) Note the Midtown and CollegeTown developments.

Right on Cue: Stabbing Outside MCC’s Downtown Campus

I interviewed Rochester Police Chief Jim Sheppard today about officers and firefighters getting scammed by a Tennessee photography company. Members of local law enforcement agencies sat for portraits in 2010 that never arrived. Some people spent $100 or more on packages. The chief himself was among the victims.

The story raised questions about the judgment of local police and fire chiefs. It’s a little strange that an out-of-town company was hired for the work. It’s also weird anyone would try to scam cops.

After the interview, I asked the chief about safety outside MCC’s downtown campus at the Sibley Building on East Main Street. In a blow to downtown’s image, MCC opted to move to Kodak, citing safety concerns.

“Downtown is the safest part of the city,” Sheppard said. He said the department has done a lot to improve safety on Main Street. There are now officers assigned downtown and buses for high school students have been rerouted away from Main Street.

Ironically, less than an hour after I left, a 20-year-old man was stabbed right outside the doors of MCC’s Main Street entrance. The victim does not appear to be a student.

The stabbing happened right as MCC is trying to prove its case about the area’s safety. These incidents might be isolated, but they get publicity and make the city’s job of selling downtown much harder.

Is High Falls Underutilized?

There are people who think High Falls is underutilized.

Not High Falls the neighborhood. High Falls, the actual falls. By properly showcasing High Falls, it would naturally help the neighborhood.

High Falls, the natural resource, is stunning. The falls, the gorge walls, and the downtown skyline make for some breathtaking views.

When you think about it, no one really enjoys the scenery. The city ended the only thing that made the Pont du Rennes Bridge a destination – the laser light shows. High Falls has become a nice office and residential district, but there’s no real critical mass of people. You don’t see throngs of people on a hot summer day strolling the bridge. There are only a couple eateries with views of the gorge.

I didn’t realize this is an issue until Genesee Brewery announced it wants to tear down 13 Cataract St. The brewery plans to build a deck at its new visitors center that will have the best vantage point of High Falls.

Genesee Brewery wants to make the visitors center an attractive, inviting place. Few people walk all the way across the Pont du Rennes Bridge to the brewery side. CEO Rich Lozyniak would like to create more open space with better sight lines, making it safer and more attractive to come to his side of High Falls. He believes High Falls is underutilized.

Enter Garden Aerial. This is a small non-profit few people know exists. Led by two men who work at a marketing firm in High Falls, the group aims to turn the Pont du Rennes into a floating garden. Garden Aerial would love to turn the Cataract building into a wintergarden. It even wants to build a second bridge across the falls. Garden Aerial thinks High Falls is seriously underutilized.

Garden Aerial has no money. The project strikes me as the stuff of dreams. But you’ve got people on both sides of High Falls saying, “Look what we have here. This is awesome. We need to do more.”

Below is a video of Garden Aerial’s vision.