New Beginings

It’s that time of year again. It’s getting colder out, local apples are in the grocery stores, and the kids are back to school. For me, this time of year feels more like the new year than January.

For the past few months, I’ve been working for the City of Rochester and commuting daily from Geneva.  This summer, we packed up our apartment and moved to Rochester.  As you know, Geneva is one cool little city full of interesting, kind, and imaginative people and we were lucky to have lived here for a couple of years.  Thanks, friends.  And thanks for reading this blog and for sharing my excitement about Geneva.

All the best…

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Commercial Development on the Lakefront

photo3There was a story in the Finger Lakes Times this past weekend about an upcoming Council Meeting regarding commercial development on the lakefront.  As a relative newcomer to Geneva, I don’t know much about what’s been discussed or considered in the past.  Given the importance of the waterfront as a resource for our community, it’s definitely an issue I’m keen to learn more about.  For now, here are the details of the Council Meeting as well as whatever documents I could find on the web.

Council Meeting on July 9, 2013 at the Public Safety Building at 6:00 pm.

Policies on Downtown and Lakefront Development

Waterfront Infrastructure Feasibility Study

Facebook Event Page

Vegetarian Eats in Geneva

Despite it’s size, Geneva is home to several restaurants that offer great vegetarian food. Here’s my list of places to check-out:

1. Dallywater’s - this restaurant makes all their food from scratch and always has several delicious vegetarian options on the menu. Check of the vegetarian bangers and mash or the “vegetarian” meat pie.  In addition to the food, Dallywater’s has the nicest facade in the city.  You can sit in the lovely windows, enjoy your meal and watch the city go by.

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2. The Leaf - responsible, organic, local, delicious.  Check out the veggie burger, banh-mi or risotto.  They also happen to have one of the best beer selections in town.

3.  Opus Espresso and Wine Bar – good coffee and the vegetarian burrito will keep you going for lunch and dinner!

4. Pure Grille & Curry – there are many options to choose from at this yummy restaurant.  The service is quick and the prices are very reasonable.

There are a handful of other places in town that consistently have veggie options on their menus, including: The Red Dove Tavern, Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge, Halsey’s, and Seneca Brew & Smokehouse.

Speaking of great food, did you see the recent article about Geneva in the Democrat & Chronicle?

The only other thing that I wanted to note is that Mother Earth Natural Foods is a great place to stock up on beans and grains and whatever other bulk items you might need.

Musical Porches Rocked

Last night the Founders Square neighborhood hosted Musical Front Porches. We picked up a map at the Washington Street cemetery and wandered around to the 11 participating homes that were hosting musicians on their porches. Folks of all ages were walking, skateboarding, biking and driving from site to site. Some folks decided to stay in one place and set out lawn chairs to enjoy the evening. I was impressed by all of the musicians and the overall energy of the event. It was fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. Once again, Geneva proves what a great little city it is.

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Neat Stuff Happening in Geneva

1.  Tonight (June 8, 2013) there is a Musical Porches event happening in the Founders Square neighbourhood.  See the GNRC website for more detail.  Speaking of which, didn’t the GNRC do a great job re-designing their website?!  Kudos to them!

2.  A fabulous new issue of Geneva-13 has just been released. Keep your eyes peeled around town for a copy.

3.  Our pals over at Love Geneva have declared June the “drink local month“.  I don’t know about you, but I will do my best to support our local businesses.

4.  There is an exciting article in the Finger Lakes Institute newsletter about the new community design center (FLI-CDC).  Led by Cari Varner, Instructor of Architectural Studies at Hobart and William Smith, the FLI-CDC will get rolling this summer by looking into green infrastructure best practices for historic districts and examining the 5&20 corridor (near Wegman’s).

Personally, I’m really happy that the 5&20 corridor will be explored and that new ideas for improving its overall management and design will be considered. As someone who occasionally walk-shops along that street, reducing the amount of signage and improving informal pedestrian trails are at the top of my own wish list for that street.

photoThis is a photo of some of the signage along the 5&20 corridor.  The McDonald’s sign is considerably shorter than many of the McDonald’s signs in my hometown, but the new plaza sign is a little on the big side, isn’t it?

I can’t wait to see how the program unfolds.  Good luck and congrats to everyone involved in this project.

Why Porland isn’t Easily Replicable

For anyone interested in cities, Portland, Oregon, is the model to follow. The Pearl District is world-famous for its redevelopment of old warehouses into a funky downtown neighbourhood. The city boasts legendary coffee, hip hotels and even a tv show called Portlandia. There is free transit downtown and a gondola to one of the universities. Portland is home to real estate agents that specialize in finding homes for people who cycle and don’t own cars. There are food trucks, community gardens, green buildings, tent cities, neighborhood repair projects and on and on. In short, it’s a hub of city-building innovation.

Can we simply import these ideas to Geneva and hope that they take root? If we build community gardens and hip coffee shops will young people flock to our region and help us to rebuild our economy? I wish it was that easy.

The foundation of Portland’s success is the urban growth boundary (UGB), which was established by state legislation in the 1970s at the behest of a coalition of environmentally-minded local citizens and politicians. The UGB acts like a container for urban sprawl, prohibiting the region from developing farmland and growing ever-outward. The effect of the UBG on real estate is that the value of land inside the boundary increases significantly. Redeveloping unused sites within the city, building houses on smaller lots, or infilling vacant land become more economically viable options when land is scarce. Without a UGB, land on the urban fringe is often the cheapest option for building new homes and so the housing market typically moves outward instead.

As a result of increasing the density within the existing footprint of the region, Portland has been creating a more walkable and pedestrian oriented built environment. It is the dense, walkable built environment that creates opportunities for new businesses, community groups or ways of living to flourish. In short, the growth boundary set the stage by limiting the options for car-oriented, mall-based living.

Obviously, this is an oversimplification on my part. It’s not just about density and walkability. But those are key pieces of the equation. Any city that wants to embrace and build a uniquely urban community needs to reverse the economic incentives for sprawl and figure out how to encourage more people to get out of their cars.

Does it matter if HWS has an office downtown?

Yes, it does. I recently noticed an HWS office sign downtown on Main Street. I really think this is a great idea for a number of reasons:

  • the more people working, living and shopping downtown, the more vibrant our Main Streets will become;
  • working downtown means that employees can use their lunch breaks to walk to places to eat or do errands (e.g. post office, public library);
  • there is one less vacant storefront;
  • I think the university is leasing the space, which means that the building owner, in turn, is paying property taxes (note: typically, universities are exempt from local property taxes), and;
  • it seems to me that there is something symbolic about extending the built environment of the campus into the heart of the city. I know that there are loads of great campus / community initiatives, but there is something about a bricks and mortar presence that strikes me as pretty powerful.

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