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

Why do some downtown bookstores survive?

One of the most enjoyable things about downtown Victoria is the number of bookstores. You cannot walk a block without running into new and used bookstores, most of which, are independently owned.  Munro’s, in particular, is a long standing establishment in Victoria (Alice Munro was once married to the owner). When you shop at Munro’s, you know that all of the books and magazines have been carefully selected. You can peruse the new releases, the cookbook section and the remaindered table all in one visit since the size of the store is manageable. And if you have a question, then the staff, all of whom are clearly lovers of books, are more than happy to help you out.

I have often wondered how all of these bookstores have survived, especially in an age where the publishing industry seems to be struggling to hang on. My guess is that the shift to electronic reading devices, the rise of niche markets and competition from big box stores are only part of the answer for the changing nature book selling. Walking around downtown and losing time in a bookstore is one of my absolute favourite ways to spend time. I think bookstores survive in part due to their location (i.e. vibrant, walkable communities) and in part due to the experience itself.

Moving to Geneva has meant finding books in a different way. For the most part, I rely on the Geneva Public Library, which is located downtown in a delightful old building. You can also find books downtown at Stomping Grounds and the Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge. Leaving the downtown, you can find a bookstore on campus or you can buy books at the grocery store.

Recently, I was visiting the Village of Potsdam, NY, which has a population of approximately 9,500 and is home to two universities (Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam). I noticed that there was a bookstore downtown and took a few minutes to pop in and check it out. It turned out to be a university bookstore, so there were lots of clothes and other campus gear as well as books. Nevertheless, it had a nice selection of books and a little coffee shop in the front window.

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I’m not sure how long this bookstore has been located downtown nor how its fearing in this location. In recent years, a new road was built in Potsdam to enable cars to by-pass the downtown. Looking around, it didn’t seem like there were many pedestrians out and about, although the downtown is still very quaint.

Who knows what the magic formula for success might be. I certainly hope that great bookstores continue to exist and not just in bigger cities like Victoria (yes, Victoria now strikes me as a big city!).

Nice architecture but terrible streetscape

There are some beautiful buildings in downtown Rochester. And the Genesee River runs right through downtown. And yet to be downtown is somewhat unpleasant. This streetscape is totally lacking. There are lots of parking lots and buildings with no commercial on the ground floor, which means that you can walk for blocks without passing anything in particular. There seem to be no coffee shops, no grocery stores and no place to shop at all in fact. It’s a bit tragic.

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Why isn’t Rochester on Lake Ontario?

Rochester’s downtown is located about 12 kilometers from Lake Ontario.  The Genesee River runs from Lake Ontario through the city and cuts right through the middle of downtown.  It struck me as odd that the downtown was located so far from Lake Ontario.  Other cities on the Great Lakes – Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago – are all located right on the lake itself.  I know that the Erie Canal was important to this region, but Rochester was incorporated before the Erie Canal came along.  So what’s up with the inland location?

According to my in-laws, Rochester was established along the Genesee River in order to capture the energy generated by High Falls.  What?  There is a giant waterfall in downtown Rochester?  I had no idea.