Another helping of crow a la Rochester

Gee, here’s a surprise. A “consultant report, released Tuesday

recommends city officials abandon a decadelong push to turn High Falls into an entertainment quarter and instead let private investors continue to steer development toward housing and office space . . .

In its report, the Center for Governmental Research concluded that the city should sell off the buildings it owns, halt its operating subsidies and clean up public spaces it has allowed to languish.

No private property remains available for renovation or redevelopment, the report says — thus turning the focus to the city and Rochester Gas and Electric-controlled land and buildings. The city owns the Center at High Falls/Brown’s Race Market complex. RG&E owns the land below the falls, the Beebee plant and other, smaller buildings.

Since 1992, the city has dumped $41 million of our tax money into the High Falls district. The bright idea: subsidize a bunch of bars because, ya know, that would make the place so cool people would flock to it after work, get real smashed, and, uh, revitalize downtown.

The plan was launched during Bill “Fast Ferry” Johnson’s administration.

Creating a housing and office district was the directive from an initial city-commissioned financial and market study in 1990. R. Carlos Carballada, the city’s commissioner for economic development, said that despite the city pushing in another direction, “the market has sort of evolved itself.”

“The market has sort of evolved itself.” Funny thing, that.

Maybe it’s time for our politicians to recognize that they shouldn’t be risking our money in these schemes.

Ah, don’t hold your breath. The next course is already slowly browning in the oven: buying Midtown Plaza, because what else does the city have to do with our money besides develop 1.2 million square feet of abandoned retail space?

(I’m not just being a crank, here, either. Yes, I believe it’s foolish for the city to own hard assets that it has to maintain, at taxpayer expense, for extended periods of time — particularly when local economic conditions suggest the chances of a decent return are not all that great. But I have constructive suggestions, too. I think the city should focus on making our community more livable and affordable for families, as per this post, and perhaps fund events to attract tourists, because that’s been demonstrated as a less risky way to stimulate economic development.)

[tags] Rochester, New York, High Falls, Midtown Plaza [/tags]

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