Urban planner: Current Parcel Five project "probably won't work"

(WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. (13WHAM) - What's being proposed for Parcel Five isn't unique to what many cities around the U.S. have already built. But that doesn't mean it's not easy to make a costly mistake, according to one urban planner.

"What Rochester is proposing is one big, risky endeavor," said urban planner Nate Hood.

Hood has spent the last five years studying entertainment districts and complexes around the country. He says what's currently being proposed in downtown Rochester likely won't work.

"It probably won’t work as it’s currently proposed," said Hood. He says in order to make the project successful, it should have many developers, not just one. He says one developer, often backed with government subsidies, doesn't help long-term growth.

"Those (projects) generally fare a lot better than when one developer comes in and says, ‘I’m going to build one large complex,'" said Hood.

Hood says having multiple developers helps allow for slow, organic growth of businesses over time.

"Typically, those are the entertainment districts that fare a lot better," said Hood.

Sandy Parker is now leading the project for Parcel Five's makeover. The former Rochester Chamber of Commerce president says what's currently proposed will work.

But she admits, she was skeptical about the plans.

"I have really changed my opinion on this because of things like the number of people we have residing downtown," said Parker. "People want to live downtown and they want to play downtown."

Rochester isn't a stranger to seeing entertainment districts fail. Efforts in High Falls fell flat in the early 2000s, despite getting more than $20 million pumped into the project.

However, Parker says the plans for Parcel Five differ greatly compared to the High Falls entertainment district.

"Not a lot of folks over there. Parking was an issue over there," said Parker. "(Parcel Five) is much more central city, and there’s a lot of residential buildings down here, so you have a built-in mass of people to start with."

Still, urban planners like Hood aren't confident. He says the proposed complex needs to attract people all the time, and not just during concerts and shows, if it wants to thrive.

He says the area needs to also attract locally-owned businesses, adding that corporate chains don't often contribute to long-term growth.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off