Sunday, May 24, 2009

Square Deal

We haven't had much to say about Renaissance Square, or even thought about it very much.  To political observers it offers this curious aspect:   as a project whose obvious benefits  --  a bus station and the urban community college branch  --  are of interest almost solely to Democratic constituencies, including the trade unions who want to build it, the project is championed exclusively by the Republican County Executive and the Republican Board and CEO of the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority.   Its prominent detractors are Democratic public nuisance Louise Slaughter and the Democratic Mayor.

Especially without its arts component, Ren Square appears to offer nothing of tangible benefit to Republican constituencies.

Except for this:   Ren Square makes sense.   That's why it should be built.

Nothing else is going to be built there.   (Neil Bauman must be smoking something.)   What's there right now looks awful.   If you're looking for Paetec's proposed building to anchor a revived downtown, think again.   Arunis Chesonis, Paetec's CEO, said last week he's still committed to building downtown "as long as the state comes up with its $35 million."   Translation, for the naive:  "I'm not building anything."

Even without the theater, Renaissance Square serves necessary purposes.   A bus terminal is needed there, not somewhere else.   That's the spot where bus passengers want to alight, and need to, not up by the current Amtrak station.   We wish it weren't so, because as a concept, we really like the idea of a combined train/bus facility.   But that concept doesn't fit the usage or the need.

For rail passengers, let's do what Syracuse has done, quite successfully:   move the railway station out of the city.   We should move it to the airport, for a combined rail and air facility.   This makes much more sense.   A study last year showed that 90% of rail passengers to the Rochaster Amtrak station are visitors to the area  --  their destination isn't downtown.   There are relatively few rail passengers.   Visitors by train can be picked up, or get a cab, more easily from the airport than from downtown.   A shuttle service quite efficiently could serve those few whose destination is downtown.   This makes far more sense than proposing to shuttle a high volume of bus passengers from the current railway station to Main and St. Paul.

But we digress.

The other laudable purpose served by Ren Square is the downtown community college campus.   MCC has had to make do for too long with its current facility, and very many of the students who use the downtown campus have excellent reasons to be needing a campus that can function at its peak.   The community college already has had to wait too long.   It has done so in the expectation of an ultimate result worth waiting for -- a first-class downtown facility.   This is a goal worthy in and of itself.   Quite apart from which, to snatch it away now, at the last minute, after years of patience and cooperation from the college, is unconscionable.

The money's there.   Build Ren Square.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent summary. The only thing you left out is how Rochester is the perennial laughing stock of Albany and Washington for our seemingly endless capacity for fighting with ourselves ad nauseum. When is the last time anyone saw a construction crane in Rochester? Anyone? Anyone?