Renaissance Square


Renaissance Square was a failed $230 million project that would have brought a performing arts center, Monroe Community College satellite campus, and bus terminal to our city. Primary initial design work was done by Boston-based [WWW]Moshe Safdie & Associates, plans were unveiled on October 11, 2006. Groundbreaking was scheduled for 2007, but the project has remained perennially plagued by funding issues.

Note: this project has nothing to do with knights on horseback parading through the mean streets of Rochester.

Here's some propaganda about Renaissance Square:

There were originally to be three theaters (small, medium, large) but as of 10/2006 the medium-size theater has been cut for cost reasons. There is talk of building it as a separate (and separately funded) project at Main and Gibbs.

The plans look great, but I ask you, citizens of Rochester:

Please discuss.

Also see:

In August 2009 County Executive Maggie Brooks announced the project was dead. The City and Mayor Bob Duffy pulled support of the project based on the latest plan and since funding was not secured for the theater. As a result, the date to secure federal funds for the college and bus station was missed and the monies will be allocated to other projects.

On May 11 2010 the City Council approved a $50M plan for the downtown bus terminal on Mortimer St.1


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2007-02-03 01:31:28   I can't believe no one has started the comments on this monstrosity of a project yet. It is terrifying how the largest taxpayer project in Rochester history has had the least public input and will probably become a horrible reality with such little fight! Louise Slaughter is the only politician I've come across SOLIDLY against this beast. "The greatest boondoggle I've ever seen" as she was quoted in City. If this thing becomes real, you can kiss all the painful progress downtown has made in the past 10 years (housing, nightlife) goodbye as no one will be able to walk or drive with 194 busses either idling or circling the blocks. —DinoKolios

2007-02-03 02:14:05   I should point out that Main Street, Rochester, currently already has an MCC campus and a wealth of empty buildings doing NOTHING. Any of that space can be put to use. To see why the bus statin itself is bad idea, you need look no further than People For A Better Bus Station. And the theater component? Rochester's own theater talent need MID-sized theater space, not the "Large" and "Small" theaters planned for RenSq. Basically, we'd be creating a giant superblock (like vacant Midtown) and adding a net NOTHING to Main St. —DinoKolios

2007-02-03 03:17:55   It's not as though the public hasn't had a chance to comment and help shape or kill off this project. While there are skeptics, no one in Rochester (other than Slaughter) has shown any passionate objection to it. This is more or less how we ended up (briefly and sporadically) with the Fast Ferry. —JohnMoriello

2007-02-03 10:01:25   Have you ever taken the bus? I would much rather wait in a climate-controlledM, organized terminal than the confusing series of bus shelters that now line Main St. The Rochester Broadway Theater League is the main proponent of the theater components. If they don't get a medium-sized theater in Ren Square, they will build one in the large parking lot at Main and Gibbs St. A real theater district will form from Downstairs Cabaret Theater to Eastman Theater to Rennaissance Square; that's exciting. MCC is in need of a more modern building than Sibley's. Sibley's should be converted into loft condos, as the ULI recommends. I should also mention that the bus terminal and college components are being funded with federal dollars, which would have gone to other cities. Maggie Brooks is confident that they will raise private dollars for the entertainment component. —BenMargolis

2007-02-03 13:39:13   My objections to RenSq. are two-fold. The metaphoric center of our city is not the place for a utilitarian bus station. Would Paris put one on the Champs Elysee? No. If we are going to spend federal tax money on transportation lets do it right - build an integrated bus/rail terminal where the joke of a shack of a train platform is now. An integrated station will benefit patrons of both forms of transportation. Second, RenSq. is very introverted, it's all about taking traffic and activity OFF of the street and coralling it indoors. Another Superblock like midtown, the war memorial, and convention center are not human scaled and pedestrian unfriendly. MCC can have all the moder space it wants, but we don't need a superblock. I feel like this bus station is being treated like bills in congress. The bill itself is bad (bus station), but lets get congress (Rochesterians) to vote for it by attatching a pay raise for us (the MCC campus and theater). Who would vote against those "good intentions"? —DinoKolios

2007-02-14 17:10:23  There has been a decent amount of vocal opposition to the Ren. Square proposal, and there has been a sector of the public trying to kill off this project. But they aren't loud, or powerful enough. 1) Rochester does need a central bus station, but they need to make it inter-transit (bus/tain/airport/etc) hub. A downtown bus station doesn't do that.
2) The conglormation of private/public/other funds they are proposing is sketchy at best, impossible at worst.
3) Rochester's downtown has larger problems, and another 'big-box' project isn't going to do it. Look at the areas that have succeeded. Park Ave, East End., now the South-Wedge have all been driven by small scale (and local) stakeholders. Not by big-budget projects. I talked with some folks about starting a co-op bookstore, and the most expesnive place to rent was downtown, despite the empty storefronts (explain that via supply-and-demand).
4) Rochester's decision making process is SERIOUSLY pro-business, non-citizen skewed. There are many examples, the lastest is this last 'weekend design charette', which ran Friday noon to Sunday, but the 'open to the public' time
was (insanely) 12:00 to 6:00 Friday afternoon. The only time of the whole even with your average joe is at work.
I'd be willing to debate/elaborate some of these points on another page if folks are interested in bouncing ideas around. —FarMcKon

2007-02-14 20:50:32   Listen—I hear everyone whining but noone is willing to stand up against Maggie Brooks. Contact or -these are two blogs that will openly discuss these issues if approached. Especially waterbuffalo-he'll go after Maggie —PeteB

2007-04-25 14:47:52   Sign the "No to RenSquare" epetition at the Water Buffalo Press - [WWW]

2007-10-27 16:49:07   Ren square is 100% boondoggle and will put a major roadblock in the way of the re-development of downtown. Not that Paetec is any better. Another grab of tax dollars by a multimillionaire. Will this area ever learn and stop throwing tax dollars at the wealthy? Bringing a casino to downtown would jump start development and wow!, let's consider that tax dollars would NOT be needed to accomplish this. Hotels. restaurants and even a concert hall would soon follow, and the casinos would provide the security that is much needed downtown. My Duffy, are you listening? —AndyBattaglia

2008-01-16 06:26:29   Ren Square is a failure waiting to happen. In fact, any monolithic structure will be a failure waiting to happen.

(I'm not clear how a casino would be any better, and in fact seems to me to be obviously worse in many ways. Coming late into a highly competitive market like gaming is not a winning strategy, especially when the likelihood is that all it will do is pump money from the pockets of working-class and middle-class residents and into the pockets of casino developers.) —EricScoles

2008-06-13 00:31:14   What kind of performing arts center are we talking about? A state of the art facility downtown that could attract a concert base similar to Darien Lake would have been a great idea... however, Constellation Brands Performing Arts Center has already done that. I dont know what bands would come to downtown rochester that wouldn't come to darien lake or CMAC... Maybe it could work... Regardless of what people have said, anything that brings youth downtown is a good thing, especially good concerts that rochester residents can go to w/o having to drive to darien or canandaigua.

Too bad that is the best part of this project. What building is being torn down? This area definitely needs to be cleaned up, but i don't know if adding a new bus terminal is a solution. In fact, isn't that just keeping the same problems with a newer bus terminal? As for the MCC campus, i just can't imagine the area being a good place to go to college. What the area needs is fresh, different, and new people living downtown. Thats the only way to clean up this area, not some bus terminal or performing arts center that will get teddy geiger and nobody else. That is why the idea of a law school downtown could be such a great idea... put it downtown and PUT THE DORMS/TOWNHOUSES there too. But don't have it near a bus terminal because if its anything like the current one at midtown, nobdoy in their right mind would go to school in rochester. —JoeN

2008-07-08 15:37:41   I'd love to see that area redeveloped. And I'm not against any of the proposed uses per se. But my support for each one has caveats:

1. I know we need a real bus terminal at the main bus crossroads, because in January a plexiglass shelter doesn't cut it in Rochester. We really need more transit if this city is to thrive in an era of constrained energy, and buses are the current state. What I would like to see is a riverfront light-rail/monorail system extending from RIT past U of R/ Strong, ultimately to the harbor and a restored beach. it would run right beside both major Kodak sites and right downtown. So I'd rather repurpose some of the space alongside the convention center for that, and have a people-mover from there to Ren Center Garage, which is within a block of Chase, Xerox, and Paetec. While I'm dreaming, maybe another people-mover to the Amtrak station a few blocks north.

2. Full disclosure: I'm part of the local higher-ed community. But MCC has a downtown campus in the old Sibley complex and I don't think it's full. A new academic building for them would not require that they move out of where they are, just a connector bridge across Clinton to a new academic center. A "campus" (latin: field) square right in the middle of downtown would be great, opening the area and making it more pedestrian-friendly. One of our problems in rochester is the awful, imposing, and ugly street-edge empty commercial space. If you visit other urban campuses that work and bring viatlity to their citites, they typically have badly-needed open space populated by students.

3. Performing arts? We already have a midsized Eastman Theater, a slightly larger Auditorium Theater, and a small GeVa within a half-mile or so of Ren Square. JoelN suggested it would draw concerts to compete with Darien et al., but the main tenant would be a dance studio, as I understand it- so it would be dark about 80% of the time. Not exactly a driver for a vibrant downtown. I personally don't get the attraction of modern dance, but if there is enough support and they can't perform in one of the other venues, fine... let those who would pay that kind of money for tickets put up the money for the house. I'd love to see it. But don't lets delude ourselves into thinking Garth Fagan would draw mass crowds of youth downtown. It's mostly an upper-class fascination appealing to middle-aged suburbanites, I think, though I could be wrong. In any case, this additional (FOURTH!) downtown performance space in a city our size seems overkill, especially with good college spaces on two ends of the metro area. The lack of private sector money coming forward to build it indicates to me that it really is too much for our community to support.

So, what's left? One campus square and an academic quad, one bus terminal, and a lot of available commercial space adjacent to a newly redeveloped midtown Paetec Center. Seems to me like the grandiose Safdie scheme is overkill for us. Let's clear the deteriorated and empty buildings, build what we need with the money in hand, and see if the organic growth can help fill in the rest without an overarching government-sponsored behemoth with no people in it. Or does that make too much sense? —JimRevell

2008-08-14 00:50:57   See also: Fast Ferry See also: Gillian's
See also: High Falls

If it is worthwhile and will be profitable, let private businesses pay for it, not taxpayer dollars. —BadFish

2008-08-15 12:46:11   I'm usually pro-Maggie Brooks, but the fact that she won't consider a Plan B is ridiculous. Any good business when looking at capital expenditures would have a Plan B, Plan C, etc., especially if funding is not guaranteed. The fact that we would actually go to the State to ask for money for this instead of, say, more cops, lower sales or property taxes, true economic development funds, etc. is crazy, especially considering the Governor just outlined the dire need for cuts in spending. I'm guessing that someone wanted to build a theater, but the bus-garage got added to make it eligible for Federal transportation authority funds or something. Sorry, but when I go to the theater,I'm not going to take the bus and I don't want to sniff diesel. I agree a bus station is needed, I'm skeptical that we need another theater, and I'm guessing MCC has plenty of money to throw in for a downtown campus themselves. I hope Mayor Duffy takes a stand and leads the charge against this project! —DGandDJ

2009-04-16 18:03:13   Check out the protest signs near the wig shop/variety stores on the corner of Main and North Clinton next time you go downtown.

I can admit that if I were designing a city, the last type of businesses I would want to see making up my main strip would be a wig shop and a variety store, BUT, they are legitimate businesses and they are going to be forced out in order to build a square that may or may not bring more people downtown. The lives of the owners of these shops may be irrevocably altered for the worse. I don't know how I feel about that.

I also think the money that is going to be poured into the Ren Square could be better spend elsewhere on things that might actually get people and large businesses to move back downtown. —BatGuano

2009-04-23 11:25:16   BatGuano, we do have large businesses moving downtown - Paetec and ESL. The wig shop has known this project was coming so they've had time to prepare. An owner can terminate a leaseholder for many reasons and the business has to move or shut down. I am in favor the the theater - I think if it is built it will be put to good use and draw people downtown - MCC students during the day and theater goers at night and afternoons. How do you know it won't be very much in use? What studies do you have to back up alternative claims? Actually what I don't like about the project is the propensity in Rochester to tear down blocks of old buildings and create these big blocks of modern ugly stuff: Civic Center, Lincoln Tower Convention Center - Midtown was the first and is now darkened. it seems there is little character and no old buildings to tie us to Rochester's past. ( —CarolLucky

2009-04-23 12:54:00   CarolLucky... Point taken. ESL and PAETEC are large businesses (however, PAETEC is floundering). I like the fact that they are both coming downtown. However, Ren Square isn't bringing in an ESL or a PAETEC. It's bringing in a bus terminal and a new MCC building. Whoop-de-doo. MCC is a respectable operation but put a large U of R campus downtown and then I'll be impressed. And while the new buildings can't look any worse than the glut of architectural monstrosities that currently inhabit the majority of the space, I agree that they will probably look cheap given the propensity toward cheap construction these days.

I just believe the money can be better spent on enticing other large, stable businesses/universities Downtown and maybe, just maybe, improving/increasing our mass transit options beyond buses. What Rochester Downtown gets is not proportional to the cost it will be and I don't think it will bring people back Downtown in large numbers.

Still, from an entirely aesthetic perspective, new buildings will look better downtown then the wig shop and the variety store. I guess, in the end, I'm kind of torn on Ren Square. I like improvements but I like them well thought out. Ren Square doesn't have it all. —BatGuano

2009-04-29 12:48:50   BatGuano — Yes I like things well-thought out too. But at some point we must fish or cut bait. Why does Rochester keep talking and debating endlessly - just give it a try? Why not? These projects seem like they will improve the quality of life for residents, visitors and workers in downtown and other areas. What is wrong with that? —CarolLucky

2009-04-30 10:33:39   Also why would having the UR move downtown (hah!) make any difference? The implication that I hope you do not mean is that MCC students are not wealthy and therefore not the "cool" rich people we want downtown. They are the people who take the bus. The UR is downtown with the Eastman School of Music - the Eastman Theater is owned by the UR. Indeed the transformation of the East End is a great lesson for Rochester — it took years if not decades to clean up that area around the Eastman Theater. Unfortunately downtown Rochester problems are that it is a long drawn out string of enclaves from Nick Tahou's to 4 Corners across the river to Main & Clinton to East End to East/Alexander. —CarolLucky

2009-04-30 18:58:35   First: I think Rochester has said "oh, why not?!?" enough when it comes to taxpayer funds. I suppose the resistance is due to looking at the amount of money about to spent and then looking at what we get. Second: The U of R is the largest employer in Rochester and produces/employs world class professionals. Having a large presence Downtown would be, in my mind, fantastic! Maybe, these professionals would stick around the city and it would expand. In any case, they'd bring life and money Downtown. Then, better businesses would stream in to tap into that life and money. Am I being pie-in-the-sky? Sure. On the other hand, MCC students bring money downtown but then they also leave at the end of classes. U of R students don't. Thus, I would personally rather see a university downtown than a community college. —BatGuano

2012-04-04 12:49:27   I grew up in Rochester. In the late 1950's and mid 1960's. Downtown was vibrant and exciting, lots of shops, movie theaters, good restaurants etc. Rochester was safe and fairly clean a place To-Go-To, it even had a trolly system! (I still have tokens for it). In the 1970's Urban renewal came along and destroyed Downtown and the city. Look at the number of business that have abandoned Rochester, such as Stromberg Carlson (alive in Florida), General Dynamics (alive in Arizona), Taylor Instrument (alive in Mexico), just to name few. All of these companies had facilities within the City of Rochester. and employed 1,000 of people. Yet, Rochester did nothing to keep these companies and the jobs they created. What is Rochester doing to help Eastman Kodak, a 135 year old company, a cornerstone of Rochester NY? My guess Probably nothing.

And, with that said, Downtown Rochester has become a place to run from after work. As for a Downtown campus Rochester had that before. Remember Bryant & Stratton? They did have a downtown campus in the H.H. Warner building. Where is this campus today? Henrietta I believe. Rochester needs to attract NEW business's before building anything else.

Therefore, I tend to agree with DinoKolios. There is no rhyme or reason for this project other then to fleece taxpayers out of more money, like the Fast Ferry to no place did... —PetriDish

2012-04-04 16:40:43   Just wanted to rebuke a few of Petridish's incorrect statements:

1) The Rochester trolley system was abandoned in 1940. We had the SUBWAY until 1957, but no TROLLEYS after 1940.

2)Taylor is now based in Chicago, but their brands have diversified into many different companies, and, like many personal products today, are sourced from numerous overseas manufacturers.

3) General Dynamics has facilities in many, many places, and did even back 50+ years ago. It was NEVER based in Rochester. It is the 4th largest corporation in the world today.

4) Stromberg was bought by Siemens 20 years ago, and was more recently bought by a company in Texas called Genband.

All this info was easliy available from Wikipedia, and took me 5 minutes. Please, TRY to be accurate. —Alex-C

2012-04-05 18:38:10   That is when Don Riley left the Bus company and went to work for a construction company —PetriDish