Friday, December 30, 2005

Building on the Lakefront

There's another plan floating out there to 'develop' the lakefront. All of these plans seem the same: they all focus on building condominiums.

The newspaper reported last month that the latest plan consists of "dozens of boat slips off the Long Pier; a botanical garden; a restaurant/conference center; a commons area with retail kiosks, a sunken fountain and a concert shell; and condominiums near Seneca Lake State Park."

The idea of revived recreational space: the boat slips, the focus on the arts, the gardens seems great, but it doesn't sound like the person who presented this plan is actually ready to move on any of these pieces. It's too bad because all the people I talk to seem to want these things. They don't, however, want condominiums. Well, maybe they want a condo. on the lakefront for themselves, but they understand that condos. on the lakefront are not good for the city or the community (let's not confuse the two). One person's private gain is our permanent public loss.

I didn't post anything about this plan when I first heard about it because I figured it wasn't going anywhere. But now that the plan will be discussed in greater detail,I have to wonder what the purpose of those discussions is.

Do the people running this city really care about what the people living in it want? I'd love to see this opened up for discussion and comments. But I am worried that this plan is just a way for some developers to push their condo. idea. After all, they'll probably tell us that there's no way to get the things we really want (the recreational public access stuff) without giving something up. We know that's not true!

To really 'develop' the lakefront, as opposed to just 'building' on it, we need people who want to invest in the city, not people who use the city as an investment. But I don't mean to repeat a previous post's message.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Centennial Building

Someone from Pennsylvania, who visited our city and saw the beauty and magic that many of us celebrate every day, has purchased the Centennial Building on Castle Street and plans to invest money to make it into upscale apartments. This is wonderful!

One Franklin Square, the Guard Building, the Dove Block, the Civic Center, South Main Manor, the plaza on Washington Street, all these buildings are being purchased by people with an eye for restoration and a commitment to Geneva as a true gem.

This begs the question: Can Geneva be great?

Geneva is great and people are starting to see that clearly. Instead of looking at downtown and wishing for a wrecking ball, more and more Genevans are starting to see downtown's true character as a valuable asset. All the more reason for the city to be careful and selective with pending downtown projects.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It might look better, but that doesn't make it right.

Does Exchange Street look better now that the demolition projects are completed? Sure.

Were those projects the best development that Geneva could ever have hoped for? Certainly not.

Geneva needs to break out of the 'woe-is-me' attitude, thinking that no one will ever come and do anything good here without getting a tax exemption, tons of grant funds, and city loans.

In the 80s and 90s, Geneva--like all of Upstate New York--experienced a shrinking of jobs, wealth, and population. It seems like people developed a low city-esteem, feeling like a teenage girl who got dumped the night before the prom. Somewhere along the line, we started to believe that it must be our fault-Geneva's fault-that the people and the money and the jobs went away.

But things change, and now our city is coming of age. Maybe we were a late bloomer, maybe we just hadn't been discovered yet, but the wine industry and tourism and our small businesses and historic downtown charm have made Geneva desireable to people again. And, as often happens, there will be an attempt for people to get in while the gettin's good. Our responsibility, as residents of Geneva, is to make sure that people who want to come in and build things are actually benefitting more than just their own wallets.

Our city cannot be exploited to serve someone's bottom line. We must trade value for value. Building on the lakefront, or near the lakefront, is a privelege--not an entitlement. If you want some of the best land we have to offer, then you need to show us how you're making Geneva better for it.

Some might laugh and say that Geneva-believers are just naive, idealistic, unrealistic dreamers. I think, however, that those people know that we are right! Geneva is a gem. We deserve the best, and we should accept nothing less.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Attention Innovative and Responsible Developers!

The City of Geneva is currently soliciting proposals for development of a prime lakeview parcel downtown. This site, which has been empty for quite some time, has valuable frontage on Exchange Street and completely spectacular views of Seneca Lake from the south and east sides. The lot is actually below street level, which makes a basement parking garage not only possible, but desireable.

What would you do with it?

We all know that a high end residential development is an essential component for any downtown revitalization. Kudos to the man who has developed housing of that sort at the corner of Seneca and Main Streets (just northwest of this picture's border). A residential development could be great here so long as the parking is hidden and the street level use is something attractive to pedestrians and consistent with the retail uses of the adjacent parcels.

Unfortunately, you only have until January 6th to submit a proposal, but I assume that proposals from developers would still be considered after the deadline if the proposals were innovative in both design and use.

This is a prime piece of real estate that should bring top dollar not only in selling price but in property tax revenue. Should we use incentives to get a great project? Sure, but only to the extent that they are 'incentives' instead of 'subsidies.' This city needs to move away from the subsidy-model of development, but that's material for another post. Just spread the word far and wide that this property is open for suggestions!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Being Thankful for What We Have

Geneva, NY is a beautiful, wonderful, amazing oasis of history and culture smack dab in the middle of the Finger Lakes Wine Country.

I dare anyone in need of inspiration to visit our lakefront and not feel refreshed and renewed.

We have architectural marvels, some in plain view (Downtown, row houses, the Octagon House to name a few) and others are hidden jems (like Lehigh Station and Houghton House).

Our school district is top notch, with more AP course offerings than any other district in the region, successful athletics, work prep programs, and a plethora of extracurricular activities.

This city's residents provide the perfect blend of deep roots, recent transplants, all ages, backgrounds and demographics.

Unique and eclectic, charming and challenging, Geneva is the place to be! I feel blessed to call it my home.