Bilderback urges businesses to work together on Third Street project
A street normally associated with good times has found itself at the crossroads of a tense debate over parking and prototyping.
On Monday, a half dozen business owners on Historic Third Street went before the Rochester City Council to request that the city revoke its permit for a proposed street café outside Grand Rounds Brewing Company.
The petition, brought forward by Alan Yanowitz, an attorney with an office along the street, stated that he and other business owners had not been notified of the proposal as presented to the council.
Yanowitz also indicated that the applicant, Tessa Leung of Grand Rounds, did not give the council the correct information when she nodded her head in response to a question from Council Member Mark Bilderback about whether other businesses owners had been consulted about the project.
Since receiving council approval, Yanowitz and other business owners on Historic Third have met twice with city staff and Leung. Despite those meetings, the businesses remain opposed to the project, he said.
“All of the represented businesses oppose the de facto privatization of public parking spaces for the benefit of one business, and to the determent of all of the other businesses,” Yanowitz told the council.
Leung, who was in attendance for Monday’s public hearing on the topic, said she is not excited about how the situation has played out, but added that she was never trying to mislead anyone about her intentions.
“What the city asked, and what I did the best I could in the limited time that I had, was to talk to the neighbors and inform them something may be happening,” said Leung. “I didn’t even know how this was all going to turn out, to be completely honest.”
Leung said she was not required to get permission, noting that the decision-making ultimately lies in the hands of the council. The process is similar, she said, for businesses wanting to host private events on the street.
Under the proposal approved by the city, Grand Rounds would be allowed to use three parking spots to build a ‘parklet’ prototype outside its business at 4 Third Street Southwest. Unlike a true ‘parklet,’ which are public spaces, Grand Rounds would have exclusive operating rights to the area.
However, despite the language included in the contract between Grand Rounds and the city, Leung said she is willing to work with other groups, including artists and neighboring businesses, to program the space.
“We have got to try something,” said Leung, who is funding the entire project. “We are supposed to be innovators in this city.”
Council Member Bilderback, who represents Rochester’s Fourth Ward, said the issue over the project is one of the most frustrating he has encountered during his time on the council.
“I have lost more sleep over this than I have lost in 11 years on this council dealing with some very difficult issues,” said Bilderback.
Without blaming either side, Bilderback expressed disappointment that a project meant to serve as a pilot has caused such a stir.
If there is any silver lining, he said, it’s that neighbors are talking.
“It is important for this neighborhood to continue to meet,” he said.
The council did not make a motion regarding the petition, giving time for the city’s newly-formed community development office to continue meeting with neighbors along Third Street.
Their next meeting is scheduled for May 15.
“We can work together and we can work this out,” said Bilderback.
Cover graphic: Rendering from council agenda packet