Is DMC a good neighbor?

April 2, 2019 GMT

Emily Lynch said her neighbors saw it coming, even before those three letters — DMC — became part of Rochester’s vocabulary.

“As long as I’ve lived in Kutzky, Kutzky has been very active,” said the seven-year neighborhood resident who is now president of the neighborhood association.

In a neighborhood surrounded by urban commercial development, she said it was hard to ignore the growth that was happening even before the Destination Medical Center initiative was approved five years ago.

“DMC has really sped up the process,” she said.

Almost immediately, the neighborhood saw proposed neighboring developments succeed in achieving DMC support and at least one has failed to get off the ground.

While neighbors have long sought to have a say in how such activities unfold, Lynch said she believes they want what’s best for the neighborhood and businesses, as well as the city they share.

“Neighbors for the most part want to see a development plan that is great for business, but also great for the neighborhood,” she said.

Resource we can’t replace

That doesn’t mean looming development has everyone on the same page.

Recent discussions of potential zoning changes along primary transit corridors running through the DMC district have made for some anxious neighbors.

“If you make it easy to redevelop these houses in Southeast Rochester … you are taking away a resource that we really can’t replace,” Slatterly Park Neighborhood Association board member Cathy Clermont said during a recent hearing regarding potential zoning changes.

While the planned zoning changes aren’t directly in DMC officials’ control, they stem from development and transit plans for the district, as well as Rochester’s updated comprehensive plan, which offers a vision of increased transit activity along Broadway Avenue and Second Street Southwest.

Mary Idso, board secretary for the Lowertown Neighborhood Association, said the proposed zoning change could be good for the neighborhood as new development slowly creeps in amid DMC efforts.

“It gives predictability on what will go in there,” she said.

Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, president of the Eastside Pioneers Neighborhood Association, shared a similar view.

She said she hopes DMC will drive design standards and expectations that will bring new opportunities to the neighborhood, which has pockets of run-down houses.

However, the neighborhood association board members acknowledged mixed feelings exist among neighbors as potential changes loom.

“Everybody is going to have a different opinion,” Idso said, regarding the impact of DMC.

She noted communication will be key as changes continue.

‘Allow people to engage’

Patrick Seeb, the DMC Economic Development Agency’s director of economic development and placemaking, said that’s the ongoing goal of community engagement efforts, from one-on-one conversations and meeting with neighborhood associations to working with city officials as plans emerge.

“I think we need to develop processes that allow people to engage at every stage,” he said, noting some neighbors have been actively involved from the start and others are just starting to consider the potential impact of changes.

Melissa Stewart Ring, neighborhood development chairwoman on the Slatterly Park Neighborhood Association Board, said such efforts are important, especially at a time when things sometimes appear to be moving fast.

“There is so much information coming at us every day,” she said.

In the end, however, it’s all about understanding concerns and working for improved outcomes.

“I understand we need higher-density housing,” she said of proposed changes around the DMC core. “We understand that’s the way this is going and we welcome change, but we also understand not everyone wants to live in a four-plex or a condo.”

As a result, she said, all residents need to be considered as plans move forward, even if common ground occasionally appears elusive.

“A lot of towns would be happy to have these kinds of problems, I guess,” she said, adding: “Hopefully we can guide some of the growth to make it more valuable to more than just a few individuals.”