4/07/2010

Panera's...

Posted by MJ


...and places like it: why do they always have a fabulous view of a parking lot or, like the one in the town of Lockport, a bonus view of a retaining wall?

The safety found in the status quo of an auto dominated society is the easiest anwer. When looked at with an open mind, why wouldn't a "Panera's" work at a location like Canal St? Why can't I have my treats on a patio over looking the Canal or while people watching on Main St?

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

MJ - you have noble thoughts but in the 21st century they just don't work unless you live in a big city like on Park Ave in Rochester or in NYC.
A small city like Lockport is definitely a car based city, hence my disagreement with you that parking was important to get good tenants on genessee St. Sure, I'd love a small city where you could walk to work, walk for a coffee, etc, - but MJ - it just won't happen here!
I also think Canal St and the fantasy of 5 locks is a big pipe dream of our esteemed dictator, Mayor Tucker - even with parking I can't see you sitting at a Panera's there! I hope I'm wrong, but I just can't see any viable businesses going on that remote street.

MJ said...

I'm surprised someone responded to this post. ;)

Even though we may disagree as of now it is fun to discuss. I submit to you the changes are not all that radical and they are very obtainable. I think Ulrich City Center proves it.

Park Ave in Roch, Elmwood in Buffalo, Main St East Aurora need not be anonomalies. Especially for an older city like Lockport with all the infrastrucutre in place.

I'll hit on some related topics in the next week.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought a chain restaraunt like TGI Fridays, or Olive Garden ect, would work on Canal St. People would support those types

Anonymous said...

But once again there isn't enough parking for one!

MJ said...

Ah yes, the lack or parking. Look at an aerial shot of the city and try to tell me that less than half of it is surface parking. We handle up to 20,000 people for a friday concert (that takes up all the UCC parking) yet we can't work in a chain restuarant? I submit we are blinded by the status quo and parking zoning regulations grounded in nothing.

Imagine what our residential streets would look like if we were all forced by zoning to have enough parking on our property for all of the largest theoretical family to come over in separate vehicles for Christmas dinner. 70% of our property would be paved.

We've applied that same theory to our business zoning and standing at Transit and Shimer shows what it gives us. A place that damn sure better have ample parking because the place itself is not worth going to. Just let me in and out as fast as possible. There are places that thrive with a "lack" of percieved parking and more likely because of it. But I realize perceptions are hard to change.

I have a short series on parking coming soon. ;)

Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

MJ,
As far as apartment parking try this theoretical view, we have residential streets with houses spread out enough to provide parking for the apartments they contain, and if there isn't room then they are never allowed to be converted away from one family living there! Perhaps then our street wouldn't be filled with non-working people sitting on their porches watching drug dealers all day! Take this as a fact from a landlord, if you don't have parking for two cars per apt, you get crap for tenants, it doesn't matter how good a landlord you are working couples have two cars like it or not.
Now if Lockport had jobs within walking or even bussing distance it would be different, but we don't!

And as far as chain restaurants, it wouldn't be us stopping them because of parking but it would be the chain not coming here if they don't see suitable parking.

MJ said...

Thanks for the comment Annon.

In case there was some confusion; my comment above was not on the apartment buildings but rather downtown. I understand your point. I don’t agree with what was allowed decades ago in converting all those houses into 3+ units. It is not an easy path to correcting it. There will need to be a demand in the area for someone to put that type of investment in. I feel the demand needs to come from DT outward.

As for the Genesee parking variances, you had an organization with a proven track record building historically accurate infill in troubled neighborhoods while at the same time having a record for swift evictions for problem tenants. They had the market research done to select the apartment makeup. The variance wouldn’t have been given to just anyone coming in and asking please. I agree two car households are much more common but single ones do still exist.

The big issue in that dense area is lack of street parking. I feel the city would be wise to offer more liberal parking permits for dense areas such as Genesee. Price them up around $30/mo to help out those “working” couples while prohibiting some squatters. The stipulation is that the money goes directly back into the street for trees/sidewalks/etc.

Lockport is following the long slide of decline of older cities. Actions of demoing, paving and watching everything wither while you try to become a suburb have saved no city; much less let it flourish. Reinvestment must be wise. Luckily the housing stock remains right up to DT creating hope for a rebirth. Residential and business DT must be developed properly (semi-urban) to create a desirable condition (cheap houses near active walkable area) to fuel the desire of those looking for such a community to start the re-gentrification. Elbow grease is the only way to currently hope for a break even return on investment. How do you inspire those willing to do it to come here?

Anonymous said...

To improve Lockport
1. You need to get all the druggies out of the towers. Again, no parking there, no good tenants. It's your main building down there, it has to be improved. Can pressure be put on the owners due to the amount of illegal activity there?
2. You need to DISCOURAGE and not promote low income housing in existing residential areas, i.e. the HV project. You need to encourage improvements there. How about putting the Rosenberg's in charge. If needed create more low income housing away from downtown, like Gabriel Dr. The HV project would have continued and escalated the decline. What good is great landlords if you can't find good tenants? You would just have empty (million dollar) apartments.
3. You need to give incentives to get rid of apartments in the downtown area, even going from 4 to 3 if not back to single family.
4. You need to make it very unpleasant for illegals in the area. A constant police presence is needed.
5. The city drug court should be re-evaluated. It forces too many druggies to stay in Lockport for too long of a time. Encourage them to leave the county as part of their treatment.

Thats my starting ideas.

Anonymous said...

This all boils down to one thing, we need stricter nuisance laws!!! The criminal activity and slum-like conditions will only perpetuate without stricter laws with stiff penalties. Many of the landlords will be upset but will have to re-evaluate their situation and make a positive change or sell their properties so that the next buyer can make the proper changes.

The City of Lockport can be a very attractive place to live. There are many things going for it. However, we all realize that until we get a handle on the undesireable element which keeps people from moving here, it will remain the same.

We must also keep in mind that our taxes per thousand are the highest in Niagara County (Which is already among the highest in the country)! No one will want to improve their homes, move to our area, if taxes increase even more than what we have already- it will only continue to bring down our housing values even more so.

Rocketboy said...

I swear, the above two comments were not from me :).

Point 3, and to some extent 1, I've always said were blights on Lockport. I've never really rallyed against the towers downtown, but if you were to ask, I would be more than happy to say that it was one of the WORST mistakes ever made in Lockport. Urban Renewal was misguided, but the towers were just blind stupidity. Let's take one of the best views, on what should be one of the most expensive real-estate properties in Lockport, and make it into subsidized housing!

Because I agree with the above.

I would also say we need incentives for people to buy empty lots adjacent to their existing property. It's never a good thing when a building is destroyed in a fire, or has to be destroyed due to conditions. But, if you encourage someone to take ownership of the lot, and keep it as greenspace (even private greenspace), this undoes a lot of the damage that was done by cramming as many houses as possible onto a city block.

This would reduce density, increase home value, and increase overall neighborhood value.

Add my normal rant about property taxes tied into the value of the structure as well. :)

MJ said...

A lot of these issues go torwards trying to cover up the mistakes that were made. Like the war on drugs, they will be an over allocation of resources to make minimal headway.

The "nuisance" laws are a good idea. As I mentioned before they must also come along with legal help from the city to give landlords the means to move tneants out. Housing Visions claimed to have it down pat. Maybe they can help with the law and lease/rental agreements?

Lockport is full of past mistakes. The federal money-drunk bulldozing of DT and the subsequent non-urban infill that has slowly filled it in hurt long term reinvestment. We can't do much about those past mistakes but we can move forward in a positive direction. Note that direction is not the status quo on development. For every UCC gain we have a family-video/Walgreen's setback.

Like used car lots, the depressed housing in the area is from the lack of demand. The lack of demand is from not offering a unique place to live and not offering hope that it is coming any time soon (along with the hope for a return on investment.)

We stand here in 2010 with Mayor Tucker expressing this in his State of the City Adress:

"...And I truly recognize that you can’t build a house without proper plans and specifications. That’s why – the time has come – to revise and modernize our City Charter, Master Plan, Zoning and Planning Ordinances...."

Are we going to make the systemamitc changes to make to make the City of Lockport a unique urban place to live? It takes time but the city should provide the framework for it flourish instead of fighting those who strive for it.

Hertel in Buffalo has seen a rebirth. People are rebuilding west of Richmond Ave which was said to never stand a chance because houses near Elmwood go for 300k+. This regentrification involves living amongst the drug delears, slum lords etc as demand rises and they are slowly pushed out. The city canhelp through enforcing housing codes and other laws.

Push for real change in the next couple years as our laws/codes are updated.

MJ said...

Most incentives for empty lots are buy for $1 from the city and upkeep it (Buffalo). It is a nice short term solution.

But realize density is not an evil word and is pretty much a necessity to create a vibrant (and valuable) DT and edge neighborhoods. A majority of those who want 60+' lots are going to pick a suburb. Be an urban environment or be a suburban one. To try to be both will ensure we miss the mark for both groups of buyers.

The three+ units are a mistake (and due to current codes not likely to be repeated). But a house on each lot is not. Two nice houses will generate almost twice as much tax revenue as a single nice house with a double wide lot, not to mention the additional purchasing power. I can see in the case of fire trying to make sure the lot remains cared for. But in terms of demolitions etc, they should be a last resort. Take a portion of the demo money saved and grant it into a owner occupied rehab. No city has demoed it way to being a desireable place to live.

Rocketboy said...

True, but a house with a double-lot is going to be worth more to a buy then two houses right next to each other. Density is not specifically a bad word, but density does drive down property value in an area like Lockport.

Granted, a house being lost is quite the rare exception, but reducing the density will also take care of the too much supply = quick land grabs for slumlords / houses carved up.

Anonymous said...

"The three+ units are a mistake (and due to current codes not likely to be repeated). "

HV!!!!!!! This was being repeated!!!

MJ said...

touche' anon 4/12/2010 3:47. ;) But we can agree to disagree. I have written before on I think made HV different.

Anonymous said...

LOL - I do respect your thoughts on it.
Yes, I do totally disagree on the HV project. As someone who prided themselves on being a good landlord I know that I don't care what they would do, they would have a choice of trash people or empty apartments there. Also, it was just so wrong of the city to allow the code violations for those houses.

MJ said...

Anon: I bet alot of people said the same thing in the other upstate cities where areas turned around becuase of their investments. We are talking about a sucessful non-profit initiated by neighborhood resistdents, not some Joe Blow who picked up a house at auction for 8k and is looking to milk it dry.

No safety codes were left out. They were zoning variences for parking and some set-backs.

MJ said...

Rocketboy:

Demoing is working in a downward loop. "An area such as Lockport" has a reduced demand because of a lack of downtown and things to walk to. Most things worth walking to were demolished. I agree: Why have density without any of its benefits? But the goal should not be to demolish until you meet a reduced demand. The goal should be to build off what you have to increase demand and overall taxible value. Otherwise we will all be paying even more for even less.

A double lot can be very valuable if the rest of the area around it is dense enough to create a vibrant desireable area. Maybe a double lot will add 30k to a 100k house as opposed to being on a single lot but it is still less than 2 100k houses right next to one another. You also have half the theoretical purchasing power to support nearby businesses. Short term the extra space is a nice draw but it will severely limit the core's growth down the road. You are pulling forward a small number of buyers while limiting the overall number of possible future buyers (plus limiting the amount of businesses which will be able to be supported.) The city has fixed boundaries and has pretty much filled them. Even Amherst is finding itself almost fully developed. They are discussing adjusting codes to densify the old parts of town where the infrstruture was built for it in order to sustain taxable growth.

The city should be dense at its core and gradually get less dense outward. The outskirts of the city are there for those who want more land. We are lucky that the streets surrounding DT are still relatively dense. It gives hope for growth in Lockport . CIty regentrification comes from existing housing stock rehabilitations. Cheap houses where one can live and gradually redo the house with sweat equity. New builds are rare and relatively expensive. Once you knock something down, something new in its place is a long long long time off. When you do get something here or there it is something like the duplex at High and Waterman. Of coarse there are pry some small structurally unsound places that could come down to create a net positive but the number of them is probably very very small.

The best way to get rid of the slumloards is to increase demand. As the demolition of the Market St area in Lowertown showed, demoing one area just pushes the "problems" elsewhere in the city and the overall land value is less than it once was. Nothing new is getting built down there and property values dropped in the new poverty area. Again, no city ever demolisheded its way to success.

I could always move to a "real city" but guess what? I can't afford it. It seems they create so much demand and high value that I'm priced waaaay out of it. ;) Lockport has the bones, history and location to become something special. Will we rewrite our zoning codes to demand and encourage it? WIll people see a progessive municipality with legally binding plans to create a sense of place where people want to be? There is not one municiplaity in WNY that really gets it. The door is open to show some leadership and accept the challenge of creating somewhere special.

Rocketboy said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not for demoing needlessly, or to thin out a neighborhood. But when there is, and the property is left abandoned, there should be strong incentive to adjacent homeowners to purchase the property, and the ability to do so without penalty. The ability to have a double-lot without penalty will HELP Lockport become a more desirable area, due to the very situation in Amherst that you are describing. We're not a major metropolitan area in WNY. The type person willing to spend money in a dense area is not the type of person our denser areas are going to attract. Nor do we have the cash base that really reach out and call investors into the city (which is also one of the major stumbling blocks for the original question posed).

Again, don't get me wrong, I'm not for calling out the bulldozers, but when I look at the abandoned houses in areas like Buffalo, I just see something wrong with the neighborhood. Of course, the ability to actually build something as long as it's safe and does not negatively affect the neighbors would be a nice ability to have as well. But that's yet another rant. :)

(Of course, if the Towers downtown were gone tomorrow, I don't think I'd complain. :) )

Rocketboy said...

(Yes, that's me above, Google/Browser issues..)

Anonymous said...

I know that offering my comments on HV is going to start up a plethora of negative responses. However, if you worked closely with the company, made the time and investment of traveling to their offices, saw all their homes and how they've continued to be as successful after many years. (Which by the way, is something you will never see in a HUD project!) You would understand that this can really make a differenced in Lockport.

I happen to be one of the members that sits on the board of Lockport Neighborhood Revitalization, Inc. and no I am not Jack Smith -LOL

This would not be the answer but a positive step in improving that section which continues to have such a bad reputation and would spur rebirth to a badly needed area.

Furthermore, this does not just end at "housing", it's getting the tenants involved in their community, teaching them responsibility, and to take pride in their homes, etc.

Regardless of your opinions, this continues to be an area of low to moderate income families. In fact a good section of the City of Lockport falls in that catagory.

Let's not forget the broken window theory. Perception plays a large role in what goes on in neighborhoods. Boarded up homes, grafitti, garbage tossed all over front lawns, sidewalks and streets- it all screams out that no one pays any attention or cares about what happens here. This would combat that. We would play a vital role in insuring that it would be a success

Anonymous said...

Yes, my problems with HV were;
1- The money didn't make sense, there is ABSOLUTELY no way that you need around a million dollars a house to do a great renovation. I would have loved to see a detailed budget as to how they could possibly spend that much money.
2- As MJ even said, there is no way we should relax zoning/building laws just to get them in. They could have worked out a way to meet our existing laws.
3- The density was just too high.

In the cities HV has built in, is there bus routes near the houses and/or are there jobs within walking distance? That is the difference in Lockport, if you work you need a car to get to your job. Those that don't work don't need a car to collect welfare. If you supply apartments without proper parking you cater to the latter.
MJ I know how passionate you are about your urban dream, but like it or not Lockport will never fit in to it without jobs to support the people.
The only jobs that most of the people who would live on Genessee St walk to is the soc services office downtown!

MJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJ said...

sorry for the dreadful spelling ;)

MJ said...

The Transit Route has a DT loop and it goes to CrossPoint and then off to Buffalo. They could get the bus just as easy as they can get to the SS office ;)

Yes it is a "dream" but not unattainable. Jobs are needed but they are a hard place to start. Businesses are cold and calculating. Just as anyone here can easily go get a house in the town with lots of room any business can just as easily go get lots of green space and easy incentives to do so (lack of regional planning)

With housing you can play on emotion. Dreamers like some of us here who want a unique urban place to live, play, shop, etc are the foundation. Once the dreamers start to create that place you can then lure the "dreamers" of the business world who want, along with their employees, a work environment that offers more than a parking space.

------------------

P.S. On the regional planning: My last job was in Alden. A lot of the floor workers for a co-company there pry made $8-10/hr and most were from the city of Buffalo. They had their crap cars which pry ate up a lot of their small check. A regional effort would put incentives on placing these types of jobs in places like Harrison Place/Old Jamestown Container Building etc where these workers wouldn't necessarily need a car to start building a solid work record and have some hope of saving/moving forward.

Jack Smith said...

Where this is no vision; the people perish, or in this case, the City.

Rocketboy said...

MJ.. Oh god.. have you even tried to see the bus routes out of Lockport? When the NFTA first announced it's find a route website, for curiosity I tried from Lockport to the Airport. Well, I had to guess where in Lockport there was a station, and when I finally guessed right, it was a 2-3 hour trip. Egads. Buses are not an option for Lockport, or at least, not a good option.

Jack... Some times the only vision that the gov't needs is to say out of it, and to stop seeing themselves as a driver of employment. Fix the tax problem, fix the water bill problem, and make yourself as small as possible. That's the only vision that we need out of gov't.

MJ said...

Yes I've seen the routes. I knew someone who used to take them down to DT Buffalo to work. Never said they were easy, but an option ;)

Buffalo is a perfect example of the "double lot" (triple even). The whole east side has been randomly demoed with the option for people to buy the lots next to them. My friend's parents got the plot next to them for $1. That plan has helped push the decay all the way into Cheektowaga now. Old fields lie fallow with nothing new except subsidized new builds here and there. No new stores except crappy Rite-Aids that open then close in 5 years leaving another eye-sore.

We don't need to be NYC to have a nice walkable place to live. I'm just saying be careful what we ask for. Demo should be the last resort. It never fixed DT. I have yet to read of an urban sucess story that involved demolition. Most I have read all began and suceeded on redoing existing housing stock and the synergy created by having a lot of it available to allow the trend to continue. We have the infrastructure of a city. Might as well use it to our advantage.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, the City does need to rethink the on street parking situation. We do have many residences that have very limited or no parking whatsoever. I happen to know that some homes on Park Place fixed the solution by arbitrarily putting in front yard (paved) parking. This was done illegally and despite the Zoning Board's dissatisfaction and voting against it, nothing was done. So now you have a neighborhood that has concrete and blacktop in most front lawns. The solution would have been to issue on street parking for these residents!

Rocketboy said...

It's just not Park Place that has the illegal front yard parking.... If overnight on-street parking is made available, it should be zone based, as in residents only.

Of course, reducing the number of units in a house would help as well.

For a walking city to be made viable, we do need a stronger corporate presence downtown. Retail gives something for someone to do when they get here, but having jobs in the city keeps them coming back every day. For the past few years, I've been working downtown, and let me tell you, I know the restaurants, the local businesses, etc, more than ever before. Just a few days ago, I was spending money in multiple locations on my lunch break. Something that I would have never done if I worked outside of Lockport.

Yahoo coming to Lockport is great, but imagine if someone like Yahoo had offices downtown.

And although demo generally does not 'fix' things, without damaging things even more for possible longer periods of time, I think the City Center is a better property and a greater asset to Lockport than the more run-down building right next to it. A well maintained house with a double-lot is a better asset than a well maintained house right next to a run-down converted apartment house. Not to mention the run-down converted apartment houses help keep property values down, which decreases the resale value of a house, which decreases the amount of money someone would want to put into it. I could have pretty big plans for my house, but alas, I would be lucky to see a return on the investments.

We need to do what we can to discourage and penalize what is taking place at the old bank building downtown, and properties like that. We need to encourage investment and improvement, and not reward using decaying buildings as cell towers.

MJ said...

Park Pl. is in need of parking, plus a tree canopy, etc. This would be a prime street for pricier street parking permits with the money funneled back into the street. The houses look nice, it has the hill, etc but the lack of trees makes it look like a forgotten street. People are more willing to part with money if they know it will be going back into their street instead of into some general fund.

You are correct that DT needs more corporate. It also needs some residential. The benefits you listed above are on the money. Mixed use, mixed use, mixed use.

Although the Granchelli building next to UCC is not as big of a plus as the UCC itself, it is still better than an empty lot. It is cheaper and quicker to get someone into that building than it would be to wait for something new. The south block (UCC) took 30-40 years? Plus it also adds to the street wall even though empty.

As for the F&M building I agree that there should be law against vacant buildings used soley as cell towers or anything similar. The F&M on its own is a tough sell but if coupled with the WNYCA building next door I feel it is viable. Knock down the rear portion of the WNYCA building and you have a similar layout to the UCC. One could create private access to F&M though there. Most likely residential. The front of the WNYCA could develop a transparent street presence similar to the Bewley Building or UCC instead of being a blank wall. It would help connect the UCC to the Palace. Also add a pedestrian passage mid-block like the UCC. I've been wanting to photoshop the concept up for a while now.

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