SAVE THE GILMORE HOUSE!
We live next door to the Westminster Presbyterian Church at 660 West Main Street, Rochester, NY. This beautiful structure has been standing since 1870. It is vacant and badly in need of repair, but structurally sound. Earlier this year, developer Marvin Maye bought the property with the intent to tear down the building and put in a box store. He has the plans already drawn up and a letter of intent from Dollar General, but he still has to get past the City Zoning Board.
As the church’s nearest neighbors, we are opposed to Maye’s plan for several reasons:
Historical Preservation – We believe this building, like all old structures, is a valuable piece of our history. Our city derives much of its character from these structures and the stories they tell. Our own home was owned by cousins of President Hayes, and if you speak with any of our neighbors in the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood, they can tell you similar facts about the houses they live in. We value our history. Tearing it down is the same as forgetting it.
Development and Improvement – There is already a lot of positive development happening in our area. In addition to private projects such as the Cunningham Carriage Factory, the Voters Block Community, and Buckingham Properties’ renovation of the former VOA on Canal St., the City of Rochester has invested $1.3 million in improving the streetscape and creating the “Heritage Trail”. New homes are being built in vacant lots, and outstanding projects are finally being completed. These are the sort of schemes we applaud and support. By comparison, putting in a Dollar General is not just maintaining the status quo, it’s thinking backwards.
Poor Maintenance – Maye owns quite a lot of property in the Southwest and has a reputation for managing it poorly. Members of the SWCC have cited numerous examples of problems they’d like taken care of: trash, loitering, criminal activity. On the opposite side of our house from the church, Maye owns Zeb’s II Plaza, so we have a good view of all of these problems. We’ve found crack rocks in our driveway. We constantly find dime bags in our yard. We’ve even caught a prostitute on the church steps. Occasionally, we get a half-eaten sausage or an empty bottle thrown over our fence. It is very difficult to keep Main Street attractive with so much trash floating around. It is a daily chore, and we expect these issues to increase now that a liquor store is opening up.
Community Impact – We are even more concerned with the addition of the new plans. The Dollar General and Zeb’s II Plaza would connect, and the traffic, trash, and crime would increase. It would funnel more of our tax dollars into 911 calls and other public services than the city will gain back having a business there. On the other hand, more responsible use of the space – a farmer’s market, a collection of little businesses, a church co-op, a theater – would not only improve the look of the property, it could help bring people together. We want whatever goes in there to benefit everyone who lives and works in our community.
Personal Impact – Obviously we do not want to be surrounded on all sides. In fact, we will be forced to move if this plan goes through. We don’t have any personal issues with Marvin Maye, but just as he is doing what is best for him, we are doing what is best for us. Our stand is very clear.
The question everyone else should ask is: what is best for the community? We do not believe a Dollar General is the answer. When surveying neighbors, we found the most often expressed need was community space. We would love this property to become in some way a place we can all share.
Stacie Colaprete and Ariane Drew