By Nick Delahanty – Young Urban Preservationists
Many Rochesterians and visitors spend a great deal of their leisure time and dollars in our city’s historic districts.The diversity of retail, quality housing, and picturesque streetscapes draw people in and, whether they know it or not, they are appreciating and supporting the preservation of these areas. You might even call them closet preservationists (see Caitlin Meives’ TEDx Flour City talk below for more about this). The historic buildings, parks, and public spaces that make up the fabric of our city are critical to a healthy neighborhood. For me though, it’s the pedestrian-centric design and the human scale of our historic districts–created before America became infatuated with the automobile–that are the underpinning for the success of our historic districts.
I live in one of Rochester’s best preserved and most popular neighborhoods, just south of the East Avenue National Register Historic District (also a locally designated City Preservation District). Park Avenue runs along the southern edge of the East Ave. district and is the commercial and social spine of the neighborhood. Radiating from this street of bars and restaurants overflowing onto the sidewalks with dogs and people is a tightly woven grid of small apartment buildings and turn of the century homes. The sidewalks, lined with mature trees and welcoming front porches, boast a diverse, ever-changing cast of characters–from overindulgent college students, to retirees and their noble dogs, to visitors from the suburbs and an ever-growing armada of strollers.
Although we’re just a few blocks south of Park Ave., those of us in the heart of the Park Ave. neighborhood (a large swathe of thousands of properties) are left out of the district and therefore left out of the NYS Homeowners Tax Credit program. Our section of the neighborhood has been officially eligible for listing since the 1980s but no one has ever taken the initiative to pursue a district. New census data has revealed that Park Ave. (admittedly one of the wealthier neighborhoods in the city) is now in a census tract that qualifies for the NYS tax credit programs. That was the motivation that we, as homeowners who are spending an inordinate amount of income on old house repairs, needed to begin the daunting task of getting a nearly 2000 property district listed.
With my partner and YUP co-founder, Caitlin, leading the charge, we’ve begun the long process of getting our neighborhood listed as a historic district. We are starting by getting estimates from consultants and reaching out to homeowners (both in the existing East Ave district and the potential Park Ave district) to inform them about tax credits and the National Register listing process. Rochester has so many amazing neighborhoods, and I believe the impetus is on us, the citizens,to be good stewards of the amazing neighborhoods and spaces our city has to offer for future generations.