Friday, April 28, 2006

Bob Barbato Can't Swim

On Wednesday evening, Sasaki Associates unveiled more detailed designs for the Port of Rochester Master Plan. Although not yet finalized, the proposed design calls for 545 units of new housing, 30,000 square feet of retail, a modest amount of office space, a four-level parking garage, a large public square, and a 60-slip public marina. While there are valid concerns about the new development blocking scenic viewsheds, cannibalizing the existing retail and restaurants, and changing the community dynamic of Charlotte, there is no question that development must occur on these lands and that said development must be well-planned.

The D&C ran a short story on the master plan today and, unlike previous plans for the port, these appear to be gaining traction in the development community. That's understandable. Humans are naturally attracted to water, especially wealthy humans. Some of our region's most expensive real estate is on a waterfront of some sort, be it on Lake Ontario, Canandaigua Lake, or elsewhere. Having such a large swath of land with incredible water views to develop hundreds of units of new housing would seem like an opportunity any developer would jump at. But not everyone agrees.

Bob Barbato, associate professor of management at RIT's prestigious College of Business, isn't so bullish on the property. "I don't think it's all that attractive," Barbato said of the current port area. "It's a very seasonal place that is lively when the weather is warm enough to enjoy the scenery, but for a good part of the year it's pretty cold and pretty desolate." With all due respect Bob, 'no shit, Sherlock'! Isn't that the point of this redevelopment -- to make it less desolate and more active year-round? RIT actually pays this guy to make opinionated uninformed statements like that and I'm doing this for free? His sentiment should not be that surprising though, RIT's campus is pretty cold and desolate most of the time too. Seriously though Bob, consider the value of waterfront real estate in Monroe County, couple that with the stability of the Charlotte housing market, throw in a bunch of new retail and restaurant establishments and a variety of housing types, and you've got yourself a relatively large market to work with. If they added a light rail or busway connection to downtown, even I'd consider living up there.

Sadly, this isn't the first time RIT's Nutty Professor has expressed negativity when asked about a proposed or planned City of Rochester development. In fact, he once expressed doubt regarding the City's focus on developing the Genesee riverfront. The following is taken from a D&C article from August 2003:

"Bob Barbato, an associate professor of management and the director of the Small Business Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology, is pleased that the city is focusing on selling the natural beauty of its river. But he also is skeptical about whether the major developments — the Port of Rochester, Brooks Landing, Corn Hill Landing and the High Falls entertainment district — can all succeed. “The real question is: Is this really going to work?” he asked. “The best answer to that is to simply give businesses the chance to come. The free market will determine if this is going to work.” Barbato also said the city and others are overstating the attraction of water for developers. If it were that important, then Charlotte and Irondequoit Bay would be more developed than they are, he said. “The river itself doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me,’’ he said. “Park Avenue seems to be doing quite well without a river. The East End is doing well without a river.” The Park Avenue and East End neighborhoods and businesses there are succeeding because of a strong residential base, he said. If the city can promote housing within the developments, then they have a better chance at thriving, he added."

He said that three years ago, and it seems he already disagrees with himself. The City is promoting a significant amount of housing within the Port development, and that is exactly what he is criticizing today. Does he just like criticizing the City of Rochester or does he have a fear of water? Personally, I'm tired of seeing and hearing from this guy. Isn't there anyone at the Simon School who is more qualified to speak on these issues than Barbato? Preferably someone who can swim.

Picture taken from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.