Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Tale of Two Suburbs

If the Rochester area's municipalities were members of a high school class, Victor would be the quarterback of the football team and Chili would be the loser that is trying desperately to become cool. Everyone seems to want a piece of Victor these days, it's by far the fastest growing town in our region and among the fastest growing in the state. Chili, on the other hand, has experienced its fair share of residential development but can't seem to get its act together as far as commercial growth is concerned. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I condone the ridiculous pace of development occurring in Victor or any of our suburbs for that matter. But, two articles in yesterday's D&C provided a nice juxtaposition of suburban development patterns that I couldn't resist pointing out.

In one corner, you have the Town of Victor. Here there are hundreds of new housing units approved or under construction, there is significant office and industrial space under development, and hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail and restaurant space on the drawing boards. One of the more infamous development plans in Victor is the imaginatively-named Victor Commerce Park, a.k.a. Super Wal-Mart & Friends. For years now, ubiquitous sprawl developer Benderson has been trying to get this development approved. Their initial plans were much larger than those currently proposed. The current incarnation is a 200,000+ square foot Wal-Mart plus another large retail building and two pad sites for restaurants. Still, the Town of Victor is resisting the temptation to approve it in order to ensure that they get what is best for their town (note that I carefully said "what is best for their town," not "what is best for the region," which would be zero new greenfield development). If only our other suburbs dared to be so bold.

Of course, Victor can afford to be picky since every retailer and your mother wants to be located there. The same cannot be said for most other suburbs in the region, notably the Town of Chili. Humorously, in the same D&C edition that described the Victor Commerce Park saga, it was reported that, despite competing development proposals, Target has no intention of pursuing a location in Chili. Ouch, talk about a slap in the face. Here they are, considering moving their highway department, senior center, and a town park in order to make room for Benderson's ill-conceived development, and the presumed prime tenant does not want to be there. Of course, both North American Properties and Benderson still plan on pushing forward with their proposals because suburban sprawl will inevitably continue working its way further west and south and Chili will someday become a viable place to conduct big-box retailing.

Still, I couldn't resist to post on this interesting juxtaposition of suburban development trends. While Victor is doing everything it can to restrain the indecent proposals of retailers and developers; Chili can't do enough to attract them. And in case you were wondering about the rest of that high school class, Brighton is the class president, Webster is the class whore, Pittsford is the rich prude, Greece is the fifth year senior, Henrietta is the drug dealer, Perinton and Penfield are the annoying identical twins, and Gates is the smelly kid. East Rochester dropped out and the City of Rochester graduated years ago.