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Best for Parcel 5: Visionary Square

In the book "Happy City: Transforming Lives Through Urban Design," Charles Montgomery discusses how successful cities have made their public spaces more walkable, bike-friendly, green, and ripe for social interaction: "the explosion of research into the benefits of nature suggests that green space in cities shouldn't be considered an optional luxury," he wrote. Instead, he said, researchers "insist it is a crucial part of a healthy human habitat."

The Visionary Square proposal for Parcel 5 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform downtown through such a space.

From Larkin Square in Buffalo to Campus Maritius in Detroit, Rust Belt cities are recognizing that green urban spaces boost property values, attract innovative businesses, reduce crime, and perhaps most important, improve quality of life. Campus Maritius in Detroit was developed on an almost identical piece of land, and soon after, Compuware decided to move 4,000 jobs to the surrounding buildings. The award-winning park is now considered "the crossroads of all downtown activity."

Meanwhile, our neighbors in Buffalo recently announced a bold new green zoning plan and have built a similar park in Larkin Square, where residents now gather daily for lunch, and weekly for concerts and other events.

What leaders in these cities recognize is that data demonstrate the correlation between green urban spaces and increased property value (plus 19 to 35 percent for the surrounding buildings, according to researchers at Texas A&M), reduced crime, and an enhanced quality of life.

Visionary Square would be transformative. It would be the site of festivals, farmers markets, concerts, and movie screenings. It would be a place for people to meet, interact, and exercise. It would be a central location for our growing food truck economy.

It's also the only proposal that comes with a reset button. All of the other proposals involve permanent infrastructure coming to Parcel 5, meaning once the city commits, there will be no going back. You can't un-build a building. But Visionary Square will be developed light, quick, and cheap, with no permanent fixtures. Down the line, should the city decide to go a different direction with the property, development will still be possible.

(For information about Visionary Square: thisisnotapark.com and pps.org.)

MARY LUPIEN

Lupien, a candidate for Rochester City Council, has been helping advocate for Visionary Square.

Is there really quid quo pro?

On a Feedback letter urging the overturn of Citizens United: The problem with bashing the Citizens United decision is that the legitimacy of said bashing rests on our accepting as a given the following two points:

1) That politicians accepting corporate campaign contributions will inevitably return the favor by introducing and passing legislation, or otherwise engage in activities that will financially benefit such corporations, and

2) That there is a direct correlation between the amount of money raised by a political candidate and the number of votes garnered by that candidate.

While both points doubtless occur from time to time, I've seen no studies indicating that the cash generated by Citizens United has made these points any more likely to transpire, or has made them the rule rather than the exception.

JACK TUMULTY


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