City of Rochester officials learned the hard way that Rochesterians don't care to go to the lake in the off-season. Pier 45, the city-subsidized restaurant at the terminal building, had to stop operating in the winter because of steep financial losses.
So what makes officials believe that they can transform the port from a summer spot to a year-round destination, as they plan to do with a massive project that includes a marina, public promenade, housing, and possibly stores, offices, and restaurants?
Mark Gregor, who is managing the port redevelopment for the city, says getting Rochesterians to think of the port area as something more than a fair-weather friend will always be a challenge. He says the key will be in the services and amenities the port offers.
"If we start to see development proposals that include year-round uses from a retail and commercial standpoint, that's kind of what we're looking for," Gregor says.
The 30-acre project is a mix of public and private investment. The city expects to start work on its share, a $30 million marina plan that could eventually include 157 slips, sometime after Labor Day this year. The marina would be built in two phases and include, in the first phase, 30 slips for "transient" boaters — people who need a slip on a temporary basis.
Visitors to the port area will probably see some activity this summer, Gregor says, but nothing that will disrupt use of the lake or the beach. RG&E will be doing work in the area, he says, and the city may start removing some fencing, light poles, and other features.
The other part of the project is three areas of private, mixed-use development. Gregor says there would be between 280 to 430 housing units when the site is fully developed over a period of several years.
"We think we're probably creating a market that really doesn't exist too much on Lake Ontario," Gregor says. "And that's new market-rate housing associated with a marina or very close to Lake Ontario."
The goal, he says, is to create a destination for the boating community, as well as providing a new housing and living option for people who are attracted to city living but want a more resort, smaller-town setting.