Concerns

On July 14, 2014, at an NBN (Neighbors Building Neighborhoods) Sector 6 meeting, Highland Hospital representatives announced that the hospital would sell 27 Bellevue Drive, and that the hospital is no longer interested in pursuing neighborhood residential property at this time. The hospital presented its early-stage plans for new construction on the current hospital campus. You can read more about that here.


CHARACTER

“The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets,
the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-
located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity.”

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities 

• How much hospital growth can our neighborhood absorb and still retain the livable, walkable, neighborly, well-loved character it has now? A larger, busier 24-hour-a-day 365-days-a-year institution extended into what is now a narrow-street, residential neighborhood would certainly alter the neighborhood’s character.

• Should the hospital continue to buy residential properties and leave them vacant, they likely would introduce the kinds of problems associated with vacant houses, such as crime, vandalism, disrepair and general neighborhood decline.

• Should the hospital buy residential properties and convert them to office space:

      • The character of the homes would change as changes were made to comply with
        workplace regulations and the exigencies of running a business.

      • Neighbors would have to deal with homes that are busy with foot and car traffic
        all day, but empty at night -- not a typical residential neighborhood situation.

      • Does retrofitting and maintaining a number of potentially scattered 100-year-old 
        structures, built for habitation by families, make sense for one of the city's major
        health care institutions? Would the U of R eventually decide it would be easier
        and more efficient to tear some houses down to create a technologically up-to-
        date purpose-built facility?

• At the same time, the increased activity associated with a bigger institution and its 24-hour, 365-day operations would offer the immediate neighborhood little or no respite from the increased noise, bright lighting, traffic and litter.

• These developments threaten the neighborhood’s charm and livability, as well as the viability of some of Rochester’s most unique and architecturally significant homes.

• These developments threaten the viability of a healthy, economically-diverse neighborhood. 

• Highland Hospital boasts the value of its location in a walkable, safe neighborhood. The hospital’s overexpansion would threaten the very qualities it uses to market itself to patients and employees. 


FINANCIAL

• As a not-for-profit entity, Highland Hospital is tax-exempt. One effect of the hospital’s plan to buy residential properties is to remove these houses from the tax rolls. This undermines the city’s financial health and potentially increases the cost to taxable businesses and households for maintenance  of city services and infrastructure. Increased taxes in turn can negatively affect small businesses, homeowners, landlords and tenants, potentially exacerbating Rochester’s already chronic levels of poverty.

• Tax revenue also could be affected by zoning changes necessary to expand the hospital’s footprint that reduce property values. Resulting changes to the neighborhood’s character, could have the same effect.

• Ironically, the bill for an expanded hospital’s increased use of public assets, such as sewers and streets, would be footed by city residents, not the tax-exempt hospital.


TRAFFIC CHALLENGES

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places,
you get people and places.” 

Fred Kent, Founder, Project for Public Spaces

• Access to the hospital from all directions is via relatively narrow two-lane roads—South Avenue, Rockingham Street and Mount Vernon Avenue—that are not designed for heavy traffic patterns. Their passages are narrowed further by snow during winter.

• Safety issues on streets and sidewalks are a concern, particularly for children walking to School #12, which draws more than half its students from less than half a mile away. People also regularly come and go from Highland Park, the Highland Branch Library and the South Avenue business district.

• Any increased use of the hospital will further strain the neighborhood’s streets. Increased delivery truck traffic means more noise and pollution, and increased traffic in general threatens the pedestrian-friendly nature of the neighborhood, one its most attractive qualities.

• Should the hospital buy residential properties to convert to office space, there would be an increase in traffic on small, residential side streets not intended for commercial traffic.


PARKING

The more parking space, the less sense of place.”
Jane Holtz Kay, architecture critic

• Parking for hospital employees and visitors is a long-standing issue in the neighborhood. While three parking garages have been constructed for the hospital since 1988, neighborhood streets continue to be clogged with parked cars belonging to hospital staff and visitors. Further, delivery vans and cars often park illegally next to the hospital on Mt. Vernon between Rockingham and Alpine, obstructing the view of oncoming traffic and creating a traffic hazard.

• Should the hospital expand, these problems will grow. 

• Should the hospital buy residential properties to convert to office space, there would be an increase in parking problems on small, residential side streets not intended for commercial traffic.


STORM/SEWER SYSTEM FLOODING

• The neighborhood has an older water drainage system that uses a single system for transporting both sewage and storm runoff. Heavy storms can overwhelm the system and cause flooding. For example, the heavy storms in summer 2013 caused flooding of the hospital’s operating rooms. Mount Vernon Avenue and basements of many area residential homes.

• Intensifying activity at the hospital will exacerbate this problem. 


HIGHLAND PARK

“The measure of any great civilization is in its cities, and the measure of a city’s greatness
is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.”

John Ruskin, art critic

• Increased traffic and institutional activity would threaten the bucolic nature of historic, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Highland Park. In particular, the 428 Mount Vernon property the hospital remains interested in purchasing is a largely wooded lot that blends seamlessly with the park’s northern entrance. 


NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESS

“There’s a reason that Elm Street and Main Street resonate in our cultural memory.
It’s not because we’re sentimental saps. It’s because this pattern of human ecology
produced places that worked wonderfully well, and which people deeply loved."

James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere

• Recently revitalized South Avenue businesses depend on a healthy, walkable residential neighborhood. The increased traffic from hospital expansion threatens that walkability. In addition, a growing flow of commuters could lead to more car-friendly, suburban-like businesses, such as the drive-through coffee shop that was proposed recently for the former Highland Market site on South Avenue.