East End residents enjoy new temporary greenspace after successful petition

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — There’s a new (temporary) park in town. According to the city, the roughly 20,000-square-foot space located between Charlotte, Pitkin Street, and Union Street is called 125 Charlotte Street. But according to those who live and work around it, it’s finally the East End Greenspace.

No matter what it’s called, the future of the space is uncertain.

Over the past few years, the city has continued its efforts to tear down the Inner Loop highway and build up new neighborhoods. This little patch of green falls in the most recent project: the East End neighborhood. The greenspace sits across the street from businesses like Ugly Duck Coffee (UDC) and The Op Shop.

“It’s awesome, even just seeing it like this in its early stages,” UDC owner Rory Van Grol said. “It brings a more connected part of what I think initially we wanted to do when we filled in the Inner Loop.”

“It’s really exciting to see the city let us kind of take our area for ourselves and use it in the way that we see fit,” East End resident Daniel Speiser said.

125 Charlotte Street was supposed to be developed, like everything around it, into a residential or commercial space.

“It was slated to be — in the proposal submitted by the developers — a daycare center, and everyone thought that was real neat,” East End resident Richard Rosen said.

Rosen is president of the nearby Grove Place Neighborhood Association, and lives right down the road from the lot. He said that the daycare never got built, and at one point, a commercial space was going to go in instead. According to the city, COVID-19 shut down plans for the daycare, and left the developers scrambling to find something else to fill the space, to no avail.

Rosen, Van Grol, and other residents said they were tired of seeing children play in the street as cars sped past them, right in front of a vacant lot.

“It had just sat. Rubble,” Van Grol said. “Built-up rocks and/or just like vacant lot for years, essentially.”

So several neighbors gathered petitions to turn the space into a park. Ugly Duck Coffee helped facilitate this, polling customers as they came in.

“We got 340 petitions, which I hand delivered to the mayor,” Rosen said.

“So we took a look at that, and we agreed, there would be an opportunity for greenspace,” Dana Miller, Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development, said.

The city bought back the land from the developers for $50,000. Just a few weeks ago they planted grass seed, which is growing in now. In the coming weeks, they’ll be placing benches on the space as well. But while the park may not be at the top of their to-develop list, it’s still an option.

“It is a parcel in our inventory along with dozens of other parcels. Either vacant lots, or previously developed sites that are available for development,” he explained.

This is the same situation that Parcel 5 is in, Miller explained. Parcel 5 was also supposed to be developed, but instead got to see some grass after neighbors made a strong argument. Due to its success as a greenspace and as an event space, it’s gotten to stick around. But if they get an offer on either Parcel 5 or the East End Greenspace, they have to consider it.

“But it has to be balanced, then, against the current use. If it turns out that the community has adopted this space and is using it extensively, we may have to take another look at that,” Miller said about the East End Greenspace.

Even if the unofficial park is sold off tomorrow, residents will get a good season or two out of it before development begins. Miller estimated a year or two before a viable offer rolls around.

If a deal comes, the neighbors will have opportunities to prove that its current use is more valuable to the community.

“There’s a lot of possibility here,” Speiser said. “So hopefully we can show the city that people want it and will use it and maybe a proposal will come along that keeps it green and keeps it a park.”