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City of Rochester

Understanding the Charlotte Private Development Project

14-Charlotte-PDP-pag#A3573D 

The City of Rochester would like to correct a significant amount of misinformation that is being distributed in the community.

INTRODUCTION 

The City received two project proposals for private development at the Port of Rochester, but only one – the proposal received by the Edgewater/Edgemere group – was responsive to our request for qualifications (RFQ) and the Marina District Zoning Code.

River-St-hotel-phase-oneDuring an extensive public outreach process, the most commonly heard desire was for the creation of a high-quality development reflective of the beautiful architectural character of upstate New York as expressed in communities such as Skaneateles, Sackets Harbor and many others.

The creation of a streetscape composed of beautiful buildings with highly detailed and high-quality materials such as brick, stone and wood as desired by the community and required by the form-based code requires sufficient height and density to create an economically viable project that can be privately funded.

The form-based code recognizes the need for the streetscape façade to be responsive to the existing buildings along the west side of Lake Avenue, and as such requires a minimum façade height of 30 feet. This height maintains an appropriate scale and relationship with the existing structures, and will be maintained consistently along all streetscape edges on Lake Avenue, Portside Drive and North River Street. Where taller structures are allowed, they are required to be set back at least 30 feet behind this elevation, which maintains the smaller scale street character and pedestrian scale environment desired by the community. By setting the upper levels of the buildings well behind the street façade, the village scale at the street level is maintained. Further, this approach creates spaces above the lower buildings where the public will enjoy expansive views of the park and Lake Ontario from Lake Avenue that do not currently exist. In contrast, a four-story structure on the Lake Avenue streetscape edge would loom over the existing buildings across the street and be far more imposing visually.

Ultimately, the only way to create the year-round vitality and energy desired by the community, similar to that found on Park Avenue or Skaneateles, is to provide sufficient density of owner-occupied homes so there are enough residents to support the type of high-quality retail and shopping that draw people to a community year-round. This can be best and most sustainably accomplished through the construction of the Edgewater plan.

Correcting the Record

The following are corrections to statements and assertions made in a piece titled “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding the City of Rochester’s Marina District and, in particular, the Port of Rochester Mixed--Use Land Development selection process,” being distributed by a group called “Charlotte Strong.”

Incorrect Statement: “This decision (selection of developer) happened without an opportunity for public input about the RFQ responses that were considered.”

TRUTH: The City of Rochester does not seek input when selecting proposals solicited through RFPs or RFQs for City-owned properties. Proposals/Qualifications are evaluated and selected by qualified City staff based on a set of established criteria and rating system. Selection is not open to a community vote or referendum. Once selected, the community can provide input to the developer directly or throughout the approval regulatory process as established by the State of New York and the City Charter.

Incorrect Statement: “The sale of the land is expected to take place in late 2014.”

TRUTH: City Council is expected to consider the sale of the land in late 2014. If approved by Council, the actual sale and transfer of the property would not occur until spring 2015 after all financing is in place and due diligence is completed to the satisfaction of the City.

Incorrect Statement: “The deal includes exclusive rights to purchase additional Parcels 2 and 3 for development.”

TRUTH: Parcels 2 and 3, as identified in the Port Master Plan, are not yet available for development. If and when they do become available for development the City will solicit proposals under the standard process. Edgewater has not been awarded rights to purchase or develop these future parcels.

Incorrect Statement: “Some of their reported funding may come from a federal low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC).”

TRUTH: There will be no low-income and/or Section 8 Housing in the project. There will be no State or Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits in the project. pastel-perspective

Incorrect Statement: “The public loses valuable real estate sold for a quarter of the investment.”

TRUTH: The City is selling the property at the full appraised value (as determined by a licensed third- party appraisal firm).

Incorrect Statement: “their plans include a large hotel and conference center.”

TRUTH: The proposed hotel will have 40-60 rooms with potentially a few small “boardroom” type meeting rooms. For comparison, the Rochester Plaza Hotel downtown has 362 rooms, The Woodcliff Hotel in Perinton has 234 rooms, The Strathallan Hotel has 155 rooms and the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake has 110 rooms.

Incorrect Statement: “public access to the beach and harbor will be significantly reduced.”

TRUTH: The project in no way limits access to the beach or harbor, and in fact creates open public spaces that will link Lake Avenue to the new public promenade around the marina that will extend the Genesee Riverway trail from its current terminus near Latta Road to the beach and Charlotte Pier.

Incorrect Statement: “public parking will become minimal or nonexistent.”

TRUTH: Even after completion of the marina and proposed private development, more than 935 public parking spaces will be available at the Port. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement parking and traffic analysis, after correction, identified that the net loss of parking would be about 101 spaces prior to private development of Parcel 1. If the “temporary” lot on Lake Avenue in Parcel 1 is removed as part of the development the net loss is another 65 spaces. Parking mitigation efforts that have already been completed include the addition of 142 new parking spaces north of the terminal building. The proposed development will comply with zoning code requirements to provide parking for residents, visitors and hotel guests – meaning that parking is actually being added for the proposed development – and there is a requirement in place for remote parking and bus service for special events like the Wegman’s concerts. The Marina project has its own parking set aside for boaters. 

Incorrect Statement: “views of the harbor will become almost nonexistent.”

TRUTH: There are very limited views of the harbor today. The proposed project will create publicly accessible spaces on upper levels of the development that will add new and expansive views of the lake and harbor from the core of the Lake Avenue business district. Numerous views of the new marina basin are being created as well.

Incorrect Statement: “public access to the harbor will be limited to a 30' walkway and promenade around the basin.”

TRUTH: The area in question is currently a parking lot, not a harbor. The marina project is creating significantly more waterway and waterfront, all of which is open to the public. The proposed development is on the other side of River Street from the new marina, park, and promenade and includes an expansive civic space and wide sidewalks that will be owned by the City of Rochester.

Incorrect Statement: “the public was not allowed to comment.”

TRUTH: Edgewater Development hosted 30 small group workshops which were attended by hundreds of Charlotte residents, toured eight waterfront communities which were identified by Charlotte residents, and attended multiple community association and neighborhood board meetings. In addition, the developer posted an online visual preference study for anyone who was interested in participating, and answered numerous emails and phone calls. All the meetings were widely publicized via email, social media and through press releases.

Incorrect Statement: “A RFQ is usually used in government procurement for services contract such as consulting, accounting, law or engineering design services. A RFQ usually is completed before a RFP for a development or construction project like this one. A RFP usually is sent only to the list of pre-qualified candidates vetted by the RFQ process. A RFP describes a specific, detailed (blueprint) of what is needed, along with the requirements and evaluation criteria. Once a RFP is released, major changes are rare or may be unlawful because other proposers were not able to compete fairly with regard those changes.”

TRUTH: The preferred developer was selected based on qualifications, general concept of the proposal, financing approach and requirements under the adopted zoning code for the district. The City has used this approach in the past. Once selected, the preferred developer may revise the plans based on City and community input although keeping within the general concept of what was evaluated during the RFQ process. The procurement process undertaken for the port development is not "unlawful." The issuance of the RFQ was covered in all local media upon release and the City notified approximately 100 developers directly through post mail. The proposals were evaluated based on criteria outlined in the RFQ and rated by a cross-departmental City team.

TRUTH: Edgewater Developments does not have exclusive rights to purchase Parcels 2 and 3. The RFQ does not require “cash in hand” or “completed market analysis.” The marina project and the development project are separate projects. Charlotte Strong references $18.5 million for the cost of the development. This is incorrect. $18.5 million is the cost for the construction of the marina, roadways and public promenade.

Incorrect Statement: “The process chosen in contrary to standard government practice for a project of this size and, to this day, the City has not demonstrated a need for such a development.”

TRUTH: The process is consistent under the laws of the State of New York and the City Charter. The project is consistent with adopted Port Public Marina & Mixed Use Development Project Plan and zoning requirements for the Marina District: both of which were established through a community planning process and adopted by City Council in May 2012.

Phase-1-PlanIncorrect Statement: “They are not required to submit a competitive bid to purchase Parcel 1, and they have exclusive rights to purchase Parcels 2 and 3, all of it improved (at taxpayers’ expense) waterfront property.”

TRUTH: The developer will be required to purchase the property at the appraised value as required under New York State Law and the City Charter. The developer does not have any rights to purchase Parcels 2 and 3. There is no City funding being invested in Parcel 1 for the private development.

Incorrect Statement: “The RFQ also included a gag order, yet Edgewater has had the Port of Rochester development project on its company website since at least 2010.”

TRUTH: Edgewater did not have the proposed private development on its website. Edgewater did have the Port Public Marina & Mixed Use Development Project Plan on the website that was completed in 2012 under a multi-year city planning process. This master plan is public information and is available to anyone wishing to display the plan.

Incorrect Statement: “It (developer website) also states “construction is to begin in 2011,” which suggests that the City of Rochester and Edgewater have been negotiating plans for the port since 2010.”

TRUTH: The City did not enter into any negotiations with any developer prior to issuance of the RFQ and selection of the preferred developer. Edgewater’s website was referring to the Marina project. The construction of the marina did not begin in 2011, and the City has asked Edgewater to please correct their website.

Incorrect Statement: “The rezoning allowed for the marina construction to begin and it loosened building height restrictions to allow for buildings to be constructed up to 16 stories high.”

TRUTH: Prior to adoption of the current zoning for the Marina District in 2012, there were no limits to building heights. A developer could have built a structure as high as they wanted and still be consistent with the prior zoning code. The current zoning actually limited the height of what could be built. Edgewater is proposing a smaller building than the zoning code presently allows, and smaller and shorter than their original concepts based on community input. 

TRUTH: The project proposed by Edgewater for Parcel One is anticipated to be constructed in at least three phases over a period of many years, if the market demand is proven. The size and configuration of Phases Two and Three will be determined in response to market demand as demonstrated through sales and occupancy of Phase One.

Phase One currently includes a 40-60 room boutique hotel, three brownstone type walk up townhomes, one 3,000 square foot restaurant, one small coffee shop, and 12-24 condominium units. The planned hotel amenities will include a full service spa, indoor and outdoor pools, boardroom type meeting facilities, rooftop observation deck, and other traditional amenities such as business and fitness centers. The residential units will all be for sale, owner-occupied housing ranging in size from 1,200 square feet. to 2,400 square feet. The exact prices have not been determined, but we are anticipating that the Phase One condos will be offered at various levels starting at approximately $199,000 for 1-bedroom units, $249,000 for 2-bedroom units and $299,000 for 3-bedroom units. Phase One will provide 158 parking spaces in structured parking, which is sufficient to support our homeowners, hotel guests and visitors as required by the form-based zoning code. Phase One will be constructed in the northeast corner of the site, at the intersection of Corrigan and North River Streets.

Incorrect Statement: “The Harbor Town Village Design Plan … states that ‘no building should be more than four stories high.’ Clearly, the City has dismissed the expressed wishes of the Charlotte community.”

TRUTH: Both the City’s Harbor Town Village Zoning District and the Marina Zoning District went through public comment processes prior to adoption. The Marina District code was adopted by City Council in May 2012 after public review and included modifications suggested by the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse Historical Society.

Incorrect Statement: “Further, neither the City nor Edgewater have produced evidence from a market analysis that warrants such density for this area."

TRUTH: The RFQ required that the detailed market analysis be completed during the MOU period. Of the two proposals submitted, Edgewater actually proposed fewer residential units than that included in the CEA/Morgan proposal.

Incorrect Statement: “Edgewater says there will be zero public money invested. However, the City has already invested $18.5M to prepare the property for sale.”

TRUTH: The $18.5 million is for the construction of the public marina, roadway improvements and the public promenade, not the construction of the private development. There will be no public funds invested in the private development. There will be no Low Income Housing Tax Credit funding in the project.

Misleading Statement: The community has been asked to provide one-way input via the Waterfront Rochester website controlled by Edgewater principal Gregory Weykamp and by sending letters to the mayor and the City Council. Edgewater also hosted a number of small group discussion sessions and walking tours of the proposed construction site. Those sessions, held in May and June 2014, allowed for a relatively small handful of people to participate.

TRUTH: The Charlotte community has had significant input into the process going back to the two-year State Environmental Quality Review process, Environment Impact Statement, and the development of the Marina District zoning code which was approved by City Council in May 2012. Following an RFQ process, the City selected Edgewater/Edgemere Development in April 2014. As of September 1, 2014, Edgewater has hosted 30 small group workshops attended by more than 300 people. The first sessions were in May. A second round of workshops was added in June to increase the opportunity for more concerned citizens to attend. Many of the sessions had capacity for additional attendees so no one was turned away. In addition, the developer toured eight waterfront communities which were identified by Charlotte residents, attended multiple community association and neighborhood board meetings, and answered calls and emails. In order to accommodate anyone who was unable to attend the workshops, the developer posted an online visual preference study for anyone who was interested in participating. Concerned citizens also had the opportunity to take part in the public comment session before City Council, and many did.

Incorrect Statement: “When asked about the comparison of the Phase I and Phase II Port Development projects and the Fast Ferry debacle, the City responded that we were comparing apples and oranges. They have no concerns!”

TRUTH: The comparison is “apples and oranges.” One project is a private development that includes a mix of owner-occupied residential, boutique hotel and limited retail/restaurant space; the other was a large, complex, international transportation project with a significant public investment. The private development will be built in phases as the market permits and supports. Prior to the sale of the land, the City will complete its full due-diligence including review of the market analysis.

Incorrect Statement: “in order to meet the City’s original timeline, the sale of the property must be scheduled in November or December 2014. That timeline does not leave the public an ample opportunity to provide feedback to the City of Rochester on what the future of the Marina District will become.”

TRUTH: The City and developer decided to provide additional time and opportunities to allow the community to provide input before the concepts were developed. The MOU was not executed until September 8, 2014. The property will not be sold to the developer until all due-diligence is completed to the satisfaction of the City. Sale of the property is not expected until spring 2015. During that time there will continue to be ample opportunity for public input and the plans are refined.

Incorrect Statement: “Charlotte Strong is a grassroots coalition of unaffiliated concerned citizens.”

TRUTH: Charlotte Strong was started by the family and friends of the developer who was not awarded the project.

FAQs/FACTS about the Charlotte Port Project

Q. What is the process now that the developer has been chosen? 

A. The City and Edgewater/Edgemere have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining the due diligence to be undertaken by both the City and developer. During the eight-month MOU term (September 1, 2014 – April 30, 2015), the developer will seek City Council authorization for approval of the plan and sale of the property for development. No construction will take place until all the conditions of the MOU are met.

Q. What can we expect to see? 

A. Edgewater/Edgemere has indentified the following guiding principles for Phase One:

  1. The project will only include for-sale units, not rental apartments. Privately owned units generate significantly more property tax revenue than rental apartments and contribute more to improving property values for all residents of Charlotte.
  2. The project will respect local character and incorporate cultural touchstones.
  3. The project will include a destination-quality resort hotel that contributes to the revitalization of the waterfront and Charlotte as a year-round destination.
  4. The project will include appropriately scaled retail and commercial uses that are complementary to the existing restaurants and retail activity.
  5. The final design of all elements will be based upon market analysis and must be financially viable.

Q. Why do we need such a big project? 

A. Based on input from the community, the developer has reduced the scope of the project. Phase One of the project includes a 40-60 room hotel, 12-24 hotel/condominium units, 3-5 townhomes and 7,500-10,000 square feet of commercial space. The hotel will have two floors below ground and eight floors above ground. For comparison, the Rochester Plaza Hotel downtown has 362 rooms, The Woodcliff Hotel in Perinton has 234 rooms, The Strathallan Hotel has 155 rooms and the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake has 110 rooms. The Marina District zoning code allows for a building of up to 13 stories, so this hotel will only be 39% of the allowed height. A phased-in approach dramatically minimizes the risk of over-building.

Q. Describe the community input process to date. 

A. The Charlotte community has had significant input into the process going back to the two-year State Environmental Quality Review process, Environment Impact Statement, and the development of the Marina District zoning code which was approved by City Council in May 2012. Following an RFQ process, the City selected Edgewater/Edgemere Development in April 2014. As of September 1, 2014, Edgewater has hosted 30 small group workshops, toured eight waterfront communities which were identified by Charlotte residents, and attended multiple community association and neighborhood board meetings. In addition, the developer posted an online visual preference study for anyone who was interested in participating.

Q. How much of the project is low-income? 

Absolutely none of it. And there are no rental units either. Some of the units will be priced for middle-market buyers, which is defined as any person/family earning under 120% of median family income. Specifically:

  • 1 Person: $56,300 2 Person: $64,300 3 Person: $72,350 4 Person: $80,400
  • 5 Person: $86,850 6 Person: $93,250 7 Person: $99,700 8 Person: $106,150

Q. Why do you think there is a market for the condos? 

A. It is important to remember that Edgewater is taking 100 percent of the risk so they are not going to build something that they are not confident will sell. This is another reason that we are taking a phased-in approach. It is very important to note that the Downtown housing market is very strong at the moment – especially among “empty-nesters.” Higher-end housing is becoming more and more desirable in Downtown Rochester; and we believe that there are lots of people with adequate means who want to live near the water, and remain close to the city. We are anticipating that the Phase One condos will be offered at various levels starting at approximately $199,000 for 1 Bedroom units, $249,000 for 2 bedroom units and $299,000 for 3 bedroom units.

Q. Some people have said that if the condos do not sell at this price, then they will be sold to low income buyers. 

A. Not true.

Q. What protection does the community have against the condo owners who may demand that access to the waterfront is restricted– especially since they paid so much for their units? 

The City will not allow the condo owners to impede access to the waterfront. The public will be guaranteed the same full access to the waterfront as they have now.

Q. We’ve heard that the developer intends to cut down trees in Ontario Beach Park.

Not true. The developer is not authorized to cut down trees in Ontario Beach Park, and the City would be firmly opposed to any such suggestion. This simply is not going to happen.

Q. What about the views?

A, The buildings will be situated in such a way that they will not block views of the lake. The proposed deck on the restaurant will, in fact, provide new views not currently available to the public.

Q. What is the plan for the Terminal Building?

A. At this time, there is no pre-determined plan for the Terminal Building. The City requested that each respondent to the RFQ tell us their ideas and concerns for the terminal, but no decisions have been made at this time.

Q. What about parking?

A. The Edgewater/Edgemere project proposal includes parking for residents, hotel guests and visitors.

Q. What if this doesn’t work? Are taxpayers on the hook?

A. This is a private development and Edgewater/Edgemere did not ask the City for a dime for construction. All of the risk and any loss will be borne by Edgewater, not city taxpayers. One of the things that worked in Edgewater’s favor is that they have identified equity financing and did not rely on conventional loan financing. The City’s investment is in the infrastructure only – there is no taxpayer money invested, nor will there be, in the new development.

Q. What’s next?

A. The detailed process is outlined in the MOU as follows:

  1. Prepare conceptual and preliminary plan development and refinement;
  2. Prepare Development Program phasing (number and size of residential units, square footage of retail uses, unit sale price levels, etc.);
  3. Development of preliminary project sources and uses of funds;
  4. Development of 10-year project pro formas for all phases of the project;
  5. Completion of financial review of the project by the City;
  6. Prepare project development schedule;
  7. Undertake State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) of the full site for the proposed project;
  8. Submit the project to City Council for authorization of the plan and sale;
  9. Finalize design for all phases of the project;
  10. Finalize development program;
  11. Finalize project cost estimates;
  12. Finalize all market studies supporting the project;
  13. Obtain funding commitments for the first phase of the project;
  14. Obtain all regulatory approvals and permits required for the project;
  15. Finalize Land Disposition Agreement with the City; and,
  16. Close on the sale of the property to the developer.

During the MOU period the developer will continue to meet with the City, City Council and the community to refine plans and provide updates on the project. The city project manager, Steve Golding, will be available to answer questions throughout the process.

Q. When will Phases Two and Three break ground?

That is undetermined at this time, and depends largely on the success of Phase One.  

...................................................................................................

FAQs posted April 30, 2014

Q. What is the process now that the developer has been chosen? 

The developer has been chosen, but no agreement has been signed. The next phase of the project is an 8 month exclusive negotiating period where the Charlotte community and the City will work with Edgewater/Edgemere on the final project design – including the size, scale and the look.

Q. Is the plan flexible or is it a “done deal?”

Many things about the plan are completely flexible and we are a long way from a final plan – that is specifically what the eight month exclusive negotiating period is for! The drawings in the project proposal were simple concept diagrams illustrating “program” (what kind of units are being proposed – not architectural design drawings.) Everything about the design, including the height of the buildings is up for discussion and revision.

Edgewater/Edgemere has identified the following guiding principles:

  1. The project will only include for-sale units, not rental apartments. Privately owned units general significantly more property tax revenue than rental apartments and contribute more to improving property values for all residents of Charlotte.
  2. The project will respect local character and incorporate cultural touchstones.
  3. The project will include a destination quality resort hotel that contributes to the revitalization of the waterfront and Charlotte as a year-round destination.
  4. The project will include appropriately scaled retail and commercial uses that are complementary to the existing restaurants and retail activity.
  5. The final design of all elements will be based upon market analysis and must be financially viable.

Q. Why do we need such a big project?

Only time will tell if we need such a big project – which is why the project will take a phased-in approach. It will not all be built at once. The first phase is the hotel, 24 condominiums and 3-4 town homes. A phased approach dramatically minimizes the risk of over-building.

Q. How has the City taken the Charlotte community’s input into consideration?

The Charlotte community has had significant input into the process going back to the two-year State Environmental Quality Review process, Environment Impact Statement, and the development of the Marina District zoning code which was approved by City Council in May 2012; however it was always made well-known that the City would have final choice of the developer.

Now that the developer has been chosen, input will be sought from the community starting with the public meeting on May 8 at the Robach Center at 7 PM. Gathering community input is a requirement of the City under the eight month exclusive negotiating agreement.

Q. How much of the project low-income?

Absolutely none of it. And there are no rental units either.

Q. But doesn’t the proposal say it includes “affordable” housing?

The Request for Proposal required the developer to provide a number of “affordable” housing units that could be available to a broad range of Rochester residents. Under the City’s Charter, “affordable” housing is defined as any person/family earning under 120% of median family income. (Please see the chart below which shows the income limit for 120% MFI.) While “affordable” has a defined meaning within City Hall, we understand that some people think affordable = low income. In fact, by our definition, “affordable” is much closer to middle-market rates. Specifically:

Family Size     120% Income Limits*    Family Size   120% Income Limits*  
1 Person $56,300   5 Person $86,850
2 Person $64,300   6 Person $93,250
3 Person $72,350   7 Person $99,700
4 Person $80,400   8 Person $106,150

To eliminate the confusion, from this point forward, we will not use the term “affordable.” We will only use the term “middle-market” housing which we believe is better understood by the general public. 

Q. Some of the condos are pretty expensive. What makes you think people will buy these units?

First of all, our recent experience is that higher-end housing is becoming more and more desirable in downtown Rochester; and we believe that there are lots of people with adequate means who want to live near the water, and remain close to the City. It is important to remember that this is a private development project. Edgewater/Edgemere is not going to build something that they don’t think will sell. As a private business, they are taking 100% of the risk.

Q. Some people have said that if the condos do not sell at this price, then they will be sold to low income buyers.

Not true.

Q. What protection does the community have against the condo owners who may demand that access to the waterfront becomes restricted–especially since they paid so much for their units?

The City will not allow the condo owners to impede access to the waterfront. The public will be guaranteed full access to the waterfront as they have now.

Q. What is the plan for the Terminal Building?

At this time, there is no pre-determined plan for the Terminal Building. The City requested that each respondent to the RFQ tell us their ideas and concerns for the terminal, but no decisions have been made at this time.

Q. What about parking?

The Edgewater/Edgemere project proposal includes parking for residents, hotel guests and visitors.

Q. The Fast Ferry didn’t work. What if this doesn’t work? Are taxpayers on the hook?

The question is comparing apples and oranges. If we stopped moving ahead because of a single past failure, then this City come to a screeching halt. Past failures do not diminish the chance for success.

This is a private development and Edgewater/Edgemere did not ask the City for a dime to construct the development. One of the things that worked in Edgewater’s favor is that they have identified equity financing and did not rely on conventional loan financing. The City’s investment is in the infrastructure only – there is no taxpayer money invested, nor will there be, in the new development. 


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