On October 18th, Pittsford residents will vote on a proposal to renovate the Spiegel Community Center. The discussion about what to do with the community center, located on Lincoln Avenue in the Village, has been a long one — about 17 years of debate. And if you attended one of this past year’s public input sessions about what to do with the center, you had a snapshot of the various opinions.
- –Some people were concerned about having to drive into the village and deal with parking.
–Others want to build a new community center somewhere else modeled after things like the Perinton Rec Center.
–A few said the current plot of land is simply not big enough to serve everyone.
–And many think keeping the current address is of great value to the community.
We are with that last group of people. And here’s why:
At the very first public input workshop for the Pittsford Comprehensive Plan update, almost every group underscored a future vision of a town center connected to the surrounding neighborhoods that is safe for walking and biking. Common themes were maintaining the historic character of the village and its assets, bringing in more daily amenities like a small grocery store, pharmacy and hardware store, bolstering services for the growing senior population and calming traffic in those core areas. Here’s what Supervisor Smith said after that first standing-room only meeting:
The first thing I learned from it, possibly the most important, is the breadth of consensus among residents in support of certain fundamentals. As each working group reported its conclusions, we heard again and again about making Pittsford more walkable, with sidewalks and by other means, especially in the central area of the Town. About planning and design for streets and roads that incorporate needs of pedestrians and cyclists as well as cars. About calming traffic in key areas. About configuring open space, for which the Town can negotiate in approving new development, in a way that best retains the look and feel of Pittsford’s traditional landscape. About policies that might encourage new businesses in the Village such as a small grocery, a hardware store, a drug store. About renovating our Spiegel Community Center.
The second public Comprehensive Plan workshop focused on growth, land use, design and zoning. And Supervisor Smith explained this key takeaway:
Items identified for changing include transportation planning that doesn’t focus solely on accommodating more cars.
Renovating the current center serves the needs expressed by the public in those meetings. Residents of Pittsford want community and usability. Even if they drive to the town center, they want to park and have everything nearby so they can walk to restaurants and shops. Years ago, there was debate about moving the Library and Sutherland High School to new locations with new construction, as well. Keeping the library in the village had a huge positive impact on the quality of life for the community. Those who live close enough can walk or bike. Those who drive, can park, visit the library, then walk on the canal and frequent the businesses nearby. That would not be the case had it been built further out away from the town center. Likewise, homecoming parades and games are a lot more fun for students and the community when you are surrounded by a vibrant town. Not to mention, many students can walk and bike to school and to things in the village after school.
2.) It Means Less People Have to Depend on the Car.
Those who can drive, already have lots of options. If you don’t or aren’t able to drive, you don’t have many. The proposed new community center will house the Pittsford Senior Center, which presently is in rented space on Monroe Ave between the village and Pittsford Plaza, an area not so friendly to anyone outside of a car. The current YMCA on Jefferson Road, a location that is connected by sidewalks and neighborhoods, will be moving in 2019 to a brand new location on Clover at an intersection notorious for high traffic speeds and crashes. (I’m hopeful there will be some trail connections to make it more accessible & safer for those on bikes and foot, but that’s a blog post for another time.) A community center located in the village offers bus service and means more kids , seniors and those with disabilities can get there more easily.
3.) Renovating is More Cost Effective.
“A new building on a different site would cost over $15 million. Merely to fix things at the existing building will cost $6.1 million. For $3 million more, at a cost per average household of $69 per year over 15 years, the recommended plan gives us everything we need. It saves us $6 million dollars as compared to constructing a new building. It creates a modern facility in a landmark building in the heart of Pittsford.”
In order for a community center to serve the community, it needs to be in a location that can serve the most people, regardless of how they plan to get there. By moving amenities from the town center and locating them by themselves in a brand new location, you erode the walkability of the town center, the relationships people have with the community and contribute to sprawl.
We know there are lots of thoughts on this referendum and know not everyone digs the idea of keeping the center where it is. We’d love to hear from you, regardless of how you are voting. Leave us a comment. We value all perspectives! Just get out and vote, so we can let the community decide the kind of community center it wants!
Get out and vote on October 18th! The referendum vote will be held from 7AM – 9PM at King’s Bend Park*, 170 Jefferson Road.
*(There isn’t a sidewalk to get you safely to King’s Bend Park, so be careful if you are on foot or bike. Again…. a blog post for another time.)
If you want more information about the proposed renovation plan, check out the recent Democrat and Chronicle article Pittsford Eyes Community Center Revamp and the Town of Pittsford‘s information on the project. You can also read the Report of the Town Board on Recommended Action for a Community Center.