When I started here in Rochester, a prime stretch of real estate on the east shore of the Genesee River, walking distance from downtown (where the Blue Cross Arena is, the HQ of the library, the HQ of Blue Cross, Dinosaur BBQ, etc.), this monstrosity (which ran something like 2 or 3 city blocks) was there:
It was a mess – largely abandoned by the time I moved here and I think was home to some refugees. Someone mercifully decided to demolish the thing (where will the poor refugees end up? I’m not sure the planners had a back-up plan for them). So in its stead, they decided to build (they are in process) a new series of seriously ugly apartments.
Maybe in a post or two we’ll discuss the folly of urban planning and whether building low-cost housing for the poor has actually helped the poor live well. But even according to City of Rochester itself, look at how much this project is costing: $31.4 million.
For $31 million, I could surely build something spectacular. So what are “we” getting for this spending (assuming no cost overruns: OK stop laughing)? How about 131 rental housing units. This amounts to a cost of over $239,000 to construct each housing unit. This is so completely insane where just a few blocks away you can purchase beautiful old homes for the cost of a VCR. Seriously: real estate in downtown Rochester sells for far less than $100 per square foot. For comparison, my suburban house which has 4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, about 2000 square feet and a half acre yard in probably the most “desirable” town in Rochester cost us … $187,000. To rebuild it from scratch would probably cost us a little bit more. So why does it cost many times more to build these apartments than it does to build housing in the area’s most desirable neighborhood? I haven’t researched it, but let’s toss out some ideas and revisit them in the future:
What am I leaving out? In a future post, we’ll provide you with a walking tour of another, and in my view, more absurd, site from closer to where I live.