One Small Step: The Fight For Downtown Green Space

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I was already late to a meeting, but I couldn’t help but gaze in slow-motion awe as the soft new turf unrolled from the installation machines. More than one acre of Center City land that had previously hosted a downtown mall was receiving the royal treatment of green space where it had posed as a moonlike, rocky crater in the years prior. Finally, this parcel of land that I and so many in my community had fought so hard to imagine as a lush center of public space for a growing downtown was blossoming into the utopian dream before my eyes. Parcel 5 is a park… for now.

Alright, “utopia” might be stretching it. But the fate of this anonymously-titled block of land in the heart of downtown Rochester has been the source of a fight like no other for a handful of years. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has actively and consistently shown a desire for this space to be developed while a diverse community of activists have battled to advocate for the vision of a verdant and flexible center where residents and visitors might coalesce.

What Parcel 5 looked like for years…
What it looks like today

And after a failed attempt at the creation of a new performing arts center in Parcel 5, the mayor has graciously rewarded the persistent activism of the masses and agreed to temporarily sod the space until an alternative use can be harnessed.

But for anyone who has ever advocated for a chance to prove that their land-use idea was valid, this was the ultimate victory. All I and my fellow activists ever asked for was a chance to show that the most powerful incarnation of this space was its return to the people of our ever-changing downtown. Whatever the motive or intention, we welcome the chance to show the city that this space is for everyone, and that residents and visitors alike will be equally captivated by Parcel 5’s ability to inspire our attention, our affection and our investment.

The drama of the community fight aside, today I set foot on soft green grass on a piece of property that lay un-utilized for years. The city has given us all a chance to show what we can do… it’s our turn to show why we believe that green space in Parcel 5 is unquestionably essential!