ROCHESTER — Bachata music emanating from the Father Tracy Advocacy Center Sept. 29 could be heard in North Clinton Avenue’s El Camino neighborhood as dozens of volunteers completed work to beautify the area make it safer for pedestrians.
The work took place as part of the Complete Streets Makeover program, which is sponsored by the transportation advocacy group Reconnect Rochester. The program aims to identify neighborhoods and intersections in Monroe County that are in need of redesigns for safety reasons. The block of North Clinton Avenue between Hoeltzer and Sullivan streets in the El Camino neighborhood was nominated for and selected as the program’s 2019 winner.
In June, a team of volunteers from the architectural firm Stantec and the Community Design Center solicited community feedback and used it to design streetscape improvements for the neighborhood. Those improvements were temporarily installed Sept. 29 and will be on display for three months. In December, transportation officials will study the response to the changes to determine if the new streetscape should become permanent.
According to research sponsored by the Genesee Transportation Council, North Clinton between Hoeltzer and Sullivan streets is one of the region’s most dangerous road segments for bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, wheelchair users and other vulnerable travelers.
“Speeding cars have prevented families from walking, biking and playing in this neighborhood,” said Michael Damico, landscape architectural designer at Stantec. “The goal of this project is to improve road safety for all users through crosswalks, curbs and wider corner bump-outs that will slow traffic.”
On Sept. 29, Rochester police officers helped to block off a section of North Clinton between Hoeltzer and Sullivan streets while volunteers spent more than six hours installing such streetscape improvements as colorful crosswalks, street art and curb extensions.
The area was infused with a Caribbean flair inspired by San Juan, Puerto Rico. Crosswalks were painted red, white and blue and were outlined with reflective tape. The street art painted within the curb extensions contains such Puerto Rican symbols as El Morro from San Juan, the Taíno sun and coquí, musical instruments, palm trees and the Puerto Rican flag.
Graffiti artist Zone from the Rochester-based FUA Krew helped in leading volunteers in the designs for the street displays, while other volunteers worked to install a wheelchair-accessible ramp, signs and a bench in front of the Father Tracy Advocacy Center.
“I think the design and the work that was done was a bonus, because really, the most important thing about doing what we did there was the crosswalks and the bump-outs,” said Ida Pérez, director of children and family stability services at Ibero-American Action League.
Pérez, who lives on nearby Scrantom Street and also serves as the chairperson for the street’s block club, said there has definitely been a difference on the street since the installation.
“As far as cars speeding, I have seen them slow down, especially at the corner of Scrantom and Clinton,” said Pérez. “Cars used to take sharp turns there, but now they are obligated to slow down, so it’s definitely been an improvement for the safety of pedestrians, which was really the purpose of the project.”
The makeover supports the neighborhood’s vision of a Latin urban village and gathering place called La Marketa. Earlier this year, the City of Rochester received funding to develop an international plaza on North Clinton to serve as a multi-use public gathering space.
The International Plaza at La Marketa will transform a vacant lot diagonally across from St. Michael Church into a well-defined public plaza for retail and outdoor use. Improvements for the site include new landscaping and a public restroom, as well as entry-level retail opportunities for small businesses in the area.
The groundbreaking ceremony for La Marketa took place Nov. 7. Pérez said she hopes the traffic generated by the ceremony would help demonstrate the need for the Complete Streets Makeover installation to be made permanent.
“We’re hoping by this time next year, with the plaza completed, that the crosswalks and bump-outs are part of the work that’s also done there,” she said.