Profiling Parcel 5
What’s the future of Rochester’s most talked-about green space?
Nestled between the Liberty Pole and The Metropolitan is an urban oasis filled with dog lovers, picnic goers, and occasional passers by on their way for a morning coffee. It’s difficult to imagine Parcel 5 as a vacant, gravel-filled lot—and yet, just months ago, that’s precisely what it was. With the current green space’s cumbersome and contentious history, will the newly designated expanse survive possible industrialization?
In April, Mayor Lovely A. Warren officially declared the effectively vacant lot as a green space for the public, with hopes of future industrial development. Despite these ambitions, the site has become somewhat historic as it’s been home to Rochester International Jazz Festival events as well as a stopping point during last summer’s Black Lives Matter rallies. This history becomes even more significant given Warren herself has been the center of scandal following her handling of the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of the Rochester Police Department. With a new mayoral administration coming in January, the city faces the question:
What is the importance of Parcel 5 to the Rochester community? Or, rather, should we continue to fund it?
Kara Osipovitch, current manager of
special events for the City of Rochester, believes that the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the significance of maximizing public, outdoor gathering spaces.
“I think Parcel 5 is seen as both an event space and as just a regular, passive green space,” Osipovitch observes.
This collective desire for safe and socially distanced spots served as a catalyst for actualizing the lot’s revitalization. A powerful tool of green spaces lies within their versatility: it’s not implausible that a large public activity such as a festival could occur on the space while private, more intimate meetings between friends and family happen at the same time. Similarly, urban open spaces like Parcel 5 provide a natural pathway for residents to go outside and get active. Most recently, free physical fitness, classes including dance and yoga, have been hosted on the site.
“This year, we had fitness almost every single day at Parcel 5,” says Osipovitch. “We have not had a daily fitness class downtown ever … especially with the focus a lot of communities have now on health and wellness, this city has not offered free fitness on such a consistent basis anywhere.”
However, hosting events on the grounds is not without its challenges. The current labor shortage has made it difficult to keep up with demands for specific activities. In fact, some planned events had to be cancelled altogether due to the shortage of available vendors and workers.
Nonetheless, Osipovitch is optimistic about Parcel 5’s potential. In addition to free fitness classes, movie showings were scaled-up during this summer. The lot even presented “Roc Jam Live,” a free DJ music festival held July through September. One of the most significant assets of Parcel 5 is its physical openness. The space mimics an unenclosed town square, making any sort of exclusive event nearly impossible due to its easy accessibility. Furthermore, its central location in the heart of downtown provides residents with a convenient distance to a hub of Rochester’s flourishing cultural life.
Socially speaking, keeping Parcel 5 as a green space for community gatherings and recreation seems like a natural idea. However, it may be fiscally opportune to develop the plot into a commercial space. Which way the new mayoral administration leans remains to be seen.
For now, Osipovitch is more than happy to see the ever-greening Parcel 5 blossom into a bustling, modern day town square.
“The calendar has been quite full.”