The past at Bull’s Head was very much present during a news conference announcing a big step for the neighborhood’s future.
“I grew up in the area,” said Dana Miller, director of Business and Housing Development for the city. “I spent a lot of time in Bull’s Head Plaza when it was booming. … You could buy almost anything. That time is not anymore, but will be. That’s where we are right now, we’re at the will be.”
The city announced on June 10 it had selected a prime developer to lead the revitalization of 12 acres along the intersection of Brown and West Main streets.
Dawson Company of Atlanta, a second-generation African American owned company, was chosen by Rochester to drive private-sector development for the long-neglected stretch that has been called the western gateway to the city.
The company has assembled a team with US Ceiling (USC) of Rochester, Brinshore Development of Chicago and Shift Capital of Philadelphia. All have experience in urban revitalization projects that work to retain the character of the neighborhood. Several of the principle players have ties to Bull’s Head and the nearby 19th Ward.
“Members of this team were born in Bull’s Head at St. Mary’s Hospital, or their parents worked here, or they grew up in the 19th Ward,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “As leaders of black-owned businesses, they are particularly motivated to right the wrongs suffered by Bull’s Head. They are dedicated to reversing the redlining, disinvestment and neglect this neighborhood has faced.”
Warren recalled her own childhood in the neighborhood — having attended Wilson High School and having seen the decline.
Over the past few years, the city invested $10 million in its capital improvement budget to buy land, tear down dilapidated buildings and begin environmental remediation.
It has acquired 47 parcels over the 12 acres, which Warren said is almost twice the size of the Midtown or Inner Loop East projects.
Unlike those projects, Bull’s Head will be under the direction of one developer – Dawson – to coordinate and take a comprehensive approach to attracting investment.
While the city announced who will lead the project, there were few details on exactly what it will look like.
A recently completed study by the Urban Land Institute identified economic challenges and opportunities for workforce development and entrepreneurship.
While mixed income and affordable housing will be part of development, the intent is also to create a commercial corridor.
“We do expect to have a higher percentage of housing than we had in the past,” Miller said. “To support that additional residents that will come with that housing, we would also expect to bring back some significant amount of retail and commercial space.”
At least some of the housing will be developed with the idea of residents being able to age in place, which also will mean having services to support an older population that wants to stay in their home.
The Dawson team said it will involve the neighborhood in decisions, which the Urban Land Institute also said is crucial to success.
Miller said the early stages will consist of environmental cleanup, which could take more than a year.
City Council will be involved as development proceeds, Warren said. No total cost of the project was available.