One of Rochester’s long-discussed projects took a big step forward Thursday.
Officials and neighbors broke ground on La Marketa, a project whose origins go back to neighborhood brainstorming meetings in the late 1970s. The open-air marketplace is expected to house retail, green space and events on what’s now an empty lot on North Clinton Avenue near St. Michael’s Church.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said it would not have happened without the persistence of supporters.
“I’m not going to go into the long details of how long it took us to get this project done. I’m just going to tell the community thank you. Thank you for never giving up,” said Warren.
State Sen. Joe Robach said he’s been pushing for the project since the 1990s. Squabbles over the location, size and scope of the project caused problems, he said, as did an attempt to reimagine the project into a major retail destination.
“There’s been different money earmarked for a project here for almost two decades. It was on and off for different reasons and it could never come to fruition,” said Robach.
Mayors came and went, as did decades and resources. But things changed in the last few years.
“They have a project to scale, that’s going to be colorful, useful and really a bright spot here,” Robach said.
“I’m very excited and happy for all the people for not only the people who live here but all the people that supported it in different ways and worked on it and tried to make it happen.”
Now that it’s almost here, City Councilmember Jackie Ortiz is confident in the project’s long-term success.
“This has evolved in terms of its ideas, and I suspect that it will continue to evolve, and we all need to be flexible and work together to make sure it has the opportunity to reach its full potential,” said Ortiz.
Ida Perez, a neighborhood leader who lives next to the property, said she’s excited about the possibilities.
“By this time next year, I can stand in front of my house and see this wonderful plaza,” said Perez. “The mayor knows I’m a big believer in small wins for our residents, but this is actually a huge win for the entire community.”
The project’s funding includes $1.3 million from the Rochester Economic Development Corp., $426,700 from the Rochester Urban Renewal Agency, a $487,800 Community Development Block Grant and a $400,000 grant from Empire State Development.
Mayor Warren expects the project to be done by mid winter with a ribbon cutting next year.