The reborn South Wedge neighborhood of Rochester, N.Y., shows that sometimes when you want to wake up a community, you just need a little coffee.
And while the Boulder Coffee Co. didn’t single-handedly revitalize the neighborhood from its once-seedy reputation, it’s a cornerstone location from which regular live entertainment, a farmer’s market and festivals radiate. I visited in the middle of the Boulder Festival, featuring bands, an eclectic selection of vendors, flavorful food and drink, and a sample of the diverse neighborhood’s residents and customers. A caterer called Freshwise — with a slogan of If It Ain’t New York State, It Ain’t On My Plate — served great food that also reminds us to buy local. Young ladies with hula hoops, maturing urban hipsters with families and the occasional hairy gent who dances to everything gathered with a friendly vibe flowing.
OK, I’ll admit a bias to hoping this particular neighborhood succeeds. A former intern of mine when I worked in the festival business and his wife, both Oswego grads, played a major role turning the neighborhood into the hip place it is today. They started with Boulder Coffee and now own some 30 buildings in the area, many of them reclamation projects. Throughout South Wedge — which has, one should note, its own Ning — you’ll find funky eateries and bars, bakeries, second-hand stores, salons, a seller of parts for historic homes, parks and a planning committee that advises local doings. All things urbanists would say makes for a great community, so many of which happened organically.
But you look at vibrant revived communities and they often circle back to a few dreamers, often artistic types. SoHo started with artists squatting in abandoned buildings and evolved into a place whose cool attracted everyone. Atlanta’s Little Five Points, Fremont in Seattle, Buffalo’s Allentown district and countless other neighborhoods owe their pedigree to folks who wanted to do their own thing, create something different and cultivate a living style envied from miles away.
When I look at cookie-cutter subdivisions that can’t draw tenants and compare them to vibrant neighborhoods who celebrate the spirit of individuality, it’s no surprise the latter attract more attention. And South Wedge is one such place, a surging hot spot that oozes urban cool.