Envisioning Main Street, with RIT design students' help
May 19, 2014
As Honeoye Falls recovers from losing its General Motors plant a few years ago, Rochester Institute of Technology design students unveiled plans Friday to revive the village’s Main Street business culture.
Christina Birkentall, a visiting assistant professor of design at RIT and a resident of Honeoye Falls, oversaw a class of senior design students who each imagined and designed a business that would fill an actual empty space along Honeoye Falls’ Main Street. The students presented their work to the community at Friday’s exhibition at 5 W. Main St. in Honeoye Falls.
“We’re giving the village a vision to help market the village spaces, and to see what businesses could potentially be here,” Birkentall said.
She came up with the idea to redesign storefronts while brainstorming about village revitalization strategies. Students toured the Main Street area and spaces in surrounding buildings, then drew up plans for businesses they thought would thrive in the community, Birkentall said. “It’s been a lot of work, but (the students) have had an opportunity to have a real space and real clients.”
While the municipal government was not directly involved in the design project, said Honeoye Falls Mayor Richard Milne, the village has a positive history of collaboration with college groups. “It’ll be very positive for our businesses to try to dovetail some of their ideas, whether they use the program directly or not,” Milne said. The village of Honeoye Falls’ current slogan and logo came from an RIT marketing student, he said.
Depending on the space, some students worked with existing businesses or building owners to determine the type and layout of their business idea, Birkentall said. At this point, there is no funding for any of the ideas to progress to a building phase, she said, but some ideas may be implemented in the future.
Senior RIT design student Melanie Spath worked with Tanvi Asher, owner of Peppermint clothing store on Park Avenue, to create a design layout for Asher Bridal — a bridal shop in a two-story building at 27 W. Main St. that would house both a studio and retail space for Asher’s bridal designs.
Since the village aesthetic is fairly high-end, Spath said she thought a boutique would work perfectly on Main Street.
Students measured their spaces, then designed layouts using SketchUp 3D modeling software. They displayed the design models on posters at Friday’s exhibition.
Design student Courtney Ellis created a farm-to-table bistro called Five West Main at 5 W. Main St. that would feature locally grown produce and meat on its menu. There’s a lot of farms and people with gardens surrounding Honeoye Falls, she said, so a business like Five West Main could forge a community connection and “perk up the economy.”
Birkentall said she hopes students will think about what makes a walkable, innovative community after this experience, and that Honeoye Falls will implement some of the student ideas.
“We’re an engaged community and we have the foot traffic,” Birkentall said. “But if we just build out these empty spaces, we can reinvigorate Main Street.”