Swillburger/Playhouse Opens at Last

by Tanya Zwahlen

The Swillburger/Playhouse opened at 4PM on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015. This wonderful, amazing, momentous occasion marked the completion of the redevelopment of 820 South Clinton Avenue, Rochester, NY. The building is home to three great businesses: Highland Planning, This Good World, and now, our friendly neighborhood barcade and burger joint.

Just to recap. I’m a partner on the redevelopment of the building with one of the Swillburger/Playhouse owners, Jeff Ching. The building owner, John Trickey, helped us reconstruct the building to our specification and gave us an option to buy the building. More on that story here and here.

If you’ve talked to me in the past two years, you know that the project took… two years. Two. Full. Years. That was a long time. We found some unanticipated issues in the building that had to be addressed. Not surprising, since it was built in 1890. We did a couple things wrong and had to do them twice. Yep. Nonetheless, it’s finished. And the end result is better than I imagined. And I know more about commercial development than I did two years ago, which was sort of the whole point.

For me, living in a rustbelt city, being a city planner is all about revitalization. After a few years of practicing planning, I decided I needed to contribute to Rochester’s urban renaissance in a tangible way. By redeveloping buildings, by using public spaces in different ways, by organizing events that bring people together, by promoting public art. By picking up trash on the street.

This project is a first step into commercial development for me. South Clinton Avenue is a commercial district that we’ve been working on revitalizing for five years as Street Manager. It is in need of a pick-me-up. This opportunity came together, and the result, in my opinion, is a new landmark for the city.

So. In spite of the time, expense and brain damage, I’m proud of this project. Maybe you can tell.

Here is some of the social media documentation of the food and the buzzworthy first few days of activity. If you look close at the last photo, you’ll see my family eating our burgers, fries and milkshakes on opening day.

Come eat and play Gauntlet with me soon, okay?? We keep a bowl of arcade tokens in the reception area of the office.

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