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Help Save This Rochester Brewing Landmark

November 19th, 2011

Sign the Petition to Save 13 Cataract Street

On Friday officials at the Genesee Brewery unveiled plans they say will “create a destination for beer lovers that anchors development on downtown Rochester’s Northeast side.” Before we get too excited, let’s think.

The building as it was in 1899. [PHOTO: Rochester Public Library]North American Breweries says their planned “Genesee Brew House…will celebrate the storied history and experience of the Genesee brand” and that they want to “tell the story of [this] resilient company with a rich history that dates back to 1878.” But to do this they will demolish this building; the centerpiece of Rochester’s historic brewing district, built 1899.

North American Breweries says “while numerous parties expressed interest in the building, there were no viable offers.” The local non-profit group behind The GardenAerialexternal link and Greentopia Festival offered to take the building as a donation so that they could renovate it, and, possibly in partnership with the Brewery, turn it into a visitor center with a glass enclosed public wintergarden and office space. The Brewery said they’d rather have the money. But now they are prepared to pay $600,000 to demolish it.

If that offer wasn’t viable, then at least give the community time to put together the kind of public/private/non-profit partnership that it takes to save structures like this. There IS interest now that these demolition plans have been publicized. Another 6-12 months isn’t going to change anything.

North American Breweries says removing the building will “provide an unimpeded view of High Falls” from their new visitor center. That’s funny, the falls are clearly visible in this photoexternal link taken from the roof of the proposed visitor center…

An impeded view of the falls? What's all that rushing water right there? [Flickr Photo:innovationtrail]

North American Breweries says the removal of the building will “create safe and ample downtown parking that will make it easier for people to access High Falls.” Okay, parking? I’m not even going to address that one. Look around you. We tore buildings down left and right in the 60′s and 70′s to make room for parking. We’re still picking up the pieces.

North American Breweries says they received no viable offers for the building to be demolished, and it impedes the view of High Falls. Both are gross exaggerations.

North American Breweries says they want to “create a destination for beer lovers, history buffs and more.” Trust me, history buffs are not in favor of the destruction of the actual history for which they buff. You know what I mean.

North American Breweries says the building is structurally unsound. These photos were taken on July 24, 2011. Does this building look structurally unsound?

July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011July 24, 2011

The people in the photos above were potential buyers on a walk-thru. They sent me these photos and confirmed the building is a mess, but not structurally unsound. I happen to work in the High Falls neighborhood and regularly walk by this building. It’s of the type of construction (concrete, brick, steel) that lasts. …Which reminds me, all those vacant buildings along Brown’s Race on the other side of the pedestrian bridge… many of those are much older, were in much worse shape, but are now fully restored and occupied by residents and businesses.

KPS Capital Partners has no interest in Rochester’s history. They simply want to save $9,000/yr by wiping this building off their tax sheet. And who can blame them—they certainly have let the place go.

They say this building “has been abandoned for more than a quarter century, and is beyond reasonable repair and poses safety issues for hundreds of employees and visitors daily.”

This building is vacant, not abandoned. If it has been abandoned, the Brewery is solely responsible.

Rochester has mourned the loss of countless landmarks. We are witnessing history being done to us again. This time by New York City investment firm KPS Capital Partners. They have done a wonderful job turning Genesee Brewery’s business around. However, this community has also supported the success of Genesee for a century.


How You Can Help:

Plan to attend and speak at the Zoning Board’s meeting on Thursday, December 15, 2011. The start time for the Public Hearing is 9:30 AM in City Council Chambers, Room 302A, City Hall, 30 Church Street. Cases 1-5 will be heard beginning at 9:30 AM. The Genesee Brewery Application is Case #5 and will begin at 11:30 AM.

Share this event on Facebook.

Please sign the petitionexternal link, which was started by fellow blogger Christopher Schiffnerexternal link, so we can let them know we’d like our history preserved…

Sign the Petition to Save 13 Cataract Street

See also:
Genesee Brewery to Demolish This Building
Dear Genesee Brewery: Inspiration From Baltimore
Brewery Unveils Official Plan
Help Save Brewing Landmark
Imagine, Rochester’s Historic Brewery Square
Landmark Society Urges Brewery to Rethink Demolition
Prohibition in Rochester

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at 1:50 am and is filed under Opinion, Rochester News, Urban Development, Urban Exploration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

20 Responses to “Help Save This Rochester Brewing Landmark”

  1. Nuna Businss says:

    What degrees qualify you to be an engineer? Site surveys and engineering reports are done instead of “it looks stable” “I don’t think the roof will cave in” “sure looks good to me”

    If it was such a landmark where has any historical group been over the past 25 years? Too little Too late.

  2. @Nuna, perhaps it was assumed that Genesee Brewery (or who ever owns these buildings) was taking care of them properly. Obviously they weren’t. When my house has a hole in the roof I patch it. This is an extremely valuable asset to our community and it has much potential. It deserves a chance to become something we can all be proud of.

  3. Martha Bush says:

    It’s sad to see the old building go, but no one has been able to find a viable use for it for decades. I know of a group of Buffalo investors who looked at it a few years back and were scared away by the bad condition of the building. It’s got an incredible view, but not much else going for it. I hate to loose old buildings, but it’s not like this one is in the middle of an upscale neighborhood of buildings that have already been rescued and the value of the buildings can absorb the cost of rehab. This project would be a pioneering one for the neighborhood.

  4. Matthew says:

    I’d hate to see a building with that sort of character and history depart Rochester by way of a wrecking ball. That said, how do we find a win-win here? It’s one thing to hope they don’t tear it down but another to come up with something that makes at least a modicum of economic sense. I’m not informed about Garden Aerial, but if you are planning spending some cash on a visitor center/brew house project, giving the property right next door to it to a non-profit with no financing/track record could be asking for trouble.

  5. Jay says:

    For the record about half of the photos above (the mural shots and the room with the colored glass) are from a more modern adjacent building that likely will not be demolished. I had posted a link to photos I had taken this past March, here’s the link if you hadn’t already seen it: https://picasaweb.google.com/jayrowe/HighFallsBrewery?authuser=0&feat=directlink These are all photos of the structure in question. Judge for yourself the safety of 13 Cataract St. To me, it looked structurally ‘ok’ but since much of the roof was missing the wood portions of the building were exposed to the elements. Time is not on our side here, and every winter, every rain or wind storm we get does a little more damage, as evidenced by the frozen flood on the main floor.

  6. plowe70 says:

    KPS has done a nice job breathing life back into our historic brewery. Let them make the call on the fate of this building that they own. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever and it looks like the time for this old building has passed.

  7. Jim says:

    @plowe70:

    I’m not sure I get your point. There is a community interest in what one does with one’s property, and one is not free to do whatever one chooses with it. I am not free to build a blast furnace or a pig farm or a filling station without review and approval, and that has been accepted law for nearly ninety years. In a similar way, I am not free to demolish a designated landmark, nor anything within a preservation district. What I wish to do with my own property is subject to the application of a reasonable consideration of the community’s interest.

    That said, it may be the case, if the company wishes to demolish buildings which it owns, using its own money, and there is no community interest with legal standing, that the permit may be non-discretionary, meaning if properly submitted, it must be approved under law.

    So I would say, that if members of the community feel there is a valid interest (and they certainly do), that the actions they may take are in the realm of advocacy. There are ways to influence the behavior of private companies which are effective and widely accepted. That’s what we are about here. It’s good, it’s right and it’s part of being American.

  8. @Plowe, You’re absolutely correct in that the local brewery management and the NYC brewery owners have done GREAT work in turning around a struggling business and making it successful and profitable. I’ve said it before I’ll say it over and over, they aught be commended and encouraged in that regard.

    However, they HAVE received public benefits to do so—a little research tells me so. And it is precisely because they are profitable now that they have an obligation to the community that has sustained them for well over 100 years to work with us.

    Understand that the visitor center plans are not contingent upon the demolition of this building, and that resources are available to help rehab it. It may not seem possible now, but the pieces will align if given the chance.

    @Jim, you make extremely good points as well. I agree 100%! Everyone please read Jim’s comment above. He is a successful rehabber very close to this neighborhood. He knows first hand.

    Please remember to sign the petition and share it with your friends. Thanks.

  9. Jim Fraser says:

    In this morning’s D&C, writer Brian Sharp reveals that 13 Cataract Street has been designated locally as a historic structure since the 1980′s. This is good news. The designation, according to Dorraine Kirkmire, city zoning manager, means the company must show:

    1) its plan “sufficiently mitigates loss of the historic structure through its other restoration and preservation efforts”,
    2) there is “no alternative to demolition”,
    3) it would “not have an adverse impact on the area”, and
    4) that “the alleged difficulty was not self created.”

    The cost of renovation is stated to be “between $5 million and $10 million”, though the article doesn’t mention who made the estimate, how it was made or who paid for it. I wonder how much of that is needed to just fix the roof?

    “It’s literally deteriorating,” CEO Lozyniak said about the building’s condition. Who knew? The houses I rehab are often burned out, window-less, scavenged, and rotting – in short,deteriorated to the point of being value-less. I use sweat equity labor (my own), which doesn’t apply here, but I do know this: you can’t fix problem properties by viewing them simply as a number on a piece of paper. They push the limits of creative problem solving, and you can’t do it as a spectator in the stands. The whole purpose of designation is to force the key players to suit up and get in the game. It’s a tool, placed in our hands, by some forward-looking individuals 30 years ago.

  10. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Rochester absolutely must preserve and protect its unique resources. If we become like every other place, who needs Rochester?

    After all the millions of dollars of economic helpfulness that city taxpayers have provided to the brewery here in recent times, that corporation owes the give-back of preserving this iconic brewery structure. This would actually assist enormously the brewery’s marketing image.

    Bottles of fine wines have label images of their distinctive winery buildings. So could it be with beer bottle labels, following the successful marketing lead of micro-breweries, which establish a personal connection between the brewery and the drinker.

    Rich Lozyniak, CEO of the building’s owner, says in today’s Democrat & Chronicle that their proposed new project, including demolition of 13 Cataract Street, is “about brand-building. It’s not being done for economic reasons,” he said.

    Their new brand-building evidently will include the promotional taglines:

    “Buy our Bland Beer. No Distinctiveness Whatsoever. We Destroy Uniqueness & Preserve the Bland. That’s Our Philosophy. In Buildings & In Beer.”

    Just what the consumer wants: Nothing Special!

  11. tim in buffalo says:

    Is there a feasable way to save the front/sides of the building? Demo the intererior, modernize, use the saved facade win-win.
    Buffalo did something of this nature with Blue Cross/ Blue sheilds new office. The old Gas Works (I think) building front was used in the construction of the new modern building.
    A nod to the past while buiolding the future.

  12. @Tim, interesting thought. Here’s an example from Providence… Weybosset Street bank façade preserved

  13. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Rochester’s threatened brewery landmark is discussed by the brewery CEO in a Page Two interview in the current print edition of the Rochester Business Journal. This article may or may not be available online in a week.

  14. The question is, why would the D&C choose to whitewash the eighth largest brewery in the nation on the eve of their proposed destruction of landmark structures. Shameful!

  15. Thankfully there are a few independent thinkers out there willing to stick their necks out in the name of full disclosure. Howard’s too modest to plug his own article so I’ll do it for him… Read “A Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall“.

  16. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    A theme seems to be present that “jobs” per se constitute the criterion, regardless of how those jobs leverage into a strategy that enhances the city. cf.: the Mortimer Street Bus Barn. The D&C is too often an apologist for what is before them. Its editorial positions are often simplistic, such as (paraphrasing) “Crime is bad.”

    I must defend City actions behind the scenes on the historic brewery building, however, where several staff persons have been working to save this icon, in connection with utilizing the tracks route of the former Genesee Falls Railway there for public hiking trail use.

  17. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    The Rochester Business Journal article was simply an interview asking for the response of the brewery CEO to several questions. Argumentation is not normally done in such interviews. This was given the standard template space for interviews.

    The specific answer did give us a basis for responding with preservation arguments that address the brewery concerns.

  18. zeus says:

    This reminds me of the Midtown project. Nobody was around to save it but then after the decision was made to tear it down everybody was upset. It’s sad to say but Rochester takes too long to step up and do something before it’s too late and then they wonder why the city is in such bad shape right now. It’s always too little too late and they can never make a decision.

  19. The time to finally take action and speak against the destruction of Rochester’s heritage is upon us. Plan to attend and sign up to speak at the Zoning Board’s meeting on Thursday. We need to fill that council chambers on Thursday; and that means we need all of YOU. If you and I don’t stand up to fight for the city our grandparents and great-grandparents broke themselves to build, no one else will.

    DETAILS:
    Thursday, December 15
    City Council Chambers, Room 302A
    City Hall, 30 Church Street

    ADDITIONAL INFO:
    The start time for the Public Hearing is 9:30 AM but the Genesee Brewery Application will begin at 11:30 AM so you don’t have to be there at 9:30. Just be sure to arrive well before 11:30 to sign up to speak. I don’t know how long the meeting will go. Depends on how many people speak out.

    Everyone will have 3 MINUTES at most to speak their mind. So get your thoughts together in advance.

    Please RSVP and share this event on Facebook.


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