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From Eyesore to Opportunity: Rochester’s Flatiron Building

March 26th, 2012

The Flatiron Building on University Avenue. From Eyesore to Opportunity: a snapshot of adaptive reuse in Rochester N.Y.
All the controversy over whether or not to demolish the 120 year-old brewhouse at 13 Cataract Street external link got us thinking. Those in favor of demolishing the building say it’s an eyesore and a haven for drug dealers; even prostitutes. So, just remove the building and our problems go away.

Right?

But if we demolished every eyesore in Rochester, would we have solved all the City’s problems? Or might we end up tossing the proverbial “baby” out with the bath water? For the next two weeks we’ll take a look at some local eyesores …or rather, opportunities, nearly lost.


Flatiron Building
696 University Avenue

When Paul Kramer saved the Flatiron building external link from demolition in 1981 pigeons & bats were living in the top three floors. It now has 18 loft apartments and 7 businesses, including Starry Nites Cafe and Edibles Restaurant. The Neighborhood of the Arts (NOFA) external link is today one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Rochester, when just fifteen years ago it was one of the most troubled. Despite its stunning success, the neighborhood remains remarkably affordable and diverse. This building is now widely considered to be the anchor of the neighborhood.

Here’s the “eyesore”…
The Flatiron Building on University Avenue, Rochester N.Y.

And here is the “opportunity” we nearly lost…
The Flatiron Building on University Avenue, Rochester N.Y. That's Paul Kramer in the foreground. Thanks Paul! Nice work!

That’s Paul Kramer in the foreground. Thanks Paul for all your hard work!! Thanks to the Rochester Regional Community Design Center for the “before” photo, and thanks to Rich Margolis for the “after” photo!

How You Can Help…

Speak out against the demolition of 13 Cataract Street. Send an email to the Brewery and City Hall external link and show your support for a larger vision—Rochester’s Brewery Square.

Attend the public hearing on April 4 and speak out for saving 13 Cataract from Demolition.And attend the public hearing external link on April 4 at 8pm and sign up to speak in favor of preserving 13 Cataract for future development and reuse.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 26th, 2012 at 8:22 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester Images, Urban Development. 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.

5 Responses to “From Eyesore to Opportunity: Rochester’s Flatiron Building”

  1. Renee says:

    This building adds so much character to that area and the neighborhood would feel entirely different without it. It’s a great place to hang out and offers people a place to gather, socialize, shop and enjoy the neighborhood.

    I think it’s often difficult to visualize what could be when we talk about saving these old buildings, so thanks for highlighting this. Looking forward to the next in your series of before and after stories.

  2. Rick says:

    What I don’t get is why a historical brewery would want to tear down one of it’s most historic buildings. To build a parking lot? Doesn’t add up…

    Is there some business plan going on in the background? Like, the brewery wants to strong arm the City into giving them something for saving the building (for example)?

    I just honestly don’t get it. I see it as a big WTF.

  3. Maria says:

    I don’t think the Brewery is scheming to strong arm the city in exchange for saving the building. Unfortunately many people in our City Government as well as businesses like the brewery are too short sighted and do not understand the value that this building holds. More importantly, they do not understand the incredible impact the redevelopment of this building may have both as an economic as well as social driver for this neighborhood, the city and the brewery. The short cut is to just get rid of it so people driving by can see the little building where the new Museum and Tasting Room will be. The entire place and the opportunities for creating more jobs will be better served by keeping this building!!! My question is this – why not spend the 1+ million that is budgetted for demolition costs to stabilize and secure the building? Much of what makes 13 Cataract such an eyesore was built onto the building by the brewery. Strip all the junk off and reveal the original structure. The rendering provides a very clear picture of what this building can look like. This is not a stretch as proven by the before and after photos of our other examples!

  4. Kevin DeHond says:

    Their is a difference between The Flat Iron and Cataract Buildings.
    In the Flat Iron case, a developer saw value in the property that could be salvaged with extensive remodeling of a rental property.
    Such is not the case with the Cataract site.
    The cost of bringing it up to code alone is far more than tearing it down.
    And let us not forget that the investors who kept Genesee Brewery from going under have already saved a Large Piece of Rochester’s history. Let them develop what is left to create more jobs and keep their company prosperous.
    Just an opposing position that needs to be considered.

  5. Maria says:

    Kevin, you are right that the cost to save or preserve the building are more than the cost to tear it down. It always is. I also agree that this building is not suitable use as housing or other normal uses. It is a brewery building and Rochester has several micro-breweries. It may be posible to be used as atist studios, restaurant as well as retail but ideally, being connected to the brewery a use could be found tht would be particularly beneficial to them and which would futher reinforce their through support and awareness f their business. Perhaps creating an artisan craft beer that is unique and can be used both in educating the interested public on the art of beer crafting or as a place that can provide beer making studios and workshops. Certainly, beer is a very popular part of the Rochester landscape and there is much interest in the subject. Rochester could become known for it’s beer making! Imagine that!
    But even if the brewery would consider using this building for their museum and tasting room instead of the smaller building which can be more easily adapted for other uses, it would be great.

    Everyone is appreciative and gives praise to the Brewery for the incredible work that they have done in turning around a failing business. Everyone supports the creation of their museum and tasting room. It is sad that they will be sacrificing one of the most architecturally interesting buildings on their campus to do so.
    I urge you all to take a walk alone St. Paul Blvd and down Cataract St. and take inventory of the quality and condition of the building stock. The building that we are trying to save looks just as good as all the rest of the buildings on campus.

    The other buildings that were saved, were not done so because they were economically viable(they never are from the begining)but because someone valued their histoic and architectural value and had a vision for what it could become in the future. I remember the Flat I
    ron building when it was an abandoned, decripid building. Everyone thought Paul was crazy to take it on. It’s taken 20 years to fully realize the impact that this building has made in it’s neighborhood. We as a general public are too short sighted or impatient to wait.


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