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From Eyesore to Opportunity: Rochester’s Hoyt-Potter House

March 28th, 2012

The Hoyt-Potter House on Fitzhugh Street. 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.


Hoyt-Potter House
133 Fitzhugh Street

David Hoyt, a prominent Rochester bookseller and stationer, had this Greek Revival style house built in 1840 for his wife and eight children. Hoyt became one of the organizers and largest stockholder of what would become Western Union Telegraph Company and sold his house to successful businessman Henry S. Potter.

In 1969 Jack Lubelle became sole owner of the Hoyt-Potter House, then a boarding house. Already in bad shape by 1972, the owner began a twenty-year process of suing the city for permission to demolish the building. In 1989 a judge denied the final demolition request and the City of Rochester won an appeal to take title (the owner received fair market value payment).

A request for proposals followed and was answered by Hoyt-Potter Associates with a plan to rehabilitate the house. Today it is the home of the Landmark Society external link and the Wenrich Memorial Library external link, one of the region’s finest collections of materials on architecture, decorative arts, horticulture, local history and landmarks. The Corn Hill Neighbors Association external link is also located here.

Here’s the “eyesore”…
The Hoyt-Potter House on Fitzhugh Street, Rochester N.Y.

And here is the “opportunity” we nearly lost…
The Hoyt-Potter House on Fitzhugh Street, Rochester N.Y.

Thanks to Caitlin at The Landmark Society 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 Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 at 8:10 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.

11 Responses to “From Eyesore to Opportunity: Rochester’s Hoyt-Potter House”

  1. Rick says:

    The Hoyt-Potter House (133 Fitzhugh) is immediately visible from the outside eating area of Nathaniel’s Pub. I was just there the other day thinking what a great looking house it is/was and how lucky we are to have it. I didn’t know it was slated for/saved from demolition. It stands in sharp contrast from the office building across the street from it which probably took over a similar homes lot.

  2. Fred says:

    Nice story and makes you think BUT notice Its use is City Landmark Socity and Libary.

  3. @Fred, the Landmark Society is an independent non-profit organization… like the YMCA for example. It’s not city-owned at all. The library is part of the Society.

  4. Fred says:

    So they donot use any taxpayer Dollars?

  5. You’re guess is as good as mine. Is it not beneficial to have an occupied building at 133 Fitzhugh than a parking lot or a grassy lot? Besides, how much money did we give North American Brewery? Answer that for me.

  6. Steve says:

    When you say, “Besides, how much money did we give North American Brewery?” by “we” do you mean the city?

    To be fair to them, do you know how much “we” gave them? Have they been given any funding or tax breaks from the city of Rochester to NAB?

  7. @Steve, See City Council’s minutes from February 2009.

  8. Steve says:

    Thanks for pointing me at that document! What I see there is the city reworking a number of loans and tax liens that HFBC already had into 3 parts, one part that KPS would pay at closing, one part preexisting loans that KPS would assume and one part was from a tax agreement that the city had made with HFBC.

    The tax burden for the current and prior year from them taking over the brewery was paid at closing:

    “KPS will pay the delinquent 2008-09 High Falls Brewing Company, LLC water and tax bills at closing and assume and pay current the Section 108 loans.”

    So they paid just under $500k to the city at closing. The section 108 loans and interest equal a little over $3.3MM. The last part (which is the largest part) is a $5.6MM tax break given to High Falls. KPS can either prepay the bill for $500k within 3 years or they would be required to repay the entire amount. It looks like they will also have to prepay the full amount if they don’t pay their taxes and water bills in the future either.

    So they arguably and potentially gave KPS $5.1MM, but even with that said, it really tax breaks that they gave to a company that went bankrupt (HFBC) and are being given the chance to recoup through the sale to KPS.

    I wonder where we could find the record to see if they prepaid the $500k on time?

  9. @Steve, probably the City Clerk’s office. If you find out let us know. My point was (to Fred) that public subsidies should not be the only measure of how beneficial a project or organization is to the community. And we shouldn’t assume that private companies do not receive subsidies, which seemed to be the argument he was making.

  10. Steve says:

    I do see and agree with your point that property improvements and organizations such as the Landmark Society are a great benefit to the community whether or not the receive public funding.

    I also know that a number of companies do get subsidies from the city. However based on where you stretched your point, we shouldn’t assume that a local corporation is being given tons of subsidies just because they are a big company in the city. There are a companies like NAB in the city that operate totally on their own funds.

    You are becoming a recognized advocate of this movement in Rochester. For this reason, representatives from these companies become more likely to read what you say. By making blanket assumptions about them being on the public dole like this you risk scorning these companies and potentially ruining your own cause as well as the business climate in Rochester.

  11. Here’s the full text of the part of the agreement you called out for others who might be interested:

    High Falls is the owner of 39 parcels of real property located within the City (a list of the parcels is set forth in the proposed legislation) that are used in connection with its brewing business. High Falls is now unable to pay its obligations or to continue as an independent entity and owes the City for taxes and water pursuant to an existing tax agreement ($4,242,598 in principal and $1,406,754 in interest) and for the 2008-09 tax year ($287,019 in taxes and $211,043 for water).

    High Falls also has the following outstanding City of Rochester U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Section 108 loans (“Section 108” loans) with the City:
    1. An equipment loan with outstanding principal of $766,666, with past due principal and in- terest of $102,426; and
    2. A real estate loan with remaining principal of $2,328,714, with past due principal and in- terest of $123,127.97.

    This legislation will allow the City to enter into an agreement to facilitate the purchase of the assets of High Falls by KPS Capital Partners, LC or an entity owned by it. KPS will pay the delinquent 2008-09 High Falls Brewing Company, LLC water and tax bills at closing and assume and pay current the Section 108 loans. The agreement will modify the existing tax agreement with High Falls Brewing Company, LLC to provide that the amount outstanding will be due at a future date with the provision that it can be prepaid at a predetermined discount rate that would result in a payment of $500,000 if prepaid in three years.


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