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Hope for Pulaski Library

July 22nd, 2013

Rochester is trying to save the vacant Pulaski Library before it's too late. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Last winter the City of Rochester made a Hail Mary pass to save the historic Pulaski Library. They posted an offer external link to sell the vacant building for a thousand dollars to anyone with a serious plan to fix it up. I’m not sure how many proposals were submitted, but I’ve learned that Providence Housing Development Corporation external link has been given the green light.

[ Take a look inside Pulaski… ]

Providence Housing has worked on similar adaptive reuse projects such as Paul Wolk Commons on State Street, and the Holy Rosary Apartments external link on Dewey. Although Pulaski may be smaller, it could prove to be a much bigger challenge…

A view of the Pulaski branch of Rochester Public Library, which opened in 1933. It was originally known as the Hudson branch, but was renamed the Pulaski branch in honor of General Casimir Pulaski, Polish hero of the American Revolution. The library closed from lack of funding in 1994.  [IMAGE: Rochester Public Library Local History Division]Providence Housing wants to convert the library into low-income apartments. However, they say to make this concept financially viable, they will need to turn the space into at least nine (9) units – six on the first floor, and three at the basement level. The apartments would be single-bedroom, each with a living room, dining room, and kitchen in an open floor plan.

Karen Staertow, Development Associate with Providence, says the idea is very similar to the Holy Rosary project – a $15 million dollar adaptive reuse of the Holy Rosary church external link, convent and rectory. That’s a project which include a range of funding sources and more than $1 million of historic tax credit equity. “With this project being a success, we felt it was possible to do it again,” Karen tells me. “Also, we selected PLAN Architectural Studios external link as a part of the development team, and they’ve had significant involvement with the Pulaski Library in the past, working with the City.”

City Council adopted legislation allowing the City to seek up to $300,000 in state grants through NY State's Consolidated Funding Application. The City is prepared to match that amount with local funds.Providence estimates the total cost of the project to be $2 Million and funding would have to come from a mix of construction loans, grants, historic tax credits, and assistance from the City of Rochester. Last week City Council adopted legislation which allows the City to seek up to $300,000 in state grants through NY State’s Consolidated Funding Application. The City is also prepared to match that amount with $300,000 in local funds.

Inside Rochester's Pulaski Library. [IMAGE: RochesterSubway.com]
Because Providence is seeking those historic tax credits, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) needs to approve the plan before any work can begin. Unfortunately, the first concept was turned down because the interior space was divided up too much. After all, a “preservation” project should preserve as much of the building’s character as possible (this includes architectural details and interior spaces). So Providence has gone back to the drawing board to rework the plans and keep more of the interior open.

I can't show you much of the plans for the space, but Providence Housing would like to create 9 apartment units into the building on the first floor and basement level. By creating lofts, Providence hopes to make the most out of the small space.
While I can’t get into too much detail or show the plans, I can say they have found a creative way to keep all nine apartment units while preserving much of the spacious old library reading room. They’ll create loft apartments using those super high ceilings. And by moving the bedroom up over top of the living space, they will substantially reduce the footprint of each apartment, and allow more of the overall floor plan to remain open.

If SHPO denies the new plans and Providence is unable to squeeze nine units into the space, they may have to look outside the existing footprint of the building and build on ajoining lots. But obviously that would complicate an already complicated job.

Staying positive though, Karen says she is hopeful SHPO will approve the new plans when those are submitted in the coming weeks. And as this valuable historic building continues to decay, I know at least one blogger who is also hopeful. Fingers crossed.

• • •

About Providence Housing Development Corp.

Providence Housing Development Corporation external link is an affiliate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and is operated by Catholic Charities of the diocese. The organization’s mission is to strengthen families and communities by creating and providing access to quality affordable housing enriched by the availability of supportive services. Since 1994, Providence has secured more than $135.5 million in project development funding from public and private sources and has created more than 900 units of affordable housing.

xxx external link

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 22nd, 2013 at 7:57 am and is filed under Rochester History, Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “Hope for Pulaski Library”

  1. Matthew Denker says:

    Wow, color me torn. On one hand, I love PLAN and adaptive re-use and new apartments (especially affordable ones). On the other, I’d love to see this space remain open and community-oriented, even if it meant constructing in the side yard and the back. I should think something tasteful and modern could be added, not unlike the addition to the Guggenheim in NYC. It would probably need to be 2 or 3 times as many units to break even, but I think it’d be worth it to keep the interior library space.

    Barring that kind of option, it’s important that the building is preserved, and loft style apartments would do so in such a way that will absolutely allow future uses of the building if at all possible.

    It’s a shame the church feels the need to have the truly massive parking lot next to this on Northeast. I imagine they picked up every one of the houses that used to be there cheaply and tore them all down for it. A dense redevelopment there would allow for the preservation of a community asset like the library.

  2. Brian says:

    I’m fairly new to Rochester and not familiar with Providence Housing, but do you think they would be willing to give or sell some of the old furniture in the building? Those bookshelves and desks would be a great addition to any home if they are salvageable. Besides, it doesn’t sound like they would use them for their apartments.


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