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A Tower for Rochester

December 3rd, 2014

Rochester's Skyline.
By Matthew Denker

Rochester has a nice skyline, although it’s not notably more impressive than some comparable cities like Des Moines, IA where the tallest tower is 801 Grand at 630 ft. or Birmingham, AL where the tallest tower is the Wells Fargo Tower at 454 ft. tall.

Des Moines, IA skyline. [PHOTO: life-lineresources.com]
Des Moines, IA

Birmingham, AL skyline. [PHOTO: Wiki Commons]
Birmingham, AL

Notably, the tallest tower in Rochester is only 442 feet (and yes, it’s Xerox). Even more pressing, the most recent tower to be built here is the newly-renamed Legacy Tower (née Bausch & Lomb Place). Since the Legacy Tower was built in 1995, approximately 650 towers have been built worldwide that are taller than 650 ft.

Tallest buildings in Rochester, NY. [SOURCE: skyscraperpage.com]
As you might have gleaned, not a single one of them has been built in Rochester. I think it’s time for that to change, and to get an idea for what the Rochester skyline might look like, I’ve generated some images with a new tower. There are also some pictures of contemporary buildings around 650 ft. that I am partial to, but the view on the skyline will be of a simple massing 650 ft. in height and 120 ft. square. I’ve chosen 3 prime sites downtown for our hypothetical tower. Please note that at any of these sites there should be a podium that fills the site to the block with the tower rising above. Said podium doesn’t factor into the skyline impact, though, and is not shown here.

Diagram of Potential Tower Site Locations in Rochester.
For each of the three sites, I’ve generated 3 views from various angles showing the impact on the skyline. My personal favorite is Site 3, but I think any of these locations would add positively to the Rochester skyline.

• • •

Site 1

(84 Andrews Street external link)

Site 1. Rendering 1.

Site 1. Rendering 2.

Site 1. Rendering 3.

• • •

Site 2

275 East Main Street external link)

Site 2. Rendering 1.

Site 2. Rendering 2.

Site 2. Rendering 3.

• • •

Site 3

(119 West Main Street external link)

Site 3. Rendering 1.

Site 3. Rendering 2.

Site 3. Rendering 3.

Finally, as promised, here are a few towers built in the last 10 years that I like. I think any of these would be a huge change from the current tower architecture in Rochester.

Murano Tower in Philadelphia, PA. [PHOTO: TheCondoShops.com]
Murano, Philadelphia (475 ft. – This is a little short, but one of my favorite condo towers ever.)

388 Bridge Street in Brooklyn, NY. [PHOTO: www.brooklyneagle.com]
388 Bridge St, Brooklyn (590 ft.)

One Rincon Hill in San Francisco, NY [PHOTO: www.sfresource.com]
One Rincon Hill, San Francisco (641 ft.)

Queen City Square in Cincinnati, OH. [PHOTO: www.queencitysquare.com]
Queen City Square, Cincinnati (665 ft.)

Aqua Tower in Chicago, IL. [PHOTO: www.couturesurfaces.com]
Aqua, Chicago (859 ft. – This is a little tall, but also an incredible building.)

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 at 7:39 am and is filed under Opinion, 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.

59 Responses to “A Tower for Rochester”

  1. Bob Luckey says:

    In 1975, when the movie “Towering Inferno” was showing in the nation’s movie houses, D&C columnist Tom Green penned a parody for his “One More Thing” feature, “The Chill Factor” envisioning a 134-story National Casket Company tower with characters such as fire chief Butterfly McPenfield, Hambleton Pittsford, a local TV weatherman, and Velma Chili, all set against a backdrop of an impending glacier.

  2. Doug says:

    I agree that we need something else big to impact our skyline. Right now, the skyline is great and is centrally located so that when you can view it down the Genesee in both directions. I’m aesthetically oriented and we seem to lose sight of these things when building today. How is a building situated along a street, at the end of a street, how does it looks next to others, how does it impacts the site or skyline? I think all three sites are excellent spots, as I too have thought of possible buildings that could fit these locations.

    Site one would look great from Cobbs Hill, as would site 3. Site two is a little “further out there” but we have to get something going over there for sure and I think it’s a prime location. It’s getting started with the new post office and town homes. It would be really cool to have the basement of the tower or (any building situated there) open up into the subway (Broad St) as well, creating a pedestrian corridor of storefronts and another ‘street level’. Then we could have stairs from outside going down into the ‘subway’ and it’d be a little destination for Rochester similar to Church St. in Burlington, VT or The Commons on State St. in Ithaca. But I’m getting away from the point…as I often do.

    Yes to a tower at all 3! Let’s get some awesome designs together and get some companies interested in Rochester, and lets get this business improvement district set up too! Wow, I’m all sorts of scatter brained today.

  3. Ben says:

    Would love to see a new tower go up downtown. I like site 3 the best, I think there is a benefit to having such density of people living around Midtown and things would branch out from there. How many more older buildings do we have left downtown to rehab? Eventually, someone’s going to have to build something new down there.

  4. James says:

    I have long wanted Rochester to join the 500-footer club. Buffalo has one. Albany has one. We are overdue.

    Given the state of the economy it is understandable one has not been built yet. However, I agree with most of you. That time could be rapidly approaching. As downtown’s residential market continues to mature, I believe the time is ripe for a residential tower.

    Following on the heels and the momentum that will result from Midtown tower, a new residential skyscraper could really make waves. And I believe it is time for downtown Rochester to get into the condo market. Make the tower part condo/part market rate apartments. You could even designate some of the tower for upscale senior living. If the suburbs can build these high end senior living communities then why can’t downtown?

    600 ft would be ideal in my opinion and I would probably prefer site 3 so it can truly capitalize on the momentum going on there. Additionally, the architecture would be extremely important. Though I understand cost is a factor, I would love to see a very progressive design. Most of Rochester’s newer buildings played it safe. I’d love to see something in the vein of Sir Norman Foster’s designs.

    And for me, the final touch would be a dog park nearby. Let’s make downtown dog-friendly to make Rochester an attractive option compared to other up and coming cities.

  5. daggar says:

    A few decades ago, someone was thinking like this– that downtown Rochester needed a certain monumental structure because many other cities have that monumental structure. Instead of a tall building downtown with no clear-cut use, they were thinking about a loop expressway around downtown with no clear-cut use.

    Rochester has a ton of excess office space in our existing towers. Building another tower of vacancy just to put another bump in the skyline is not a good use of civic funds– and it would be civic funds, since a project of this scale tends gets tax write-offs, exemptions and other concessions from local and state government.

    Possibly if you could fill that building with residences instead of offices, you could make a better case– I understand that the residential real estate is in more demand. However, it should start from there, and its scale should be a consequence of that thinking, not a primary consideration. Thinking about the scale first and utility second is a recipe for failure of the inner loop or fast ferry variety.

  6. Javier says:

    Can’t you add floors to the existing towers located in Rochester? I just say this because I have always thought that the Wings of Progress on top of Times Square Building should be on a much higher tower. I could only imagine what that would look like at the top of the Rochester skyline. Of course I do not know the first thing about the rest of that building and the infrastructure. Just an idea to throw out there. But I agree that the time for a tower of that height in Rochester is just around the corner.

  7. Martin Edic says:

    Have to agree with daggar- the vacancy rate in the tall buildings downtown is very high. Chase is notably half empty. I don’t see anyone doing something like this in my lifetime. And developers don’t build buildings to make skylines look better. That’s just silly.

  8. Daggar is exactly right. At the end of the day, the residents of the City are the ones who pay for all of the development of downtown, and they’ve already paid for enough. If a developer wanted to come in and build a building on their own, that would be one thing, but without the corporate welfare, there isn’t enough margin to make it work fiscally.

    I’ve been saying for years we need a Paychex tower. I think we’re currently up to 20 or so locations around the county, and spend a lot of time relocating employees here, there and everywhere just to try and accommodating our constant growth. If there’s any company left in Rochester that could pull such an expenditure off, it’s Paychex. But, even with all of the costs associated with the constant changes and growth, the numbers just don’t add up.

  9. MAT says:

    Tony is on the right track here. It will take a large and growing local employer that wants to consolidate space and make a statement about both their company’s future and that of our city and region. Paychex certainly makes sense since having so many disparate campuses around town is remarkably inefficient. Another would be Sutherland Group, although I’m not sure how many call center/help desk companies build tall structures. A very promising firm is Manning & Napier, which a decade ago was located at Chase Tower but has since been at Woodcliff. They are a growing financial services firm, the sort of industry that tends to build these kind of edifices. I recall them leaving due to concerns about the state of Midtown (which has changed dramatically) and the buses on Main St (now also changed). Perhaps the time is right to start aggressively pursuing these companies. A combo retail/office/hotel/residential structure could reach 600ft fairly easily without dominating the market. Still, we have a huge glut of empty office space, including a soon to be fully empty Frontier building. We can always dream…

  10. James says:

    I don’t think anyone is indicating that this be a full-office tower or that it will be created from magic. As always with these types of things, the market must dictate it.

    However, making a large portion of it residential would go a long way in making it a reality. And yes it would take cooperation from local developers, corporations and the city and county governments to make it happen. That doesn’t mean it is impossible.

    These things don’t happen unless there are people with the dreams in the first place.

  11. Phew! Sorry guys, busy responding to comments on Facebook. Now I’m caught up and here too. So here’s the deal on a couple points, I think.

    1.) It would not be a full office tower. Indeed, if at site 3, I envision the best way to get this done is a project like Symphony House in Philadelphia that involved the construction of a condo tower in conjunction with the new orchestra hall. One could theoretically slot a dozen floors of hotel in towards the lower floors as well to round the whole thing out.

    2.) I am disturbed by this whole ‘no public subsidy’ line of reasoning. Because a new Target in Henrietta surely gets built with a subsidy, and new housing subtracts do too. Developers don’t pay for the additional traffic they create (a thing that is true for driving only subtracts, but a strawman for walkable development downtown). They don’t pay for the needed improvements to sewage treatment or water distribution, or power lines. All of these are externalities the developer reaps from the tax dollars of those living in the municipality. I’m sorry that it’s so much more explicit when constructing downtown, but it almost has to be, the infrastructure to support the building is ALREADY THERE and the pain caused by the new building is minimal compared to the added cost to society of the suburban development. One of the reasons this breakdown exists at all is the breakdown of private finance, largely with racial undertones. One doesn’t generally need tax breaks or municipally backed loans to build a tower in NYC, but then a random person can go to a bank with a tower idea and get the money to build a tower too – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/magazine/what-went-wrong-at-one-madison-park.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. I can’t even get CNB to return my calls. Go figure.

    3.) I believe working out the appropriate set of amenities for downtown would be an incredibly goal. Dog park is an excellent one, as are grocery delivery, bike share, and getting amazon lockers downtown (on the assumption they’re not already there).

    4.) Thank you in general for all the support. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it explicitly, here, and I’m sort of burying the lede in a comment, but I unabashedly want to build the new tallest tower in Rochester. I don’t feel like I have much competition, but I’d love to see someone try to beat me to the punch. The only thing better than one tall new tower would be two or more.

  12. John Smith says:

    The Site near High Falls would be a difficult one, the weight of tall tower and a eroding cliff would be a difficult mix. The main reason why there hasn’t been a tall building in Rochester and even most of the united states has to do with the fact that developers need to have a return within 5 years. One of the challenges with Rochester has to do with the type of economy our city leaders are trying to build, it’s mostly focused on manufacturing and healthcare (which don’t locate downtown or in tall buildings), more focus on software development and professional service would help the downtown office market. However with all that being said a residential tower is something that is more feasible because you have less people in the building than an office setting.

    An interesting concept may be the concept of a vertical neighborhood like the shanghai tower in shanghai.

    Also many buildings add vanity height to reach taller heights, the top half of the tallest building in the world is too tiny to occupy.

  13. Adrian Martin says:

    So the point of the tower would be to be a big tower? What would it provide in terms of usefulness? As already pointed out above, we have plenty of vacant office space, and we have plenty of vacant buildings that we can turn into residences.

    It would be fantastic if Rochester’s downtown developed to the point where we could justify building a tower. However I think that’s 10-20 years away optimistically.

    I agree with Denker on public subsidies – everything that a suburban development would get subsidized already exists in a downtown location so it makes sense that a downtown development would instead get that money to offset other costs.

  14. Thanks Adrian! To the credit of the market, not everyone wants to live in a converted building. Just as there is a market for new build suburban homes as well as older ones, the same goes for apartments in a tower. This is similar to, but not the same, as my argument that it’d be nice if a few developers in Rochester built finished apartments. Not everyone wants to live in a SoHo style loft with exposed brick and ventilation and whatnot. There is a real dearth of ‘finished’ product downtown in Rochester. I suspect that Midtown Tower will really be the biggest influx of this, and I hope it’s successful. I’d be lying if I said I wanted to build exposed brick apartments.

    One other thing, many extant buildings downtown have costly problems to overcome. I would already be trying to figure out how to redo the Terminal Building on Broad St if I hadn’t heard it’s a hot mess of asbestos and facade issues (Monroe County has the building up for sale, incidentally). This is a building that absolutely should be redone, but I’d bet money I could build a a new 8 story tower with 70,000 sqft of space for about a nominal amount more while commanding higher rents because it’s new build. It will take someone with more clout than I to build a package of benefits (asbestos abatement similar to Midtown and 88 Elm) to be competitive in the market.

  15. daggar says:

    I have nothing against public subsidies. I think they’re an essential part of rejuvenating downtown. However, building another empty building will do nothing to revitalize Rochester. There’s a very finite amount of public money available, and I’d rather see the money spent on projects that have appeal other than scale.

    My comparison to the inner loop wasn’t sarcastic. The idea of calling for a tower for the sake of scale, and looking for ways to fill it up secondarily, is unwise. If someone comes up with a project and, upon investigation, find you can fill seventy stories with it, I would be delighted. However, the city would be infinitely better served by three ten-story buildings that are mostly full than by a single half-empty tower.

  16. I mean, from a realistic stand point, yes. I don’t think anyone should build a tower for the sake of a tower, although I think the Inner Loop did exactly what it was supposed to do (gut downtown and destroy a variety of unfavored neighborhoods). In any event, this was much more a fantasy (what if Rochester had a tower as tall as the next largest city in the country did), than a call for anything. That said, I don’t think this tower would be at all empty. It pencils out to about 350 units, which is less than 10% of downtown. Seeing as downtown’s apartment vacancy rate would rise from about 2% to 12% if this building were completely empty, I think what’s more likely is that this building would fill up easily. Clearly I’d love to put my money where my mouth is, but I’m a couple million short right now. I guess hang tight?

  17. Adrian Martin says:

    assuming 333 units, each 1200 sq ft (as you write on your facebook comment), what would be the expected purchase price of a unit like that?

  18. I think you’d target a construction cost, if at all possible, of $250/sqft. Not sure that would be possible, but then you can work back from there. 1% to state transfer taxes, 6% to realty, another 10% to financing and 10% to yourself. It works out to a targeted sales price of about $340/sqft for the whole tower on average. That makes an average unit at the average price $408,000, or rather competitive with the Sagamore, the closest you’ll come in the city to the same. I think you might want to go with a mix of owner occupied and rentals, but that’s a side issue. Clearly lower apartments would be cheaper, and potentially smaller, while higher apartments would be larger and more expensive per sqft. I know I’ve brought this up in comments before, but this is not as crazy as it seems. As of today, there are 48 single family homes for sale in the county for $900,000 or more. There is a market for this stuff, whether it’s for doctors, or CEOs, or school administrators. And for better or worse, the people who can afford these apartments (or houses) would be part of the motoring public and can easily drive out of town to get what they need. We seem to be mostly in agreement that there’s no traffic, so that’s not a problem. Please note that affordable housing would clearly need to be addressed separately, and is not tied in any way to a new tallest tower in the city.

  19. Martin Edic says:

    Matthew,
    You’d have no trouble selling units in those ranges. A very close friend owns in the Capron lofts and residents there have seen $100k equity increases, based on actual sales, for the larger units. A nearly 50% increase over 3 years. The demand for condos is very high and there is no inventory, zero, downtown. I personally have four friends actively looking in those price ranges (we’re boomers) who would prefer buying. They all want out of the burbs. However it is my understanding that doing a condo development in NYS is extremely costly and takes forever so most are building rentals.

  20. From what I can tell, it’s a pain, but can be worth it. It’s certainly easier than here in Colorado. A law passed here a few years ago killed the whole market. There hasn’t been a single new condo built in the state in 3 years, and it shows no sign of letting up. Prices are, not surprisingly, through the roof.

    I wanted to convert 315 Atkinson into 5 really high end condos and get the tax break, but I have to be honest, it would have been about a $700,000 project, and I’m not sure I’m in a position to both do something that large AND figure out the whole condo thing. I think I’d do the same size project with fee simple townhouses first.

  21. I’m all for a tall building, as long as it does not resemble the unimaginative Lego-ish disgrace that is 432 Park Avenue in NYC. Regarding building heights, Emporis does give the Temple Building a bit of an edge over Crossroads, and St. Michael’s church is taller than both of them. http://www.emporis.com/city/rochester-ny-usa/all-buildings

  22. Not going to lie about it, I unabashedly love 432 Park. I think it’s bold. Further, it’s a really interesting twist on an international style tower. None have had such commitment to the square. Almost all of them have an emphasis on horizontals, making the buildings look shorter, or verticals, making them look taller. If there is an issue with 432 it is it’s mistreatment of 56th street. While this is unfortunate, it is par for the course. Check out how all the new towers on 57th st treat 58th st, and you’ll see that some streets have been chosen as losers. Alas, Manhattan can handle it. In any event, I would be happy to see something a little more adventurous here too, but I am not a fan of much of the organic architecture being built these days. It’s not efficient. If it has to be ‘out there’ let it be NYbG or the BIG tower going up right now.

  23. My problem with it is it is too stick-like. I don’t mind a plan tower; it’s just too skinny.

  24. This raises an interesting question, then. How do you feel about the even skinnier still 111 57th St?

  25. It looks like that has some architectural setbacks, which make it a bit more interesting. But that location right next to Central Park destroys the open feeling. It’s like it’s hovering, ready to snap off.

  26. I really appreciate the consistency even if I don’t agree. I imagine, because of the price per square foot, any towers in Rochester would have a lower height to width ratio.

  27. Jimmy says:

    What’s better, 6 new, 6 story, architecturally good-looking, pedestrian-friendly buildings, or one 36 story tower? I vote for the shorter good-looking buildings because a traditional 6 story office building is actually quite tall, and I think of building height as relative. What I mean is, sometimes to me the Xerox tower looks really tall, (it is tall actually) and one reason for that is because it is easily the tallest thing around. Fill all the surface parking downtown with 6-15 story buildings of office building height,(floors in an office building are typically taller than a residential building, but obviously fill these buildings with mostly apartments and condos) and the 1960-70s towers will look way more impressive. Building a tower that would eclipse the Xerox is tempting though.

  28. Brian Miller says:

    Site 3 gets my vote. The city needs a center of mass and continuity. I’ve wondered if we might see such grandeur and progressive thought at a time when our buildings carry more presence than the employers they’re named for. Love to see this go forward in conjunction with the inner loop deconstruction!

  29. While I wholeheartedly support 6 new 6 story buildings, there are some economies of scale that we don’t often discuss. For starters, if we’re going for the always popular retail under residential, 6 6-story buildings yields 6 floors of commercial space and 30 floors of residential space. This may not be the right mix. Further, where we had one large gym/rec area for residents of the tall tower, we now have 6 of them for each building. Each of the 6 would be smaller, but as a whole, would take up more area than the one large one.

    Anyway, I’d love to see basically every single surface parking lot downtown built up (presumably many would not have 650′ towers). I am reasonably confident that a little bit of parking in some of the new buildings and the current deck of garages would be more than enough parking for everyone needing to drive downtown.

  30. I’m still trying to figure out what was gained by chopping floors off the Seneca Building. I will say the sightlines of sowntown, with the Sibley and St. Joseph towers are nice to see from Clinton Ave. upon exiting Route 490 from the east.

  31. Sorry that should be Downtown! I also wonder about eliminating the skyway bridges. Might they not have been useful in the future? Now we have that structure at the corner of Broad and Clinton with all those escalators sitting unused, and passageways leading to them closed off.

  32. I’m not sure anything was gained. I think what really happened was that the extra floors would be taken off with someone else’s money as opposed to maintained by the developer. It’s unfortunate, because they could have gone mixed use and made the top floors apartments. In any event, it’s good that some of the skybridges are gone, the rest should go. They are anathema to a lively downtown. They remove people from the street and create an upper and lower class of people, mainly the people who were waiting for the bus and the people who could walk above them without paying attention. Of all the changes, it is one of the best.

  33. Adrian says:

    Of course something that hasn’t been mentioned yet that would really help a case for a downtown tower is a functional public transport system. The RGRTA is unfrequent and unreliable. There’d be a lot less uproar over building over parking lots of those parking lots weren’t useful for many people.

  34. I disagree. The people those lots are useful for are not now nor will they ever be RGRTA customers. And quite frankly, we are a long way out from someone from Fairport or Greece needing to do something other than drive to get downtown. With 26,000 spots and only about 17,000 cars coming into downtown each day, the parking is wildly underutilized. It’s just that people expect downtown to be like Walmart. A dedicated lot within a few feet of their destination. It can’t be like that. Do you walk back out to your car from Macy’s at Eastview and then drive it around the mall to Nordstroms? Sadly, I imagine a couple people do, but the reality is that downtowns are the world’s biggest outdoor malls. Park somewhere and walk a few blocks. At issue, surely, is having to walk by ‘those people,’ because Main St. was only ever dead during the day if the other half didn’t count as alive.

    Even a robust public transportation system would not meet the expectations of the average Rochesterian. In NYC very few people live immediately above or work immediately above the subway. There is always a good deal of walking involved. It’s why NYers are healthier, in general, than Rochesterians. But I guarantee, especially since there are so many roads and so little traffic, even if the bus ran every 5 minutes, or there were a light rail line or 6 that people would still complain that ‘it doesn’t go where I want it to go.’ You see this in LA, which actually has a robust public transit system that I’ve used extensively. Except the ‘real’ people who live there can easily drive to everything (the traffic is actually on the highway in and out of town, and you can certainly use surface streets if you have half a brain). And there, as it would be in Rochester ‘the subway doesn’t go anywhere useful.’

  35. Adrian says:

    I use one of those surface parking lots in the winter (in the summer I bike). When I moved to Rochester 6 years ago I attempted to take the bus to work. About a third of the time it made me late, and I don’t even need to transfer anywhere. It would take upwards of 30 minutes, when I can walk to work in 45 minutes, or bike or drive in 10. Several times as I waited at a bus stop, the bus simply didn’t stop for me. Thus I gave up on the bus.

    So a functional RGRTA would mean at least one less car downtown in the winter. I can’t believe that I’m the only one who’s tried it and been let down.

  36. No, you’re not the only one, but again, we could nearly halve the parking and there’s still be enough space for everyone. Further, the vast majority of those cars are coming from out of Rochester, not in it. Because this is an interesting question to look at, though, I will pull the Census JtW data and write a column about it. I think it would be valuable to know just what sort of an increase in commuting RGRTA could expect based on more frequent buses in the city. Again, we’re worlds away from any real utilization of park and rides, or commuter rail or anything else in Rochester that involves getting someone from the suburbs downtown. Also, since 90% of the 17,000 cars are single occupancy vehicles, if we just doubled the number of carpools (from 10% to 20%) you’d free up another 1,700 parking spots while the vast majority of people still drive to work alone.

  37. Adrian says:

    Looking forward to that column! I love it when other people look at government data so I don’t have to.

  38. Martin Edic says:

    I think some of the posters here need to actually ride the buses, especially with the new Transit Center. They run on time, I’ve never been passed up in over 40 years of riding and now you don’t need to run across downtown to transfer. Or stand in the cold or heat. They run every half hour which seems to be about right logistically. Yes, it takes planning to use them but Google Maps does it all for you.
    I agree with Matthew- you are not going to get car owners to change. But a lot of people, especially millennials, are choosing to forgo cars but they don’t ride buses. We really need to encourage a change there. The Hive development in the St. Paul Quarter is planning to specifically targeting UofR students and employees because it’s a ten minute, one dollar commute to work as opposed to $7 parking and taking shuttles from distant lots. I think that message will resonate.

  39. Martin Edic says:

    Mike G, we’re hearing stories that the remaining mom and pop businesses on Main St are suffering significantly since the Transit Center opening. Sales down 70% overnight. That might be a subject for discussion. Personally I think most exploited their customers with inflated pricing but that might be a generalization.

  40. Adrian says:

    @Martin, I was passed by twice in a month.

  41. ACW says:

    I think a lot depends on the success of Midtown and 88 Elm Street, both modern office buildings being refitted as modern apartments, not lofts/industrial conversions. If those projects quickly fill up, new apartment tower construction would make much more sense. Unfortunately, I doubt anything as tall as what Matthew imagines will be built in the next 5 years–a new 6 story apartment building would be revolutionary enough. (Has a new apartment building been built anytime in the past 10 years?) But downtown is going to run out of old factory lofts sooner or later…

  42. Kyle says:

    Midtown would be the perfect site. Good thing we wasted the land on small 2/3 story structures.

    But first lets fill all the vacant buildings before we talk about building a new building. We have plenty of old buildings that could be repurposed and give the city more character than a new steel and glass structure would. People like historical buildings more anyways.

    I would love to buy the buildings that make up the block where Hotel Cadillac is and renovate all of those. That’s one of the last blocks that needs to be done to connect Downtown to East Ave once the inner loop is filled.

  43. 1.) I can believe the loss of business on Main St. In many places (Pittsburgh for example, or Columbus), there has been (without success) a push to get buses off ‘Main St.’ (I don’t think it’s called Main St. in either town). While local ‘business owners’ seem to think this will be a good thing, it really does raise the question of where their business comes from. Are they hoping a bunch of deep pocketed white people just show up and start shopping there? Seems unlikely. Said deep pocketed white people certainly own those businesses, but the rest of them have abandoned them. Besides, if I’m Joe ‘ Racist’ Smith living in Chili, do I really need to go downtown for Family Dollar when there are perfectly good dollar stores already in Chili with more parking and less of ‘those’ people anyway?

    2.) I really cannot vouch for the quality of RGRTA’s service, and so I try not to. Just based on their schedules, they should be running fewer routes more frequently. Period.

    3.) How new and how apartment-y and how downtown are we talking? I mean, College Town is a nice volume of brand new rental apartments. It’s IN the city, but it’s not ‘downtown.’ Same for the Southwedge building with the bike shop, Erie Harbor, and Corn Hill Landing (which is probably more than 10 years old now – time flies). The Sagamore IS downtown, but is condos, not rentals. It might be 10 years old now too, though. Finally, the for-sale townhouses on Plymouth Ave are new and downtown, but not exactly apartments, and on the topic of townhouses, there are a number of new ones over in Grove Place too, but again, aren’t exactly apartments. I think that’s everything. It’s all conversions (and a good number of them) otherwise.

    4.) There are a shocking number of buildings downtown yet to be converted. I would love to work with Catholic Charities on 77 N Clinton, but haven’t had the opportunity to reach out to them. The county is selling the Crossroads buildings it had picked up in hopes of building the performing arts center, as well as a vacant office building in St. Paul Quarter (I can’t believe Hive hasn’t already bought it), and the Terminal Building on Broad St. I think One East is a pretty solid candidate for residential conversion. I’d also like to see all of the remaining large buildings by Litchfield get fixed up too. Needless to say, you are right, there are a finite number of buildings, so this can’t go on forever.

  44. Ben says:

    As far as large new residential buildings going up, I have to assume Alexander Park North will be the biggest one in the near future unless something bigger pops up on Parcel 5 at Midtown. From the initial sketches it looks like it might hit 5-6 stories.

  45. Looks like the very nice little grocery at the corner of Mortimer & St. Paul will pick up all the business. By the way, can we assume that Mortimer was named for Mortimer Reynolds and give up on this “RTS Way” business?

  46. Gabriel – http://www.rochestersubway.com/topics/2014/10/transit-authority-may-rename-mortimer-street-rts-way/. Aslo, I believe RGRTA decided not to go forward with that.

    Ben – I suppose I hadn’t really considered proposed stuff. Alexander Park North Falls into the ‘is it downtown?’ category. The Morgan development on South is supposedly starting in Spring. That would be apartments, downtown, and new. If I recall from the renderings, it’s 5 stories. If UofR ever decides to pull it’s head out of it’s you-know-where it might build something quite large on the parking lot across from Eastman.

  47. Ben says:

    Depends, do you not consider 300 Alexander downtown? It’s right down the street. I guess once the inner loop is gone, I would consider Alexander the new edge of the downtown, can see how that could be debatable though.

  48. Strictly speaking, the city DOES consider it part of downtown: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=8589962997&libID=8589962982

    I must admit to disagreeing with them on this. I am mildly supportive of an ‘inside the inner loop’ definition, but much more supportive of a much larger definition of downtown. I wouldn’t mind seeing a definition that ran north/north-east to the railroad tracks (the city’s definition of downtown doesn’t even include the train station), east to Goodman, all of Southwedge and Corn Hill, and then west to Jefferson including all of SBA and Brown Square.

  49. Ben says:

    I like what they have on that map for the most part. Corn Hill and the Southwedge don’t feel like downtown to me, they are neighborhoods, just like the portion of Park Ave you’d include if the boundary went to Goodman.

  50. I mean, I guess it’s ok. I don’t know. Wadsworth Square feels like a neighborhood too, as does High Falls, but they’re on there. I don’t feel downtown at the corner of Alexander and East. I think my beef with it is the way it cherry picks the ‘best’ stuff outside of downtown to include in it, and I’m just not a huge fan of that. It is what it is though.

  51. Matthew, thanks for pointing me into the Rochester Subway blog on Mortimer St. I don’t know how I missed it. But certainly Mortimer Reynolds was the logical conclusion for me (even though I now see other good choices). Having worked for the public library for the last 27 years, all of the Reynolds names are family here. And we just opened the new Reynolds Media Center, which could be a continuation in the wonderful Rochester History article documenting the Reynolds History within the library, and the Audio-Visual Department. Interestingly, the recorded music has been reincorporated into the Media Center from which it split decades ago.

  52. Gabriel – No problem at all.

    Kyle – Seeing as nothing has been built on any of the midtown land yet, there is still time. Heck, I think I already proposed a residential highrise for midtown right about here: http://www.rochestersubway.com/topics/2013/07/filling-in-midtown-site-6/

  53. Martin Edic says:

    I met the owner of the Cadillac Hotel a few years ago. A surprisingly pragmatic guy. He would like to do an upscale boutique hotel there but there is no parking. That was also before the Midtown/Elm/Sibley’s projects actually became real. It might be more practical now. The bar in there used to be a classic deco streamline place. But it was a wino bar for many years before closing.

  54. John says:

    Did anyone say it yet, I think the East and West Main renderings were switched.

    On the west side of downtown, I could really appreciate the 5 10 story towers over 1 50 story. So many completely empty blocks of parking. It really is a shame. Not that the East side is much better, but at least it seems the blocks weren’t completely cleared.

  55. John – You are correct, the labels have been switched from what the renders show. The Site numbers accurately correspond to the map locations.

  56. MAT says:

    Matt, have you considered doing a crowd-sourced development project? There are probably quite a few young-ish people looking to make modest investments in our city’s future. Maybe start with a relatively small mixed-use infill project and grow from there? I know that I’d be interested…

  57. Hi MAT! I have considered this. The best I can tell you is to keep your eyes peeled. I need to complete a project (37 Eagle St. will probably do the trick, although I have a few other things in the hopper) first, and then I can get listed on fundrise. It’s basically the only legitimate crowdsourced funding platform for real estate development. They spent years and millions working out the legal wranglings involved in such an endeavor. I wish I had more news or could say that it will happen sooner, but I really have my fingers crossed we can try something awesome in 2016.

  58. Jimmy says:

    Actually I think some of the parcels immediately surrounding Manhattan Square park would be the best place for a residential tower. It would look good in the skyline too.

  59. John says:

    Funny you say that Jimmy, I was talking to a city engineer and some how Manhattan Square came up. Allegedly, that little development was supposed to feature several towers surrounding the park. I guess like everything else, it was scaled back before completion. I’m with you though, it would make a nice addition and with the filling in of the Inner Loop would be in the middle of Monroe Ave, Park Ave, and the East End.

    The parking lot next to the tower could work, but you’d have the stigma of being next to a lower income tower.

    There is a nice parking lot across the street next to the REOC (or whatever the new SUNY career place is called), but you’d need to get the lot from NYS and the building might even be oriented to open towards the lot. So as nice as it would be, that’d be a tough sell too.

    That whole block of parking and the empty weird 1 story post office by the Inn On Broadway at Broadway and East Broad would be a nice spot too. That area is an odd dead space.


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