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Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

Links of the Day:

- The city is beginning to close the books on the latest sad chapter in the Sibley Building’s history. The mayor submitted legislation to City Council asking it to pay off the remaining balance of the current owner’s $3,177,345 HUD loan. The money would come from the city’s insurance reserve fund.

The city loaned the money to Rochwil, a subsidiary of Wilmorite, in the 1990s to help finance the redevelopment of the property after the department store closed. The total cost of the project was $26.1 million.

Rochwil was not able to revitalize Sibley and stopped making loan payments in 1998. It also stopped paying its PILOT agreement. Rochwil now owes the city more than $22 million.

Mayor Tom Richards has said the city won’t recoup its losses for several reasons. Rochwil is a limited liability company, so good luck collecting. The city has never foreclosed on the building because that would ADD to taxpayer expense of keeping it up. Finally, the building isn’t worth the amount of money owed.

The community has been angered by a rich corporation’s refusal to pay its obligations. Wilmorite will tell you it lost money over the past decades on Sibley. The project shows the risks involved of government loaning private entities money and the challenges of reviving downtowns.

The payoff of the HUD loan is a first step in getting the building sold to Winn Development out of Boston. Winn plans to turn much of the tower into housing. The city is still in negotiations with Winn over the city’s liens on the property. Expect further legislation from the mayor soon that will finally close the Wilmorite chapter.

- School #12 parents are boycotting next week’s state field tests. The PTA sent form letters home to parents asking the principal to opt their children out.

- Home prices are up in the Rochester region, but growth is slowing.

- Former Rochester superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard is at the center of a big battle between the Chicago teachers union and the mayor. Residents are sympathetic to the union, but a lot of outside “reform groups” with big money have jumped into the fray.

- Does anyone think you can buy a real Coach bag at the Rochester Public Market? There are questions about the use of federal resources to nab a Greece couple selling knockoff goods.

- Frontier and Windstream are among the telcos not snapping up broadband customers at the same rate as cable companies.

- New York State is selling trains it bought as part of a high speed rail project - in the 1970s.