The finalization of the sale of the Sibley building- in the works for several years – is excellent news for the development of downtown Rochester.
Winn Development out of Boston plans to invest $100 million to $150 million over the next decade to revitalize the property. Plans include putting in apartments, retail and offices. An outline submitted to Monroe Community College called for 25 units a floor in the tower. The company has a track record of renovating historic building and turning them into desirable properties.
Getting Sibley back on the tax rolls and filled with life will do wonders for Main St. Within a couple years, the Liberty Pole won’t be a giant bus stop. Maybe MCC will decide to stick around.
But the sale is not without controversy. Winn is buying the property for $5 million. That money will go to paying some of the back taxes and loans owed to the city and others. Owner Rochwil, a subsidiary of Wilmorite, won’t see a dime of the sale price and will still be on the hook for $19.9 million.
The current owner of the Sibley building, Rochwil, will not be released from all outstanding obligations totaling approximately $19.9 million,…While Rochwil will not be released from the Float Loan obligation or delinquent PILOT obligations, it is not anticipated that Rochwil will have assets to satisfy these obligations.
In other words Rochwil, a.k.a Wilmorite, gets out of jail free.
City officials and Tom Wilmot, head of Wilmorite, have said the building lost money over the years and no one was profiting while the taxes went unpaid. Wilmot has said he lost money on the deal. The city chose not to foreclose on Sibley, believing its development chances were better if it stayed private and at least Wilmorite was keeping the lights on. Wilmot has said he tried to make a go of it (casino, anyone?) and things just didn’t work out.
As for not dragging Wilmorite into court, the city has said the company was allowed to form an LLC that was largely protected in the event of default. They say Wilmorite’s original purchase deal was set up that way in the Ryan administration.
A Republican source told me, “If Tom Wilmot had been a Republican backer, the headlines would scream what an insider deal he got. The city just took a $19.9 million haircut.”
Wilmot is a supporter of Democratic candidates and many suspect the city’s gone easy on him. Critics say Wilmot was taking in cash from MCC, a public institution, while not paying taxes. It’s probably time to file a Freedom of Information request for all the rent MCC paid to Rochwil since 1992. Then you’d have to figure out how much was invested to turn the department store into classrooms and how much it costs to maintain a (largely vacant) building.
Was the Rochwil chapter of Sibley’s history a scandal or a sign of the sad state of developing downtown? We need to get answers to those questions. In the meantime, the new chapter should be exciting.
Update: I went on a tour today. 9/6-RB
Links of the Day:
- Is there some kind of huge black market for stolen bicycles?
- A Rochester couple exchanged marriage vows at a historic State Fair exhibit.
- Vernon Downs isn’t handicapped accessible. Fans of Bruce Springsteen helped a guy out.
- I can always tell when I’m a passenger in a car driven by someone who’s baked. Some people argue stoned drivers are better. I think they’re spacey and slow.