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Democrat and Chronicle reporter Tom Tobin wrote a column comparing the Hyatt debacle of the 1980s to the Medley Centre mess. His point was that it will take a group effort and community will to turn the project around.

Stalled Hyatt, 1986

Stalled Hyatt, 1986

I have some problems with the comparison. The Hyatt was a scar on the city’s skyline, a major community embarrassment. If Medley Centre was operating as a mall, it would still be a big-box monstrosity along the highway. If you think Medley is an eyesore, you think all malls are eyesores. (They are, but that’s a different discussion.) Medley doesn’t impact the entire region the way the Hyatt did. Medley is not in our faces in the same dramatic way.

Tobin quotes one of the business leaders who eventually saved the Hyatt: Tom Wilmot. The mall magnate reminisces about an old breakfast club of prominent businessmen that stepped up the plate to save the Hyatt project. “We did the work and construction stayed on a pretty normal schedule,” the D&C quoted Wilmot.

There is supreme irony in quoting Wilmot as a problem-solver for the Hyatt  and suggesting he has advice to save Medley.

THERE WOULD BE NO MEDLEY MESS WITHOUT WILMOT. His company, Wilmorite, built Medley Centre, which was then called Irondequoit Mall. The overbuilding of his malls led to the situation we are in today with Medley Centre. Wilmorite also helped to create another mall mess: More than any other local developer, Wilmorite suburbanized shopping, which killed Midtown Plaza.

Sibley 220X165MEDLEY IS WILMOT’S SIBLEY PROJECT. Around the same time Wilmot was saving the Hyatt, he bought the Sibley building. When it became clear his company’s revitalization wasn’t a success (Wilmot wanted a casino and hotel), he stopped paying on his PILOT and stopped paying other city fees. The city ended up taking a $20 million haircut. SOUND FAMILIAR?

Medley FeaturedDespite not following through on his Sibley obligation, Wilmot was not villainized by politicians or the public in the same manner as Medley owner Scott Congel. Unlike Congel, Wilmot is a longtime member of Rochester’s elite with deep connections. The son of Assemblyman Joe Morelle, Joe Morelle, Jr. is a county lawmaker who works for Wilmorite. (That brings up a possible conflict for the Morelles from a political standpoint, as a redeveloped Medley could compete with Wilmorite’s malls. The elder Morelle is a major critic of Congel.)

Yes, there are lessons from the Hyatt, ones Wilmot didn’t heed when he owned a building across the street. But here’s the huge difference: When it came to Sibley and Medley, there was absolutely no urgency and few people believed they could be saved. Wilmot and Congel took full advantage.


Links of the Day:


– The median home price in Rochester rose 5.3 percent last year, compared to 1.6 percent in the county as a whole.

– Wal-Mart is funneling money to charter schools.

– I did a report on charter schools and how they are struggling for space. It’s clear we are building two school systems, at tremendous cost to taxpayers.

– A former Supreme Court justice says marijuana should be legalized.

– Montreal will let bars serve until 5:30 a.m., under new proposal.

The insane, demeaning life of an NFL cheerleader.

– I didn’t realize there’s more than one way to pronounce Syracuse.

10 Responses to Hyatt? No, Try Sibley.

  1. Malls might be an eye sore, but they are surely convenient and I’ve never seen any shortage of shoppers at Eastview or Marketplace on a weekend day.

    You act as if Wilmorite killed Midtown… time killed Midtown, a modern mall needs to be large and needs parking and that requires space that you can only find deep in the suburbs (conveniently, with lower sales taxes), if they didn’t build Eastview, someone else surely would have… the demand is clearly there.

    • April 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Ed – Ontario County has lower sales tax, but not Marketplace or Greece Ridge.

      I never said Wilmorite killed Midtown, but it did play a role. Maybe it was inevitable, but that’s part of the narrative as we look at Wilmot’s impact on this situation.

  2. Any decision is only as accurate as the information you have to make that decision. I read the article this morning in the D&C. My impression, after reading only this article, was that wonderful things can happen when business leaders are concerned with the good of the community as opposed to what is in it for themselves. Now reading your blog, my impression is totally REVERSED. Just another example of why one CAN”T BELIEVE A WORD OF WHAT THE D&C WRITES. I want ALL the facts of issues that effect our community and not just those that benefit the chosen few that the D&C promotes. Concerning the Morelle’s…. doesn’t anybody have any integrity anymore?

  3. you have to blame most of midtown problem with police and the Rochester city school district,only because the kids were skipping school and hanging downtown and causing problems with fighting.thats why a lot of the business left the city plus you have homeless pandering for money all the time.now if the city want to do anything with downtownthey have to cleanup the problems within the city by giving the police the power to give it an enuma by ridding the streets of crime and violence.

  4. April 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm theodore kumlander responds:

    the Royal Wilmot family of Rochester has become experts in privatizing their profits , and socializing their expenses and loss’s.

    HHS Wilmot walks away from anything he starts that does not make money.. Odd as it sounds this has been formula for success. wish I could do that with my mortgage.

  5. April 27, 2014 at 6:50 pm Orielly responds:

    Amazing again.

    Wilmot is a DEM. So is Morelle as is his son. Guess we forgot to point that out when saying Wilmot is connected with the local elite. I can’t imagine an article on Maggie or her husband that didn’t mention their party affiliation. I know, we are all supposed to know that right?

    Also left out is how the DEMS moved 3-4 Million a year to Wilmot for rent of Sibleys for MCC to use it, while he didn’t pay the property taxes for years. And the city taxpayers ate that one in the end.
    Wilmot’s father moved Eastview mall out to Ontario in a dispute with County REP’s thereby robbing Monroe County of sales tax revenue from mostly Monroe County shoppers, for over 40yrs now. Thanks to the Wilmot family that tax revenue goes now to Geneva and other Ontario county communities.

    Yet his son and relatives run for political office often, for State Senator and County Legislature and never have to address a hard question from a reporter on their family’s business practices and their “neglect” of county tax payers. COMIDA tax breaks on Greece town mall, Eastview and Long Ridge malls while they abandon their mistake at Irondequoit mall and have the taxpayers pay for it.

    And then we compare the former rusting HYATT 20 story downtown building with Irondequoit Mall or Sibleys?

    Did we some how miss the rusting Midtown Tower thanks to local DEMs comparison with the HYATT?

    Seems like a lot of comparisons missed in this whole write up. But at least we limited the DEMS or their operatives, overall embarrassment and fleecing of the taxpayer.

  6. April 27, 2014 at 7:31 pm Animule responds:

    Regarding Wilmot’s ownership of the Sibley building, not only did he milk it for millions in annual rent for years on end while pleading poverty by running ownership of the building through a limited partnership, but he didn’t even bother to clean the windows in the place for at least the last 7 years he owned it. This was one of the revelations mentioned by Winn when they bought the building and finally took ownership of it.

    You have to hand it to the Wilmot’s though, no family in Rochester has benefitted more monetarily from “suburban sprawl” than them. They almost singlehandedly brought sprawl to Ontario County, and they’re preparing to do it all over again in Seneca county with the proposed casino in Tyre that will draw most of its “action” from the Rochester area. The genius of putting the casino there is that Wilmot gets Seneca county to do his bidding for him, just like he did with Eastview Mall in Ontario county. Most Monroe County residents are not aware of the fact that the recent overhaul to Eastview to add “luxury retail” was partly funded by over $20 million that was (and will be for the next two decades) “diverted” from Victor Central School, the town of Victor and Ontario County government. Nobody beats the Wilmot’s at this game. http://www.hws.edu/dailyupdate/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=11488

  7. If you don’t like it – just don’t go – I haven’t been to a mall in forever – they’re not even good for people-watching because you’re watching people who ‘think’ they need all this ‘stuff’ – it’s an illness – wasting their resources – but I digress …

  8. Rachel,

    Your ‘link of the day’ regarding Walmart ‘funneling’ money to charter schools comes across as if that is a negative thing. Either you hate Walmart, charter schools, or perhaps both. The charter schools in the story are top performing and doing much better than the public schools. So what’s your real point?

  9. May 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm dave responds:

    Rachel – it appears as though you are either way to busy to go back and post comments on your blog, or that you prefer to censor comments which you don’t like. I’ll wait a few days more, but i suspect you will continue to censor, which is disappointing considering that you are a part of the press.

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