I toured Bridge Square yesterday, the latest addition to the downtown housing market. The former Josh Lofton High School also has offices, which will be occupied by Passero Associates.
The 24 apartments are one and two bedroom units. The rents will be $1,000-1,300 a month, placing them out of range for many Rochester area residents. The median income in Monroe County is about $50,204. The median rent is $780.
According to the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, downtown dwellers paid an average of $1.17 a square foot in 2011. Developers say they can’t make the numbers work without charging at least $1 a square foot.
Clearly, downtown housing units, particularly renovated loft-style apartments, command a premium. Example include the Temple Building, 44 Exchange and H.H. Warner Lofts. The RDDC survey indicated a 4 percent vacancy rate in 2011 for downtown market rate units, considered a healthy market.
Why is downtown so hot?
Real estate agent Mark Siwiec, who owns a number of properties in the Park Ave. area, has an interesting theory. “It doesn’t have as much to do with the fact they’re downtown. When something comes on the market in great condition, you’re able to command top dollar in Rochester. It has little to do with the location and more to do with the quality and the apartment. People are starved for a good product. …I’m always being asked to show a loft style apartment…they don’t often exist.”
Siwiec says the quality of the new downtown units combined with their unique, cosmopolitan feel makes them very attractive. He added the local rental housing market as a whole is strong.
It won’t be easy to put more of these units in the pipeline. Even though downtown has a lot of space that could be converted into housing, it’s challenging to make the numbers work. We’re talking about old buildings constructed as factories or offices, not houses. That’s where grant programs and historic tax credits can make a difference.
Unless a slew of these units come online and the cost of constructing them comes down, the rent will remain high.
Links of the Day:
– New York State doesn’t appear inclined to violate the Seneca gambling compact by opening casinos in Buffalo and Rochester.
– New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is more than happy to let casinos stay Upstate.
– Onondaga County’s district attorney accused police of continuing to question suspects after they request a lawyer.
– Jim Boeheim is accused of being too lax on players and too harsh on the press.
– There’s a lot going on in this turn-of-the-century picture of West Main Street.