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City of Rochester Communications Bureau

City of Rochester Communications Bureau

It’s becoming more likely a performing arts center and perhaps a casino will fill Midtown’s Parcel 5.

The city revealed only two proposals came in for the 1.1-acre site on Main Street. The city won’t allow us to look at the proposals and I haven’t heard back from the two developers on what they have in mind.

The city spent at least $70 million dollars to tear down the mall and get that property shovel-ready. It’s supposed to be prime real estate. It is in the heart of downtown Rochester.

It turns out, few want to take a chance, at least right now. Buckingham has yet to prove it can finish the Tower at Midtown project without founder Larry Glazer. We don’t even know what Buckingham is now capable of pulling off at the building. Glazer’s grand plans are over. Meanwhile, the office market downtown is terrible, so you can’t put that in any building plans. Finally, retail is the great big unknown.

The market just told us Parcel 5 is risky.

The city’s two top choices are likely to let Parcel 5 sit empty or try like hell to get a performing arts center built.

Here’s what may happen: The Senecas will likely look to Rochester to blunt the impact of Tom Wilmot’s Lago casino. They may offer to build a theater at Midtown along with a casino. That solves the city’s Parcel 5 problem and could easily be sold as “economic development.” (Casinos and theaters come with their own costs, of course.) The irony is that this is what Wilmot proposed more than a decade ago. Then-Mayor Bill Johnson said no. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Mayor Lovely Warren gives an enthusiastic yes.

Wilmot is not the only person to have identified Midtown as a good place for a casino.

I have reported that back in July, Delaware North, which owns the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the city to put a performing arts center at Midtown. Delaware North would have run the theater, possibly even buying naming rights, per sources.

Why would Delaware North get involved? To prevent the Senecas from doing the same. The Senecas wouldn’t be able to offer a performing arts center in return for  allowing a casino. Nothing came of the MOU, as sources say Glazer’s death complicated the picture, as he was working with Delaware North on the idea. With Delaware North now out of the picture, the door is probably wide open for the Senecas.

Few developers were willing to gamble on Parcel 5. The Senecas, however, might.


Links of the Day:


– Here’s a great look at the federal prosecutor who had Sheldon Silver arrested on corruption charges.

– The state won’t let schools know how much aid they’re getting unless lawmakers pass governor’s education “reform agenda.”

– Four of the top five trending jobs in Rochester are low-wage.

– Three Heads Brewing is considering building a facility on University Ave. in Rochester.

23 Responses to The Parcel 5 Problem

  1. January 22, 2015 at 7:00 pm Downtown Professional responds:

    I think that Parcel 5 is only a symptom of the more pervasive and deeper seated problem in downtown Rochester. If all of the empty offices were to suddenly become rented, we would have real problems consistently and affordably getting everyone to their workplaces downtown. Notice that I did not say “We have a parking problem”. Parking is but one component of “getting everyone to their workplaces downtown”. Until we see some real leadership in terms of a bus and rail transit system that actually gets people to where they want to go when they want to get there, and without lengthening their work day by two hours (that’s why I drive!), parking is going to be the limiting factor in getting people to do things downtown.

  2. Putting a casino in a city in the center of a central business district doesn’t really make any sense, and would be counter productive to efforts establishing an entrepreneurial downtown innovation district.

    Leaving this space as a green space for right now would be the best option for the city until something better is proposed. There’s a lot of things going in the right direction why destroy all the progress with a casino?

    A performing arts center would be nicer to have at at the waterfront at front street.

  3. Oh Ye of Little Faith.

  4. This is a joke. The city is a joke. It is run by idiots who do not have a clue on what a successful city is. This city is fighting itself. There is no vision. It is all about DIVERSITY, which is code for “we need more blacks in power”. The unfortunate result of choosing persons to lead based strictly on their racial makeup and not their brains or ability is that you fail. You can’t ignore results. The casino plan presented to Bill Johnson years ago was a solid idea. It’s time has passed. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. Too bad nobody in city power has any brains. I can’t think of any way out of this mess any time soon.

  5. I was hoping that area would all become Brownstone Retail. Like Collegetown or iSquare but located Downtown. Lot’s of small shops and Delis to attract people to live down there.

  6. It sure is interesting how the top of midtown rusts away NOW and has for years and no one says a word or cares.

    A decade or maybe two ago, a hotel frame was put up and then the deal fell through and we had another rusting frame. But the leaders of those days got a group together and solved that problem. Those days people were proud of our sky line.

    Today, DEMs put the city in the position of having another rusting high rise frame and its EYE SORENESS is just looked the other way, nothing is said and THE PRESS is to afraid to raise an issue about. And even here the big deal is PARCEL 5. I mean really who cares about parcel 5 when you stand on Parcel 5 and look up and all you see is a rusting frame / a rusting skeleton of the former Rochester, now for YEARS.

    But yea lets worry about parcel 5… pay no attention to that rusting frame in the sky. Really downtown development ? Its a joke and a non starter till thats fixed … if ever.

    • What the heck are you talking about? A rusting frame sitting there? What rusting frame are you talking about? If you’re talking about the midtown tower Buckingham is actively working on that right now. There’s construction every single day concurring in that building.

  7. The top of Midtown is rusting away? Is that why they are hanging the huge glass windows up there as we speak?

    See for yourself: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/midtown/

  8. Orielly you should take a drive down to midtown today, to check out the new windows they are installing on that “rusted frame”. Here’s a webcam if you don’t want to visit. http://www.cityofrochester.gov/midtown/

    • This is something that really annoys me. So many people make comments about Rochester who obviously really don’t know what they are talking about. What do people who think all those construction vehicles and trailers in front of the “rusting” midtown tower are there for? Decorations? All they need to do is pick random times throughout the day and go back to look at that webcam and they’ll see many workers up there in that “rusting frame”.

      • Well I stand corrected. I have been traveling. But from the plane the building has been like that for years. So they are FINALLY correcting it, GREAT. It should not have been that way for as long as it was. BTW, last week, it still looks the same way from the plane. But hey only 1000s of people see it that way, from the sky, every day and have for YEARS.

        70 miles from ROCH is a city with the same climate, that has about 30 cranes building new buildings. (Toronto). Those steel frames are quickly made into beautiful buildings. But in Roch, we can’t tear ONE half down and rebuild it in a timely manner. And when we finally get some windows put in it, after years, we have lots of cheerleaders who think that is a great accomplishment.

        • So your knowledge of what’s going on downtown is from a plane in the sky? Wow. It’s obvious you haven’t been downtown in quite awhile and have not read any articles about any of downtown development in multiple years so why speak on something you obviously have no clue what is happening?

          So you don’t think there is any new construction downtown? How about the new transit center, or the new condos on Plymouth St. Or the new condos on Park Ave? Or the new construction in Alexander Park North? How about the brand new construction of an entire boulevard on the in inner loop?

          And that doesn’t count the dozens of projects that have renovated buildings that have been vacant or underutilized for a decade to multiple decades. Such as the Bevier Building, Woodbury Place at the Merkley Building, The Temple Building, 300 Andrews St and the Culver Rd. Armory.

          Then there’s all the brand new construction in the pipeline such as the Court St. Apartments, the new Alexander Park North buildings and many new renovations such as 88 Elm St and the new MCC campus and High Tech Rochester.

          If you want to see all the projects that ARE occurring downtown, here is the info:

          If you’re talking about Buffalo as that “city 70 miles away”, that city also had a billion dollars of artificial stimulation by the state. Downtown’s development has mostly been done by real developers with real investment minded projects. Once Rochester gets our own piece of the artificial funding, we’ll be blowing up even more with development.

          • Oh you were comparing Toronto to Rochester? Well that’s such a fair comparison considering Toronto has like 10 times the population.

          • Gee, correct me if I am wrong, but the rusting steel at the top of Midtown for YEARs is the result of government funding … starting something that wasn’t going to be finished. And how many of those projects you cite by “private” developers had the assistance of numerous tax incentives or free property tax while other private companies fund their out of state competition to re-locate here? Or free parking for employees while others pay for their parking. Or funding of an urban housing project given to one of this area’s wealthiest residents who then builds 180K homes with funding amounting to 200K per unit.
            Numerous, countless examples of government picking winners and losers in a private marketplace, and letting the rest of us pay for THEIR pick. Taxpayers paying millions to relocate a local company from victor to downtown. Is that urban development?
            Toronto does have more people but just 50yrs ago the cities ROCH and Toronto were about he same size. One city is said to live in the ‘RUST BELT” or in upstate NY where its cold and snowy. The other city is one of the “Cool” places to live, today.
            Free market development is not alive in DT ROC. But yep lets keep cheerleading

          • Orielly, I notice you keep using the term “cheerleading” in every post. This seems to be the common term being used on many local comments by those who want to label anybody who is positive about the city. It’s too bad that people have to resort to tactics like this I notice you made a comment about a company getting tax breaks to move from Victor to the city. Is this a suburban vs. urban battle we are seeing where many who live in the suburbs actually don’t’ want the city to be successful? I’m not entirely sure why there is such a backlash against anything “urban” in the Rochester area by a certain demographic here. I have a suspicion it has its roots in political beliefs.

            But anyways, you’re all over the place Orielly. Now you are claiming that somehow the slow development at Midtown is due to tax breaks. I hate to break it to you, but if it wasn’t for tax breaks that tower may still have no developer interested. Why would a developer spend millions of dollars to rehab a building if it wasn’t more cost effective than building new? Many old buildings are very expensive to rehab and it’s incentives like this that make or break a successful project.

            There also appears to be delusion about tax breaks and government involvement. Since I think this is actually a political argument you are presenting and not one about the future of the City of Rochester, I’d like to point out that the government spending on defense dwarfs all other spending. Think about all the defense contractors. Do you think those companies would exist without government spending and “tax breaks”? Do you think one of hte most successful companies in Rochester (Harris RF) would even exist without government spending? How about all of the great research in science and technology due to these defense contractors. Do you think America would be at the same level of technological advancement and we’d have such great research universities if it wasn’t for the biggest corporate welfare called defense spending?

            I know there seems to be this common political theme that somehow tax breaks to companies and government spending is the root of all evil but at the same time, those same people seem to either conveniently (or naively) ignore the spending that also occurs for projects their own side of the political fence supports. I would say that is the ultimate example of the government “picking and choosing” winners and losers.

  9. I hate to say it, but the best idea might be to leave it empty until there is more interest in it. That is an important parcel, better to be nothing than to build something we’d all regret

  10. January 24, 2015 at 10:28 am mary scipioni responds:

    There is no need to be negative when we are having a conversation about our city. I personally believe that a casino on Main Street would break many urban-loving hearts, and the whole idea of sending folks with their pension checks to enter a trance in front of a slot machine sickens me. As far as performing arts centers go, we have those and they are under-utilized. More importantly, though, we need something there that will be alive both during the day and at night. We need to get young people downtown and get out of their way. Most importantly, we all need to have a voice about what goes there.

  11. January 24, 2015 at 11:53 am Kevin Yost responds:

    This is one place where the Nat’l Soccer Hall of Fame of U.S. Soccer and the Int’l Women’s Sports Center and Hall of Fame of the Women’s Sports Foundation could have side-by-side re-formed museums and archives, along with other sites in downtown Rochester or a few in the suburbs. In fact, someone posted on the Buffalo blog, Buffalo Rising, suggesting a new downtown Buffalo stadium for the Bills mimicking the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Larkin HQ building that was knocked down for dumb reasons there in the early ’50’s. I thought maybe the Wright Building could be replicated as a museum on Midtown Parcel #5 as a museum and/or maybe it could be replicated for a new Sahlen’s soccer/lacrosse stadium there and/or the soccer and women’s sports hall of fame and also take in the new Indoor Soccer Hall of Fame, while the current Sahlen’s Stadium could be retrofitted to a softball stadium to house a National Pro Fastpitch women’s pro softball team, perhaps by Rochester Community Baseball or some other owner. There should be no more casinos in NYS, except Lago should not happen and there should be one at Tioga Downs instead.

  12. Or instead of one huge development, we could have several smaller buildings 5-8 stories with a mix of retail/commercial/residential that slowly fill the site the same way the block was filled when the city was built.

  13. As I’ve been thinking about this more Rachel, I think there is the possibility that a casino could work. Here is the key though. I think whatever goes in there has to draw outside of the Rochester region. What I’d hate to see is a casino built that only draws Rochesterians and just drains our local economy. What I’d love to see there is something of a “resort” that draws tourists. We already have the Strong right there which draws 600,000 people a year. We need something more to draw people into the city to vacation. I know Mayor Warren got attacked on the idea of a waterpark at the inner loop (which I think is absurd the amount of backlash she had over that), but I’m thinking something like that which can draw in families as well. So perhaps a vacation might be parents going to the casino for part of a day with kids who are old enough to go by themselves could go to the waterpark. A waterpark in Erie draws from all over NY. There’s no reason why we can’t draw them to Rochester instead. And with the Strong, a waterpark and maybe a casino, Rochester could be much more interesting for those looking for a vacation.

    We need to do something exciting there. Something that draws in people from outside of the area.

  14. January 29, 2015 at 11:14 am Kevin Yost responds:

    I would have been better if the bus station were built there, so that people might not have to wait outside on Mortimer Street. Perhaps, this and a performing arts center- with all 3 theaters, could have been built there, 2 of the three components of Renaissance Square.

  15. January 29, 2015 at 11:27 am Kevin Yost responds:

    The Midtown site, particularly the corner of Main and Elm, which is being restored, has been cursed with bad luck, since the city’s founding. In his book and lecture “The Mystery of Hoodoo Corner” local historian Mr. Michael Keene of Pittsford states that there was a pre-Seneca indigenous burial site on the corner known as a “Hoodoo” with earth and logs. In 1837, the city’s first murder took place there when a teenaged French Canadian immigrant mill worker from Quebec province murdered a wealthy businessman there. Later, Masons from Lima kidnapped a man there for sharing their secret ritual information and supposedly dumped him in the Niagara River at Youngstown, but the body was never found. Later, the Fox sisters held their for-profit Spiritualist ritual shows in a hotel there, but the rappings were noises made by fugitive slaves bound for Canada in a secret chamber as part of the Underground Railroad. By the 20th century, several department stores had failed there and people told Gilbert McCurdy he was nuts for starting his first store there with all this bad luck.

    After, hearing Mr. Keene’s presentation on this before the Henrietta Historical Society two autumns ago. I would like to add some more recent things about how this curse continues. Downtown started to fail in the 1950’s and McCurdy and B. Foreman teamed up to create Midtown Plaza, which revitalized things for a while, but eventually failed as well. Now, Larry Glazer, who tried to revitalized Parcel #5 and the Midtown Tower was killed in a plane crash with his wife last fall, scuttling the movie theater idea there and perhaps also plans for the tower. Also, the PAETEC tower was scuttled there, with the company only taking two of the three floors of the former Seneca Building and being bought up by Arkansas-based Windstream Corp.

    The curse continues.

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