The city of Rochester will soon move ahead with plans to redevelop the area known as the 19th Ward in a new complex to be entitled Brooks Landing, which will eventually include a hotel, restaurant, shops, a public boardwalk and commercial space.

It is hoped the new development will revitalize the area, and provide facilities readily available to Rochester community members, as well as students, faculty and staff of the university.

“It will be good for the immediate area,” Associate Vice President and Director of Public Relations Robert Kraus said. “We hope it will be a spur for economic development in a way that would help the neighborhood.”

The first phase of the project will include the hotel and the attached restaurant at the site, located at the southeast corner of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Street. The second of three eventual phases will include a two-story building with retail space in the bottom floor and office space in the top floor.

UR has agreed to lease the office space on the bottom floor as part of the deal.

“We have been steadfast in our commitment over the years to be an anchor tenant in the new building,” Kraus said. “It’s an important role for us to play.”

“The Brooks Landing project has been on the drawing board and in the imaginations of 19th Ward residents, city of Rochester leadership and university leadership for many years,” Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett said. “The project is moving along more slowly than we would like, but we hope that very soon we will see the development commence.”

Currently the land consists of bulldozed area and boarded up buildings owned by the city. One of these buildings, the former Carr drugstore it is proposed, will be transformed into a coffeeshop , hopefully as an ttraction to the current students.

“There’s one old building that’s currently boarded up at the northwest corner of the intersection where the Community Development Corporation is looking at thepossibility of creating a coffeeshop there,” Kraus said.””I think it could be a major draw for students on campus. This is just one example about how, if hotels and restaurants go in, there will be other things that follow.”

Funding for the development, with a total estimated cost of $17.2 million, stems primarily from private sources, with additional contributions from the city, with UR’s only contribution being the rental of the office space.

“The city has been contributing to the project and they have been doing a lot of the legwork,” Kraus said. “Most of it is coming from the developer, who’s doing the project to be profitable. Our contribution is to rent the space.”

The developer will look first to build the hotel, and as incentive from the city, Plymouth Avenue will be rerouted and a riverfront area built up.

One reason the project is occurring now as opposed to earlier is legislature involved with area designated by the city as park land. The area must be alienated – taken from the park – in order to be used in the development. In return, the 1.4 acres taken away from the city will be replaced with 19.5 acres at Turning Point Park.

The legislature has passed through the state, and is awaiting federal approval, the only obstacle standing in the way of construction beginning.

“That’s the challenge – that one little piece. That’s the only stumbling block,” Dana Miller, chairman of the Sector 4 Community Development Corp. told the Democrat and Chronicle.

“It’s got to be declared not park land – so there are some bureaucratic hoops to jump through,” Burgett said.

The city is hoping for quick approval to start up the project in the near future. “The city is very much hoping sooner rather than later that they can give the developer the go-ahead,” Kraus said.

Another reason for the delay stems from the dilapidated state of the area, which no developer retained interest in until now.

“I think when it’s been looked at in the past developers considered it an iffy proposition,” Kraus said. “The current developer, from out of state, has remained interested. The city has been working with him, with economic incentives to make it happen.”

Student reaction to the new development was mixed. “I think it’s a good idea that they’re doing [the project],” sophomore Keith Gorgos said. “Right now UR is sort of isolated from the rest of the community and the real world.”

“I don’t think [the project] will effect incidences on campus or how comfortable students are going over there,” senior Matt Maurer said. “Unless they extend the campus area and open it up I don’t think that’s going to change.”

From the university standpoint, it seems the project has finally gained enough momentum to become a reality.

“We’re all hoping at this point the project in its current form has reached critical mass,” Kraus said. “This is going to be important to the university.”

Linden can be reached at klinden@campustimes.org.



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