After 25 years in the works, the realization of the Brooks Landing Development Project was celebrated Monday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The event took place primarily in the lobby of the new Staybridge Suites, a hotel that overlooks the Genesee River at the heart of the 19th Ward improvement area known as Brooks Landing.

The ceremony was attended by a host of community members and local notables, including UR President Joel Seligman, Mayor Robert Duffy, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and several other district officeholders and business owners.

Rochester City Councilman Dana Miller, who has been with the project since its inception, opened the remarks by thanking all those involved and expressing his high expectations for this burgeoning area.

‘Today is the ribbon cutting for the future of our neighborhood,” he said.

Miller also sits on the board of the Sector 4 Community Development Corporation, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1993 to foster commercial vitality and support local neighborhoods that has played an integral role in the Brooks Landing Project.

It was this group that saved the historic building at 955 Genesee Street from demolition by purchasing it from the city, even though it was in shambles and had to be completely rebuilt.

After a 2001 community vision meeting at which residents expressed interest in a coffee shop, the CDC set out to create one, raising money from many local donors (including UR) and recruiting Lyjha Wilton, owner of Boulder Coffee Co., as the operator.

Wilton was in attendance Monday to join in the celebration and to treat guests to tours and refreshments at his third coffee shop location, which opened on Nov. 4.

‘My approach to [Boulder] as a business is from a community development standpoint,” he said. ‘Hopefully, this shop will encourage the growth of the neighborhood.”

He is working with Director of Dining and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf to begin accepting URos.

Duffy took to the podium to thank his predecessor, William Johnson who oversaw a large portion of the project as well as Slaughter and those who helped secure federal and state grants.

Public funding so far has been approximately $6 million. This has leveraged over $42 million in private investment, including the Riverview Apartments. Almost half of this investment has been made by developer Ron Christenson of the Minneapolis-based Christenson Corporation, who has already spent roughly $20 million on Brooks Landing, primarily on the hotel that hosted the event. He is currently working on an office building across the street that will contain UR offices and retail shops and is planning to build a restaurant and condominiums near the hotel.

Staybridge Suites is an extended-stay brand of the InterContinental Hotels Group, meaning that it caters to travelers and visitors seeking residential-style accommodations. Miller has suggested that this could be a resource for UR’s guest professors, international students and families of patients at UR Medical Center.

Seligman echoed this sentiment on Monday. ‘UR will be using this hotel frequently and often,” he said.

The Brooks Landing Development Project began with the South River Corridor Study in 1984, which found that the riverfront was not being used to its full potential. It was not until 2000 that the finalized design for Brooks Landing was released.

For those who had been waiting anxiously for this project to finally come to fruition, the ceremony was a tremendous relief. The sense of frustration at its sluggish pace has been felt by many, as was documented in a 2004 Rochester City Newspaper article, entitled, ‘Sticking it to the 19th Ward”; it was written at the project’s 20-year mark, a time when ground had not yet been broken for major construction.

But in the relatively short time since, this corner of southwest Rochester has seen the vision of a developed waterfront come true, with the promise of new life for the community more realistic than ever before.

‘The neighborhood is changing drastically now,” local resident George Radney said. ‘It’s really becoming a campus town… It’s going to bring together the students and the neighborhood more; students are going to start patronizing the businesses. This is a big opportunity for big growth for the south wedge of Rochester. It can only grow even more.”

Cutshall is a member of the class of 2009.

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