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Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $10 million in funding for a series of projects intended to help revitalize Rochester's downtown.
In an appearance at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center Monday morning, Hochul outlined the projects which she said will transform several square blocks north of Main Street between Clinton Avenue and the Genesee River.
"Today, we are announcing five major awards that really unleash a strategic vision that will revitalize East Main Street, Hochul said. These latest projects build on work that is already underway, including the removal of portions of the Inner Loop, the Roc the Riverway project, and the creation of the new High Falls State Park.
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said these new projects would help to better connect downtown to those ongoing projects as well as numerous others that have already been completed downtown.
The Mayor expressed a sense of urgency about these projects and hoped progress would be visible quickly.
"We don't want to wait. We don't want to be sitting a year from now saying 'what happened here.' So it is on the record in front of all these cameras, that we are going to move with all deliberate speed," Evans told the assembled crowd.
Here's what we know about the five projects whose funding was announced Monday:
Transforming corner of Main and Clinton − $4 million
The intersection of Main Street and Clinton Avenue has long been seen as the center of Rochester's downtown, and major redevelopment has occurred on three of the intersection's corners. The fourth is a cluster of long-vacant buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
The state will provide roughly $4 million to help turn the dilapidated buildings into a combination of street-level commercial space and affordable housing units.
Developer Bret Garwood plans to completely renovate the walk-ups to their original state and create 11 moderately-priced apartments on the upper floors with four commercial spaces for retail at street level by 2024. The name for the renovated buildings would be "The Mayflower," in honor of the popular donut shop that once graced the corner.
The effort would focus on maintaining the facades of the existing buildings while making substantial improvements inside. While the spaces will be restored to their historical look, they will be energy-efficient and carbon-neutral.
"You never want to tear down buildings like this. You know, we saw enough of that demolition back in the 70s when people thought urban renewal was a good thing and you tear down beautiful buildings," Hochul said.
Main Street Commons − $1.3 million
This project would transform what is now essentially an alley into a new outdoor public space. It is intended to improve pedestrian connections between St. Paul Street and Clinton Avenue and boost the perception of safety while providing space for outdoor dining and entertainment.
The project will divide the existing 600-foot-long superblock into two more walkable urban block lengths. It's based on similar projects that have been developed in Chatanooga, Tennessee and Vancouver, British Columbia. It will also help tie together several adjacent development projects.
Creating the Kresge Building hotel − $1.265 million
Once the site of a bustling department store, the Kresge Building is now home to a Family Dollar location. An award of $1.265 million will help redevelop the three-story building into an approximately 28-room boutique hotel with food and beverage establishments on the ground floor facing Main Street, Division Street, and the proposed Main Street Commons.
The redeveloped building would include private event space and focus on the local food and beverage scene.
Construction of New AltaVista Building − $1.385 million
Nearly $1.4 million will help fund the construction of a six-story, 76-unit mixed-income building on four vacant lots in Downtown Rochester. The site is located a block north of Main and Clinton, at the site of the former St. Joseph's Church which was destroyed by fire in 1974. The bell tower and stone walls survived and have since served as a park space.
The project includes supportive housing units for survivors of domestic violence and space for the Landmark Society of western New York. This project will also make improvements to the adjacent St. Joseph's Park. New lighting, pathways, and other structural improvements will enhance this public and outdoor event space.
Redeveloping the Historic Edwards Building − $1.75 million
This project will combine the rehabilitation of the long-vacant Edwards Building with the creation of a district geothermal cooperative under the adjacent parking lot. A total of approximately 114 new housing units and 25,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space will be added.
Year-long planning process
In December 2021, Hochul awarded the City of Rochester $10 million in funding through the fifth round of the State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) designed to revitalize communities and grow the economy.
A local committee of municipal representatives, community leaders and other stakeholders convened to develop a $10 million strategic investment plan for downtown Rochester, focusing on the area between Main Street, Franklin Street, Andrews Street, and the Genesee River.
The committee was asked to examine local assets and opportunities and recommend a series of economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects for DRI funding.
The committee examined more than a dozen projects and ultimately sought $16.8 million in funding for six projects. Five of the projects received funding while a sixth − a proposal to renovate the Gateway and Atrium Buildings on Main Street − did not.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Hochul announces $10 million for Main Street projects in Rochester NY