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CEO cooks up East End digs
LiDestri revamps site near Little Theatre for his downtown home

Rochester Business Journal
December 11, 2009

One of the Rochester area's most prominent businessmen is moving downtown.

Giovanni LiDestri, president and CEO of LiDestri Foods Inc. in Fairport, is reconstructing a former recording studio on East Avenue at the corner of Winthrop Street.

John Baker of Donovan Matthews Co. LLC is supervising the $3 million transformation of the structure, at 230-232 East Ave. on the west side of the Little Theatre. LaDue Architects & Planners is the architect.

Baker would not identify the owner of the parcel, but city and Monroe County property records list Giovanni and Cynthia LiDestri as the owners. LiDestri, who goes by John, did not respond to a request for comment. Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy mentioned LiDestri this week when talking about the state of the local economy at an event organized by the Rochester Down-town Development Corp. and the Rochester Rotary Club.

"To have John LiDestri build his home next to the Little Theatre, John literally wants to walk next door and go right in," Duffy said. "Right next door to the Little Theatre is this incredibly interesting building being built. John could live anywhere he wants. He's living downtown."

LiDestri, who lives in Victor, Ontario County, bought the 5,600-square-foot building on a 0.128-acre parcel in April 2008 for $375,000, records show.

The previous owner had planned to convert the structure-built in 1920 as a tire-changing station-to an art-deco design, including two additional floors and four upscale condominiums.

Baker said the current renovations are scheduled for completion in April.

The result will be a 15,000-square-foot single-family home-including the addition of two upper floors-with outside terraces, he said. The three-story development, plus a basement, includes a main bedroom and guest quarters.

"There will be an internal gallery for his art," Baker said. "There's going to be outside terraces that will have gardens."

The building has been rezoned for residential use, Baker said.

"The city has a lot of programs that are helpful to people that want to take city buildings that were not residential and turn them into residential dwellings," he said.

The project is good for the city, said Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp.

"John LiDestri's decision to move downtown and to make a signature investment in the heart of the East End is emblematic of the shift in community perception," she said. "A number of emerging downtown neighborhoods are now attracting residents paying a premium, in some cases, to live in the center city."

The East End is among the most vibrant, she said, blending office, dining, retail, entertainment, arts and housing uses with the Eastman School of Music's world-class students and faculty.

"Its brand of urban living is extremely attractive, and the LiDestri investment joins a long list of new housing projects, suburban tenants moving into the city, and a greater presence of fine and performance arts," she said.

Donovan Matthews and related businesses have developed more than 1 million square feet of city property, Baker said.

"The company is growing rapidly, and we're looking to do anything in the city that will improve residences," he said.

LiDestri, a 2009 inductee into the Rochester Business Hall of Fame, oversees a business that makes 2 million jars of pasta sauces, salsas, dips, soups and other food items daily.

The company employs nearly 600 people, including 380 in the Rochester area.

LiDestri Foods generates $300 million in annual revenue.

"We really feel that we are part of the community because it goes back to the employees," LiDestri said in a September interview with the Rochester Business Journal prior to his Hall of Fame induction.

"They are a part of this community. The main purpose for the existence of a company is its employees."

LiDestri, 63, was born in Sicily. He emigrated to the U.S. when he was 16, he said. Two years later he was working at Ragu Foods Inc. in the Rochester area while finishing high school and earning a degree in business administration from Syracuse University.

"(I'm) not somebody who has all these structured goals," LiDestri said in September. "It's always been a fluid situation. You take life one day at a time."

12/11/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.


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