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$20M project set to start

Rochester Business Journal
April 20, 2012

Work is scheduled to begin next month on an 11-story building with a restaurant on the first floor and upper-floor housing for 170 students at the University of Rochester.
The nearly $20 million project-called the Flats at Brooks Landing-includes separate new construction for a Visions Federal Credit Union branch. It is scheduled for completion in June 2013, in time for the 2013-14 school year.
A parking lot on the site and another at 1315 S. Plymouth Ave. will be modified to accommodate apartment residents.
The 100,000-square-foot mixed-use building will have a boat storage facility at ground level, a restaurant on the 5,000-square-foot first floor, and student apartments on floors two through 11.
"It's been a complete transformation of the area from 10 years ago or more, when this current design was put in place," said Dana Miller, vice president of Rochester City Council.
The Flats at Brooks Landing is on 1.1 acres near the west bank of the Genesee River at the southeast corner of Brooks Avenue and Genesee Street. It is bounded by Genesee Street to the west, South Plymouth Avenue to the north, Genesee Valley Park to the east, and a Staybridge Suites Hotel to the south.
It is part of the Brooks Landing Revitalization Project, hatched 29 years ago to redevelop the area in the city's 19th Ward along the Genesee River.
Some $6 million in public money has been invested in Brooks Landing, generating $50 million in private investment, said Miller, a resident of the 19th Ward.
The Rochester Economic Development Corp. is providing a low-interest loan of up to $750,000 to Minneapolis developer Ronald Christenson for the Flats at Brooks Landing project, city officials said.
The city will pay up to $385,000 for environmental remediation, and Christenson has leveraged $5.59 million through tax credits, officials said.
Christenson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In addition to the Flats at Brooks Landing, Christenson built the $7.5 million Staybridge hotel in 2008 and replaced local developer David Flaum to finish the $2 million Brooks Landing Business Center in 2009.
"He's been working with the neighborhood since 1999 to help make this happen," Miller said of Christenson. "Through the economic downturns, and through the post-9/11 and the shutdown of the tourism industry, he's maintained an ongoing commitment to the area."
The business center recently welcomed a Subway restaurant as a tenant. The Boulder Coffee Co. also has located there, and California Rollin Etc. Inc. is upgrading its space and plans to open soon, Miller said.
"I've lived in that neighborhood since I was 5 years old," said City Councilman Adam McFadden. "Watching us get our first franchise business in the neighborhood, Subway, has really been a bigger deal than people actually imagined. I think it will attract other businesses to the area. And they're doing well."
UR has leased space in the business center for 100 finance department and employment office workers. New businesses have come to the area because of Brooks Landing, Miller said.
The $6 million in public funding has paid for sidewalks, streets and street lighting, a boat dock and boardwalk along the river, and street furniture, Miller said.
"We're seeing a lot of additional development in the area that is neighborhood-based economic development," he said. "Community participation, and just bringing feet on the street, is really what it's all about."
The Flats at Brooks Landing will complement the Riverview Apartments as the only providers of leased space to UR for student housing, school officials said.
Opened in August 2008, Riverview houses 400 students in five buildings and 120 units on South Plymouth Avenue near Barton Street.
"The Riverview housing has turned out to be very successful," Miller said. "It's the most requested housing on the university campus.
"The students have done a nice job of being a part of the community, participating in community events, having ice cream socials for local kids and things like that. We're looking forward to having an additional 170 students in the neighborhood because they bring a certain vibrance and vitality to the neighborhood."
The university provides housing for 3,400 undergraduates at its River Campus, representatives said. The school has 5,000 undergraduates, with 80 percent living on the River Campus.
The Brooks Landing concept originated in 1983, with construction of the hotel and business center beginning in 2006.
"What the Flats does is provide the two remaining pieces from the original plan," Miller said. "The neighborhood was always anxious to have that completed. The neighborhood is pretty excited about that."
Brooks Landing has spurred additional interest in the area, Miller said, including the $5.2 million construction of 29 homes on 4.5 acres at the Valley Court complex on Genesee Street.
"That will be under construction shortly," he said.
The completion of Brooks Landing does not mean the end of development, McFadden said.
"I think you're going to see us enhancing the area more and trying to do more with the other business strips along that area," he said.
"If you look at one of the corners, we have an auto parts store there. You go down the street and there's a littler strip mall and a former Super Duper that's now an appliance store. And there are a couple vacant lots that the city owns. I think we still have to finish that off. We can't leave that undone."
The Flats at Brooks Landing will make that challenge easier, McFadden said.
"I think the work that has been done there thus far will help to anchor future development. It makes the area attractive for investors to come in in the future."

4/20/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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