Nearly nine in 10 respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll say the Genesee Brewing Co. should be allowed to demolish a vacant Cataract Street structure for its proposed $2.6 million brew house development.
The Rochester Preservation Board nominated the structure at 13 Cataract St. for landmark designation last week. Richard Lozyniak, CEO of brewery parent North American Breweries Inc., said in response that the company will assess whether the project is “economically viable” in light of the Preservation Board’s action.
North American Breweries wants to transform a century-old packaging center into a microbrewery, tasting area and casual restaurant. To do that, the company said it would need to demolish two buildings at 13 Cataract St. that have been vacant for 25 years.
The project has been approved by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, and Mayor Thomas Richards and City Council President Lovely Warren issued a statement saying “it is wrong to put the company through a second process … on issues that have already been thoroughly vetted.”
But others, including the Landmark Society of Western New York Inc., argue that the buildings are an important part of the city’s heritage and should be preserved. They dispute the brewery’s contention that the structures are beyond repair.
Roughly 1,070 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted March 12 and 13.
Should the Genesee Brewery be allowed to demolish 13 Cataract St.?
They want to demolish the building, build a new structure that will bring jobs and tourists to our city, and they aren’t asking for any financial help. Of course they should be allowed to do it. Honestly, I am fine with remembering the past, but it is time to start planning for and embracing the future. Buildings don’t last forever, this one especially.
Cheers to the city of Rochester’s Preservation Board for recognizing the unique building at 13 Cataract St. as having historic significance and nominating it for landmark status! An interesting array of politicians and members of Rochester’s business community have coalesced with North American Breweries’ leadership to try to compel the Preservation Board to reverse their important decision. As such, it is important for those of us who embrace historic preservation and adaptive reuse both to support the important and courageous decision the Preservation Board has rendered and also to recognize and neutralize the misleading political rhetoric for what it really is. For instance, NAB has claimed that their demolition and building of the brew house and visitor center will create many jobs. Unfortunately this is simply not true; creating “jobs” implies creating full-time, permanent employment for members of our community. While a few permanent jobs will hopefully be created for those people who will staff the new facility, the vast majority of what will be created through their construction project—any construction project, for that matter—is temporary project work. And while creating more skilled work is definitely a good thing for an economically-challenged area like ours, when the construction project ends, so will that temporary project work, otherwise known as contract employment. The irony is that a rehabilitation and reuse of the existing structure at 13 Cataract St. will create at least as much work—and quite likely considerably more—in terms of construction activities, and will create related work as well for engineering and other support firms. With this recognition, it is also ironic that the coalition of interests clamoring for demolition to create new work haven’t acknowledged publicly that more work would be created through the alternate reuse and rehabilitation path— an outcome that is truly better for our community. I urge North American Breweries to embrace a form of community redevelopment that includes historic preservation and adaptive reuse of the assets they already have.
—Christopher Burns, executive marketing consultant
I am an employee of Genesee Brewing Co. I agree with the mayor and City Council president. The issue has been thoroughly vetted, the neighbors are all in favor of the project, and the brewery is putting their own money into the game. Please let this project proceed.
—Marychris Knittel, North American Breweries
Are you kidding me? That “landmark” is a dump and has sat vacant long enough. It is unbelievable that we would stop progress on something that would bring jobs and patrons to that area just because an old, run-down, smelly, vacant building that no one in their right mind will sink money into is considered historical. Let’s see, a tax-generating new business or an ugly old derelict building? I think the Preservation Board should take some pictures and be done with it.
It would be outright insanity to prevent the Genesee Brewery from building its visitor center and other attractions. I love old things, but I love jobs more. We need ’em.
—Brian Kane, Three Lakes Consulting
“Should (they) be allowed to demolish” the building? Do they own the building? Then they may dispose of it as they see fit. If you wish to dispose of it as you see fit—such as designating it as a “landmark”—then please buy the building and you will have every right to do with it as you see fit.
Let’s see: A few dozen jobs now, a local company growing soon versus a crappy pile of bricks in a part of the city that could use some private investment. Do it or lose it! And who would make up for the loss?
—Bob Miglioratti, Realtor
I have strong feelings about preserving historic structures; however, I also believe we can’t save everything. Genesee should be able to demolish the Cataract Street structure in order to follow through with its plans to renovate the packaging center. This is a project with a huge potential.
Yes, they own it. It’s not worth rehabbing. Why stop progress? Until the announced demo, the “Landmark Society” could care less about this trashed-out building. This is the reason this country is so screwed up today.
—Jim Duke, Victor
A business that is doing well, growing, creating good jobs and needs more space does not need to be told what to do by government with property they already own. That old building is hidden, is away from public view and is basically an obsolete eyesore. Tear it down!
—George Thomas, Ogden
This is unbelievable—why would anyone want to do business in this city with bureaucracy like this? Let them tear it down and make way for progress!
Who are these people to tell a private company that they must preserve a building that is a hazard and unusable. The restaurant/visitors’ center would a tremendous boost to the neighborhood and I would welcome the opportunity to have lunch and a beer and view the falls and the river.
The Landmark Society might work with the brewery to develop ideas for saving portions of the building such as the facade. Perhaps they could help the brewery locate funds for the preservation effort for the pieces that are saved for our historical appreciation.
—Deborah Pearce, LeaJames Inc.
It’s important to preserve what we can, but in some cases the Landmark Society needs to get real. It would be great if the brewery could incorporate some element of the building in its final design but if it’s unsafe/unpractical, they should be allowed to proceed as already approved.
Any law that allows this quasi-government agency to restrict private property rights should be changed, period.
This building has sat there for how long? Twenty-five years! Up until now, the preservationists did not seem to care it was rotting from within. If these buildings were so historical the designation should have been given years ago. Now the owner of the property has made a decision, let that decision stand!
—Peter Short, J.J. Short Associates, Inc.
Wake up, Rochester. Be pragmatic about economic development. Investments in the city must be satisfied with economic return to the investors. Here we've got a company willing to invest in something that returns not only to them but also to the tourism industry and the general public. The city's Preservation Board should be ashamed of their action and must get out of the way— quickly. City voters—remove obstacles such as the Preservation Board that thwart city progress and encourage companies to relocate to the suburbs where there is less interfere with their ROI.
—D. Kennedy, Webster
If the Landmark Society wants to preserve 13 Cataract St., let them pay for it. If not, let's allow $2.6 million of private investment that will help revitalize our city.
—Stuart Small, Pittsford Insurance Agency LLC
Yes, if I understand which building is being removed. I think someone needs to make a better map of what is being demolished. I've read three stories about this and still don't feel like I understand this well. The view from the other side of the river near the bridge is iconic and I do not want to see it lose its character.
Why would the city of Rochester break from 100 years of nonsensical decision-making and allow an employer in the region to create jobs?
—Devon Michaels, Chili
Bring on the Jobs! Not sure who in their right mind would use the park to be created in that area of the city?
Rather than demolish the building, the building should be renovated to house the microbrewery but at no additional cost to the company over that of the planned project. The Landmark Society should cover the additional costs or help secure grant money to close the gap.
If the building is going to remain vacant, it will deteriorate further and need to eventually come down just for safety reasons. Who will bear the liability if someone is hurt in the building or if a part of it falls and causes property damage? Will those who want to keep it as a historical site take on the cost and responsibility of keeping the building safe and secure? Is the historical significance worth more than the jobs that would be created and the growth to the local economy that will occur if the restaurant is built? Building the restaurant and tasting area will bring people into the area to enjoy the view of the river and falls area. There may even be signage and pictures showing how the area was historically and how it evolved to help the area grow.
We have lost far too many of our historic buildings, and we can't afford to lose any more. The Brewery can easily incorporate 13 Cataract St. into the visitor center plans (even if 13 Cataract is developed by another party), so there is no compelling reason to demolish it. The brewery's complaints of interference ring hollow when one considers that the current condition of 13 Cataract is the brewery's own fault. The brewery has been in violation of city code for years, so the city has already been cutting them way too much slack. It is time for the brewery to take responsibility for its actions and its property.
—DeWain Feller, Rochester
The whole historic registry effort is an assault on private property. If you want to preserve a building, buy it. If you don't want it bad enough to purchase it, you should not get a vote in what happens to it. The fact that the brewery offered it for sale should disqualify it from being designated a historic landmark. The Landmark Society's position is pathetic.
Other cities have faced far greater challenges in melding the old with the new. This old brewery is an important part of Rochester's heritage. Call in a good architect and ask him or her to design a restaurant, visitors’ center, rooftop beer garden, or any such combination within the older structure. People will be able to view the falls from a vantage of a historic building. That in itself will be a draw. Make the "problem" an asset.
—Rev. Michael Patella, Saint John's University
The Landmark Society of Western New York diminishes their credibility and lessons their chances of having beneficial impact in the community by taking such an indefensible position.
I love old buildings and believe they should be saved if possible, however the property belongs to the brewery and if the landmark society wants to force Genesee to keep it then the Landmark Society should agree to put up the extra finances for the restoration as long as the space would be conducive to Genesee’s plan of use for the space. I did not see the Landmark Society step in when State Street got the remodel with all the new buildings—it did not even make the headlines. Bottom line is we need to create more jobs and if revitalizing an area makes these jobs we should be looking at all the options and not making it impossible for business to succeed.
The building should be preserved! It is a part of Rochester's rich past—for all future generations to enjoy!
Great project that should move forward as planned. No one will ever use or repair the building that is proposed to be torn down. Let’s move forward on private development of downtown.
—Michael King, Principal Century Benefits Group Inc.
If the public wants to keep an old building as a historical site, let those interested raise enough money to pay the owners a fair-market price for it. Don't just raise a stink or legislate or demand that the owners must do things your way. That smells too much of state control over private property. It is one thing if a company agrees to keep the pristine look of a neighborhood in their building plans, but quite another to force them to make use of an old inadequate structure.
—Paul Conaway, Lockheed Martin
This is a no-brainer, unless, of course, the Preservation Board has the resources to restore this building, which it does not. Nor do they have someone with deep pockets that could. This Board, like the "Hysterical Society" makes decisions that hamper growth, jobs creation and economic development. Abolish both and leave those decisions to the zoning board.
This building has been sitting empty for years, and suddenly the Preservation Society wants to preserve it? They give no financial support for upkeep and also restrict how you can renovate it. I would never want a building declared a historical building just for that reason.
Landmark status sounds like a taking without compensation. That's not constitutional.
—Jim Haefner, Pittsford
This project would create much-needed jobs and create another destination spot within the city. If the Landmark Society wants to keep the building let them fund the difference in construction costs. I would have a different opinion if the buildings had been in use lately but 25 years vacant? Let them build.
—Greg Vangellow, R.W. Dake & Co. Inc.
If the building has been vacant for 25 years and has not been designated as a landmark by now, there is no reason why the brewery can't make use of the land. People only clamor over something when they see that someone else wants it.
—Wylie Bell, WM
Preventing this type of improvement to save buildings beyond their useful life would be absurd. This is a great project that will transform the area around and be a catalyst for other development.
—Ira Korn, CCIM Coldwell Banker Commercial
North American Breweries needs to step up and come up with a creative solution that saves and reuses the old, historic building(s). Between the city with tax breaks and the county (County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency) with creative financing, a scheme can be developed that is a win-win solution.
This building, while architecturally interesting, is so far below the radar of anyone who even knows where it is, that it may as well not exist. My place of business is near there, and I walk by it when crossing the Pont du Rennes Bridge if I walk to lunch, so I have an informed opinion. In the meantime, if Genesee is permitted to open the microbrewery/tasting and tour center and restaurant, the tiny steps of upscaling the St. Paul area on "the other side of the tracks" will be given a large boost. Jobs will be created. And we need all of the above. Rochester is getting cooler as a place to be. This will help, and might even bring in some tourist dollars.
—Jon Wilder, H & W Technology LLC
What arrogance and unmitigated power we relinquish to a few that frankly have no skin in the game. We are talking about dictating to a private, taxpaying, job-creating, community-improving, property-investing entity what they can and cannot do on their own property with regard to demolishing a dilapidated building. Really? I say omit them from this decision and let them focus on structures that are requested to qualify for special status, not dictate to private owners that they must comply to a decree from above. Where does it end? Private property, private building—government, go away! We finally get a company investing in the downtown area in spite of the crime and surrounding neighborhood and our "wise overseers" have to meddle. Hogwash! I wonder if tax money was going to be used to demolish the building to make room for more public housing on the banks of one of the greatest natural resources this area has to offer. Oops, watch out Genesee, I might have given them an idea. Eminent domain comes next!
This project will generate more jobs and tourism. Leave the brewery alone! They are working hard to make it survive. The conservationists need to get a dose of reality.
—Bill Gilchrist, WRG Property Maintenance, Henrietta
Absolutely. The Preservation Board is nothing but a bunch of Cavemen* (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) who only look back at what once was, and not ahead to what can be.
—Rick Corey, Penfield
The building has been vacant for how long? And the Landmark Society wants to preserve it NOW? They should have been busy a while ago if it was so important!
Yes. Definitely. It's their property. They are trying to do something nice for our city. If the building isn't torn down, who do the wring-their-hands-obstructionists expect to pay for renovations? Do they want Genesee to pay? Or maybe us, the taxpayers? Or maybe they could take up a collection from the "Occupy Rochester" crowd or some other pox on our collective backsides.
It's sad this is even a question. This difficulty and red tape is exactly why businesses leave. Unbelievable.
—Doug Strang, S&S Engineering PC
Rochester has enough relics to ventures whose time has passed. Just look up State Street and to some of the area politicians.
They appear to have done the due diligence on the building and changed plans to incorporate parts of the building, where feasible and not cost-prohibitive, per the request of the city. The Landmark Society is being obstructionist.
On the one hand, we have the private sector ready to invest in a downtown neighborhood near one of our most distinguishing natural and historical assets—the Falls themselves. On the other hand, we have a small, unfunded and vocal group that wants to protect a building with a nice facade, but an “awkward” and unusable layout, in which no reasonable developers have been willing to invest. If you want to attract private capital to build out the High Falls area, you can't chase it away or wear it down by forcing them to jump through an endless procession of needless hoops. This is a microcosm of the economic development challenges imposed on Rochester and New York State. Can we please stop doing that? If they envision a thriving neighborhood around the High Falls area, then the preservationists are actually working against their own self-interest. No one will invest private capital if they see that their every move will be met with fierce resistance using every layer of governmental regulation to keep anything from changing. And there will be no successful long-term renovation of the area without that private investment. Some will cite the preservation of the Flatiron Building at University and Atlantic as an example of how preservation can work. To a point, that's a good example, but that's very different from 13 Cataract St. They also claim that attendees at ZBA meetings are "overwhelmingly opposed to demolition" but they can't possibly argue or believe that this represents a true reflection of the public's view. It's the result of an energized and loud minority, that's all. More maddeningly, however, they claim North American Breweries has “threatened” to pull the plug on the visitors’ center if the economics don't make sense. Who are they to dictate how and whether North American Breweries chooses to invest its own resources? I understand the value of preserving our past, but let's do it in a way that makes sense. We cannot and should not save every single building just because it's possible to do so. This is especially true if it's preventing the private sector from making investments with staying power. Have we become so dependent on government investment that we've forgotten what good old capitalism can accomplish? Support North American Breweries’ vision to build this visitors center unencumbered by these unrealistic demands.
North American Breweries should be able to demolish the old building. Although some might consider the building an important part of the city’s heritage, keeping the structure will stop badly needed development now and in the future. A brew pub and museum will do more to further the brewing heritage of our city than a building that cannot be converted to another use. There are many fine architecturally important buildings in the city that have been preserved. This speaks well to our collective historical awareness. Just because a building is old and unique does not mean it needs to be preserved. If it cannot be repurposed in a cost effective and profitable way, why let it stand in the way of smart development? A brew pub and museum will bring added commerce and jobs to the city. Anyone who dines at the new brew pub will be awash in our city’s history of brewing. I am sure there will be historic pictures of the brewery’s landscape from years gone by. A brew pub should draw people from all over. Refer to Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. Leinie Lodge in Chippewa Falls, Wisc. There are many similarities in Genesee Brewery and Leinenkugel. They are both small regional brewers that have stood the test of time. Neither has remained completely independent but each continues to produce products that have stood the test of time. These products have loyal and growing followings. It is good business to create a meeting place for customers. The brew pub would be a great start. It would enhance the concerts that have gone on at the brewery. It might then be considered a venue for the Jazz Festival. A simple brew pub would showcase some of the highlights and heritage of Rochester. Don’t let shortsightedness stop this project.
—Robert Commisso, Principal ComTon Inc.
Having lived in Irondequoit and worked in downtown Rochester, I drove by the brewery for more than 15 years and have admired the architecture of the Cataract Street building. It would have seemed the perfect candidate for the microbrewery, a dream of many individuals for well over 20 years. Genesee beer needs a Rochester presence, and the microbrewery would anchor that side of High Falls and draw people to the area. It is a classic that when development finally comes to an area that some of the lesser evils would have to be chosen. Yes the building is architecturally significant but, if there is no tenant or productive use of the building, and the North American Brewery does have a well thought-out alternative, perhaps it's time to tear it down.
—Joe Wierzbowski, Plymouth Photo Studio
If the property is owned by the Genesee Brewing Co. then no unelected board or society should have any say in how their property is used or in this case—not used. It is becoming apparent that too many people, elected or otherwise, show little or no regard for the rights of ownership. This is especially the case when it is the property rights of a business. Prior to the formation of our nation and the adoption of the world's finest constitution the king held title on everything within his kingdom. It took our revolutionary war against Great Britain to bring to the world the idea of individual property rights. It is time that Americans once again respect property rights. There is only one way for the government to trump property rights and that is through the use of eminent domain—though that has been corrupted, too.
—Michael F. Kloppel, chairman, Ontario County Conservative Party, Canandaigua
It would be nice to be able to utilize these buildings for the brewery's project but I think the Landmark Society goes too far. If the project is going to cost too much (despite what the Society thinks) then there are two options. Don't go ahead with the project in which case the buildings will end up just sitting there empty and slowly becoming a worse eyesore, which I think is not the right answer, or let the society have a certain amount of time to find private investors willing to put their money where the society's mouth is. If they can't find anyone (and I doubt they will), then tear the buildings down and let the brewery proceed with their plan and help not only beautify the city a little more but create a few jobs in the process. I'm sorry but the world is falling apart all around us and we spend way too much time arguing about incidental things just because a few people think it should be only their way.
Since the buildings can't be used for anything, they should be demolished. It is too bad that too much time has passed for them to be able to be repurposed at a reasonable expense. What good is it to preserve them empty and have them deteriorate further? If demolished so that Genesee Brewery can go ahead with its approved plan it will bring tourists and income into Rochester rather than keep an eyesore.
—Sandy Johnson, Delaney Educational
Who will fund to preserve these buildings and at what cost? As a taxpayer, this is a total waste of money we do not have. Allow the private sector to rebuild and put these building back on the tax rolls. Maybe Genesee Brewery should solicit this idea in another state where they are business-friendly?
And we wonder why we can't make an urban revitalization happen like other cities do. Talk about thwarting progress!
—R. Canley, Fairport
All we ever do in this city is tear down historically important buildings. Just look at the gaping hole in Main Street where the first indoor mall in America stood until a few years ago. Making a quick buck and throwing up sloppy, ugly and cheap buildings is the prevailing attitude of all of the U.S. The exterior of this building—at the very least—should be saved. It speaks volumes of who we were, who we became and the import of that legacy on this region.
The continued loss of our historic fabric continues to eat away at our community assets piece by piece. This cancer has ripple effects that greatly diminish the public realm and our community pride. This building (13 Cataract St.) is located in the heart of a historic urban cultural district. Opportunities to grow and enrich a historic district do not come along every day, and as such they should be preserved for the h enrichment of future generations. Creative and vibrant cities use their assets to their fullest. They do simply discard old buildings because it’s the easy thing to do. What are we gaining here another 20 parking spaces up-close to the building, big deal, we have to walk an extra 50 feet—let’s be serious about what the tradeoff is here. The notion of a disposal society is truly “old school” and not in touch with what the NEXT generation desires. Look around at what attracts tourism and your customer. Do we really need everything to look like a big box chain with extensive underutilized parking protecting its front door? John Stage (owner of the Dinosaur BBQ restaurant) has the concept right. His use of historic buildings with unique urban character, great space and fabulous food is what attracts the crowds. He provides no parking at four out of five of his restaurants, and they are all wildly successful. Let’s take an honest look at this proposal before the city. A landlord has completely neglected his property and now wants to demolish it for what he considered a better use of space. A parking lot! Heck, if I let my property go to the point it was a disgrace and code violations piled up, the city (with the backing of the community) would be issuing citations to fix it up for the greater good of the community. So is a parking lot considered a greater use of space? One solution would be to remove steel sided auxiliary wing, repair the roof and install “faux” windows. This is not terribly expensive and would demonstrate that the North America Breweries truly cares about our community and is interested in the NEXT generation and how Rochester is positioned to capture that growing market.
—Tom Murad, TCH Enterprizes
The Landmark Society needs to get out of the way let Genesee Brewing do what is right for the company with a company asset on company grounds. We need good business like Genesee Brewing to do what they do best and grow and keep a valuable workforce working plus make a profit. If the Landmark Society wants to save the building write a check and get it done in the next six months, if not get out of the way. If the Landmark Society can't write the (check) for Genesee Brewing there are plenty of other buildings on St. Paul that could use your help, just write the check or get out of the way.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images
It is so important to invest in downtown Rochester! The Genesee Brewery location will offer a great experience for tourists and locals! Let them get started—summer is almost here!
—Howie Jacobson, Dixon Schwabl
Who will pay to renovate the building? If Genesee is not allowed to tear it down and turn the space into something that will generate business and interest in downtown, I am afraid it will continue to rot on the shores of the river as it has for years. I understand the Landmark Society's concerns, but they don't have the money to do anything about it. Genesee had offered the property up for sale before deciding to renovate it themselves. They have received approval and should be allowed to continue with their plans.
—Chris Patchett, Schlegel Systems
Far, FAR too much government-in-your-face control over our lives! Leave the brewery alone, to improve their privately owned property as they see fit, within the standard everyday codes everyone else must comply with.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency, Inc.
What I saw, the building has been in disrepair for a long time. Nobody seemed to care about keeping it up. Nobody is coming up with money to buy it and bring it up to its original shape. Now is the time to take it down and replace it with a new building which will be a landmark building in the future.
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting
The buildings have not been used for 25 years, so how can they not be in need of dramatic repair? The taxpayers don't need to continue to pay for property the politicians have no intention of salvaging. If a viable company wants to come in and enhance part of this city, and pay taxes I say get on board!
—Roberta Favitta, The Cooley Group
This is a city-backed project that will bring tourism. Build it, and we will come.
—Donald Swartz, Rochester
At a time when the city is in dire need of investment and new development it is ridiculous to pull a last-minute grandstand move like this. If the Rochester preservation society was so worried about the property why didn't they step up years ago to let everyone know what a treasure it was and change its status then?
Not every old building is a landmark that needs to be saved. Rochester has plenty of them already. If these two buildings are so important, why has nobody used them for 25 years? It's easy to sit in a meeting and decide to save an old, junk building, when it's not your money on the line. Rochester needs all of the development it can get, especially using private money. Let the project proceed.
While the role the Preservation Board has played in preserving some of the most beautiful and historic structures in the area should be appreciated, the facts are that not every old building is historic and not every historic building should be saved. Rich Lozyniak and his team at North American Breweries have already made significant investments in their business and the Rochester community. Now they want to invest more into revitalizing the neighborhood, creating jobs, offering a reason for people to go downtown, and providing a destination for tourists in the city of Rochester. The Preservation Board should do the right thing for the community; allow North American Breweries to demolish an old vacant building–that they own–without further interference.
—Frank Cania, president and CEO, CaniaHR LLC
The Landmark Society had no issue with taxpayer money being used to demolish America's first indoor mall; a structure that was perfectly capable of being retro-fitted for 21st century uses. Yet, it wants to stop a private company, one that employs hundreds of workers, from tearing down useless, dangerous buildings on its own land, using its own money. If these buildings could be renovated, I think the smart people at Genesee Brewing would have gone that route.
—Michael Caceci, Pittsford
3/16/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.