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Health system dedicates new Riedman Campus

By WILL ASTOR - 4/1/2011

  Rochester General Health System dedicated its new facility on Kings Highway in Irondequoit this week as the Riedman Campus.

  The new name honors businessman and philanthropist John Riedman, a longtime RGHS board member whose $2.5 million donation helped the health system arrange the facility's purchase.

  Formerly the headquarters of ESL Federal Credit Union, the Riedman Campus is a three-building complex with 309,000 square feet of office space on 21 acres at Kings Highway and East Ridge Road.

  "The naming of this campus is a fitting recognition for John Riedman," said Mark Clement, the health system's CEO, in a statement. "In addition to his financial generosity and his astute counsel as a board member, he was an invaluable resource during the property search and acquisition process."

  Riedman is chairman of Riedman Corp., which formerly ran the area's fourth-largest insurance brokerage, now Brown & Brown of New York Inc.

  Since acquiring the Kings Highway complex last October, RGHS has relocated some 500 finance department workers from leased quarters on Carlson Road to the Kings Highway campus. It plans to move others, including members of the medical staff, to the new facility.

  The Carlson Road location made sense when the health system first moved workers there roughly a decade ago, but the system had been looking for a new site to house them for years, said Hugh Thomas, its general counsel.

  Thomas and Chief Financial Officer Robert Nesselbush negotiated the purchase of the complex from Hub Properties Trust of Newton, Mass., a real estate investment trust that had owned the property and leased it to ESL since acquiring it from Eastman Kodak Co. in 1998.

  Riedman played a crucial role in the acquisition, putting the ESL property on RGHS' radar and spearheading the effort to acquire it, Thomas said.

  "We'd had been thinking about a number of properties including the ESL site for some time, but it was really John who brought the property to the forefront and made the initial inquiries," Thomas said. "He is keenly aware of properties in the area."

  In negotiations with Hub Properties, Nesselbush said, Riedman "helped to get the right people around the table and helped me look at the strategic value of the property for us, not only now but going into the future."

  Through Riedman Corp., Riedman has  had significant commercial real estate interests in the Rochester area. The ESL property made sense for RGHS for several reasons, he said: its location, the quality of the property and the price.

  The Carlson Road offices are several miles from RGHS' main facilities at the Rochester General Hospital campus on Portland Avenue. The ESL complex is less than a half mile away.

  The Carlson Road facilities were adequate but hardly modern, Riedman said. The ESL buildings are Class A space comparable to any in eastside office parks. No renovations beyond cosmetic touches were needed, and ESL, which moved to a new downtown headquarters last year, agreed to leave a fair amount of functional equipment behind.

  Given the site's advantages, Riedman said, he considered the ESL property, which RGHS acquired for some $10 million, "a steal."

  Riedman initially had not marked the $2.5 million gift for any specific purpose, Thomas said. As the deal gelled, applying the Riedman Foundation donation to the Kings Highway property's purchase seemed like a natural move.

  Hub Properties holds an $8.3 million mortgage on the site, arranged between the trust and RGHS last year, publicly filed documents show.

  The $2.5 million donation is the largest the Riedman Foundation has made to date. In addition to an earlier $500,000 gift to RGHS, the foundation has funded the fish hatchery at Powder Mills Park and helped finance major expansions of the Seneca Park Zoo and Rochester Museum & Science Center.

  Riedman is the father of Rochester Business Journal publisher Susan Holliday.

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