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Residential developments are sprouting around downtown Rochester and could grow in number in the near future.
“I think you’re going to see an accelerating rate of activity in the downtown area,” says Laurence Glazer, CEO and managing partner of Buckingham Properties LLC.
Most of the projects that are in the works involve the renovation and reuse of existing buildings, but others feature new construction. Whether the buildings are new or renovated, most are designed for mixed residential and office or retail use.
As they renovate structures or erect new ones, developers have their eyes on two groups of potential renters: young, childless adults from the 80 million-plus “millennial” generation and older empty nesters of the baby boom.
“We’re looking for the young professional, and we’ve also gotten interest from empty nesters … who don’t want that house in the city anymore, or in the suburbs,” says Christopher DiMarzo, president of Mark IV Enterprises.
While the two groups differ in many ways, they share a desire to enjoy living where restaurants, clubs, libraries, movie theaters, live shows and other amenities are within walking distance of home.
“They want (these) walkable, culture-rich environments, which cities and center cities have in spades,” says Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp.
Nine of the 15 projects Zimmer-Meyer is tracking involve the redevelopment of existing buildings. In addition to being less expensive than new construction, redevelopment can produce charming results.
“Each one of these buildings is unique,” she explains. “Developers have been particularly sensitive as to how to bring out that special flavor in each building, and that’s what the market wants.”
Mark IV hopes to attract tenants to one of its latest developments, 300 Alexander, by marketing the building’s older style and location adjacent to Rochester’s East End.
“This East Avenue-East End area is just so active, with the festivals and the restaurants and the activities and the attractions to young, professional people,” DiMarzo says.
Standing at the intersection of Alexander Street and East Avenue, 300 Alexander has been a divinity school, Army Air Corps dormitory and apartment house. The building had fallen into disrepair by the time Mark IV began renovating it last October.
“We are taking a gross renovation of the entire building and turning it into high-end, modernized loft apartments,” DiMarzo says.
Once the firm is finished, the building should have 58 one- and two-bedroom lofts with hardwood floors, arched windows and 14-foot ceilings, along with a rotunda in which tenants can gather to socialize. The $6 million project is not slated for completion until December, notes DiMarzo, but one-third of the apartments have been leased in advance. Monthly rent for a 1,200-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment will run $1,500, he says, or roughly $1.25 a square foot.
Instead of renovating an existing building, Morgan Management LLC plans to put up a new one at 103 Court Street with a view of the Genesee River.
“It’ll be a brand-new, Class A luxury apartment community,” Vice President Kevin Morgan says. “We really feel that there’s a big demand for luxury apartments downtown.”
The $20 million apartment complex at the intersection with South Avenue will offer 125 one- and two-bedroom apartments within walking distance of the East End. The apartments will feature granite countertops and other amenities, and some will
have loft-like upper stories.
The development, which does not yet have a name, also will feature a 5,000-square-foot
retail space, underground parking, a fitness center, and a place in which tenants can gather and socialize. Rent for a 1,075-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment will run $1,425 a month, including heat, or $1.33 a square foot.
The Court Street site involves a number of easements and encumbrances that must be sorted out through site plan reviews. Morgan says his firm applied to the city for site plan approval two months ago.
“We don’t have all of the approvals, but we feel good that we’re going to get the approvals we need,” he says.
The firm hopes to gain site plan approval within the next two months, break ground in January 2015 and complete construction by the following January.
Buckingham Properties has combined renovation and new construction at Alexander Park, a development on the site of the former Genesee Hospital. In the coming months, the firm plans to begin the second phase of development on the section called Alexander Park North.
“We are in the process of finalizing design and getting ready to start construction over there of a very, very spectacular mixed-use retail, office, residential complex like nothing else in the city,” Glazer says.
Buckingham set the stage for Alexander Park about seven years ago with the purchase of the shuttered hospital’s 16-acre site.
“The last few years we have … started to concentrate on what I would call several large urban redevelopment and development projects,” Glazer says.
Glazer’s firm began by tearing down 500,000 square feet of the hospital, and developing the south end of the site. It then extensively remodeled the medical office building that was attached to the hospital, which became the location of MVP Health Care’s Western New York headquarters.
In addition, the firm built a 20,000-square-foot medical office building, a new branch of the Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Co., and an 80,000-square-foot office building on the site, which Earthlink Inc., now occupies.
The next phase of Buckingham’s development plan calls for construction of two mixed-use buildings at Alexander Park North, along with two buildings exclusively for retail use. The buildings will offer one- and two-bedroom apartments, some of which will have outdoor patios. Tenants also will be able to make use of a large green space for concerts, picnics and other activities.
Alexander Park could encompass as many as 14 buildings and 240 apartments, complete with parking, by the time Buckingham is finished developing the site, Glazer says. Rent on a two-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot apartment will be $1,700 a month, or $1.31 a square foot.
Prospective tenants for Alexander Park North should be stable, childless and willing to accept long-term leases, he says. Construction should begin in about four months.
Buckingham also is working on other downtown projects, including the Tower at Midtown, a 17-story mixed-use project the firm has undertaken in partnership with Morgan Management. Most of that project’s 385,000 square feet of space will be devoted to one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Though the current crop of downtown apartments is expected to number in the hundreds, everyone involved in residential development thinks the market for such residences will remain solid for years to come.
“We are expecting, based on the demographic picture that’s been laid out, that it will continue for at least 10 to 15 years,” Zimmer-Meyer says.
Mike Costanza is a Rochester-area freelance writer.
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