For more than a century, the Sibley Building has been an iconic presence in downtown Rochester. In recent years, however, its future has been clouded by low occupancy and the failure of its owner, Rochwil Associates L.P., a subsidiary of Wilmorite Properties Inc., to pay taxes and loan obligations.
But no more. The announcement Friday that an affiliate of Winn Development, the real estate development arm of Winn Cos., has acquired the Sibley Building means the outlook for the historic property has brightened dramatically.
Winn has an ambitious, 10-year plan to revitalize the 1,085,000-square-foot, 12-story building. The elements range from upgrades to the HVAC and security systems to ground-floor and exterior renovations. The company also plans to develop retail, commercial and institutional space along with affordable and market-rate housing.
As the firm’s managing principal, Gilbert Winn, notes in this week’s Q4, the project is similar to others the developer has tackled, combining restoration of a historic building with revitalization of an urban neighborhood.
Joining Winn in the project are local attorney Gerard DiMarco and Genesee Regional Bank, which provided financing for the acquisition and renovation of the building.
The current anchor tenant is Monroe Community College with its Damon City Campus. MCC signed a five-year lease extension this year, but its board has approved a plan to move the campus across the river to property owned by Eastman Kodak Co.
For their part, Winn officials clearly believe in the future of the Sibley Building and downtown, with or without MCC. Others do as well. Recent weeks have brought news of Rochester Institute of Technology’s decision to open a Center for Urban Entrepreneurship at the site of the former Rochester Savings Bank on Franklin Street-opposite the Sibley Building. And a short walk up East Avenue, another historic building, East Avenue Commons, will be upgraded by new owner Thomas Masaschi, who plans to invest millions of dollars.
Change in the heart of downtown will not occur overnight. But with work progressing at Midtown, Winn’s long-term commitment to the Sibley Building and other renovation projects planned or under way, there’s clearly reason for optimism.
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