It could be time for downtown Rochester doubters to start believing-although it might not matter that much, because many others now seem willing to do so.
After years of decline, the heart of the Rochester-Finger Lakes region is beating noticeably stronger these days. A big reason why is the faith that a growing number of smart, capable developers have in downtown’s future.
Robert Morgan is one of them. As the RBJ’s Thomas Adams reports in this week’s issue, Mr. Morgan’s firm plans to acquire a long-vacant parcel of land between the Genesee River and South Avenue to construct a $20 million, 100-unit luxury apartment complex.
The city’s director of business and housing development describes it as "a difficult site." But challenges clearly do not faze the founder of Morgan Management LLC. He built the residential and commercial real estate business after being shot and paralyzed from the waist down in a 1991 robbery at his family’s seafood business.
For his achievements, Mr. Morgan will receive the 2013 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award from Rochester Institute of Technology’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business.
Another downtown believer is Laurence Glazer of Buckingham Properties LLC, who late last year agreed to partner with Mr. Morgan to buy and redevelop Midtown Tower in a project estimated to cost roughly $55 million. Mr. Glazer previously took on the former Genesee Hospital, giving it new life as Alexander Park. And last week brought news of his agreement to buy Xerox Square and lease it back to the company.
There are more believers, including ESL Federal Credit Union, which a few years ago left Irondequoit for a new Chestnut Street headquarters; the Pike Co., which is transforming the former Seneca Building at Midtown for Windstream Corp.; and Winn Cos., new owner of the Sibley complex. Across the river, John "Dutch" Summers is building North Plymouth Terrace.
This is only a partial list. A more complete tally would include both businesses and the new residents who boosted downtown’s population by more than 11 percent from 2000 to 2010.
Years, perhaps decades, will be required to fully revitalize downtown Rochester. But those who think its future is bleak need to open their eyes.