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A win for downtown

When WinnCompanies Inc. acquired the Sibley Building in November 2012 and announced plans to breathe new life into the iconic downtown structure over the coming decade, no doubt some people thought, “Don’t bet on it.” After all, the 1,085,000-square-foot, 12-story building had been plagued by low occupancy for years—and that was under local ownership.

Would an out-of-town owner really stay the course on a long-term revitalization project?

Nearly four years later, any such doubts should be gone. WinnCompanies remains committed to the effort, and this week officially launched its $200 million redevelopment project.

Renamed Sibley Square, the building will boast 96 modern luxury apartment homes on the top four floors, office space in the middle floors and retail on Main Street. In addition, the first phase includes construction of senior living apartment homes and a thorough reworking of the structure’s façade and windows.

Sibley Square also is slated to house the headquarters of High Tech Rochester’s Finger Lakes Business Accelerator Cooperative. If HTR’s estimates are on target, this incubator for high-tech startup companies will generate more than 1,000 jobs in its first five years of operation.

The planned mix of residential, office and retail space is not unique in Rochester; other players involved in downtown’s development have adopted similar strategies. Nor is the adaptive reuse of an older structure, though the Sibley building—which dates to 1868 and achieved historic landmark status in the mid-1980s—is in a special class.

What sets WinnCompanies apart is the fact it’s not from Rochester.

Shortly after his firm bought the property, Gilbert Winn told this newspaper, “We believe the biggest opportunity the Sibley Building offers is the ability to participate in a meaningful way to the renaissance of downtown Rochester.” He also talked about the firm’s “long-term view.”

It appears that WinnCompanies remains firm in those beliefs.

6/17/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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