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New tower attracts residents and businesses

Bergmann Associates is the commercial anchor tenant at Tower280, where the engineering and architecture firm occupies the entire second floor. (Photo by Kimberly Simpson)

Those leasing space in Tower280 are a mix of commercial, retail and residential tenants. The building’s premium center city location, customized office space, underground parking and sophisticated residential amenities are the top features tenants cited for signing on—even before the construction was complete.

The engineering and architecture firm Bergmann Associates is the commercial anchor tenant. The company, which has 10 offices and 400 employees across the country, moved its headquarters to Tower280 in October. All 185 of its Rochester employees moved from First Federal Plaza to Tower280, where they occupy the entire second floor, 60,000 square feet of office space.

“We had multiple floors at First Federal Plaza and now we’re consolidated on one level,” said Vincent Press, communications manager. “It’s much better for collaborations between employees and for meetings with clients.”

Bergmann decided to consider a relocation as its lease neared expiration. The firm sought internal input and formed an employee committee to examine options. All three options were downtown: moving to Sibley Square or Tower280 or remaining at First Federal Plaza, which had been its headquarters for 15 years.

The committee reported back after meeting with all three developers, Press said. Key concerns for the committee included a prominent location, covered parking, access to mass transit and safety.

There really were no negatives associated with Tower280, he said, other than a hesitancy about moving by some longtime staffers. Some also lamented losing the close proximity First Federal Plaza had to City Hall.

After much review, the committee recommended Tower280. Company leaders agreed and signed a 12-year lease in January 2015.

“Now that we’re here, it’s glowing reviews. The space is great. Lots of windows and natural light,” Press said. “There are food trucks here at lunch time and people playing whiffle ball on Parcel 5. We see so much activity downtown. We like to think we are an early catalyst to that by moving in here.”

Another company that recently relocated its headquarters to Tower280 is the accounting firm DeJoy, Knauf & Blood LLP. It moved Sept. 26 from 39 State St., where it had been since its inception in 1990.

With upwards of 60 employees, it was time for a move, company leaders said.

“We are growing the company, and with the footprint of the building we were busting at the seams,” said David DeJoy, managing partner. “There is a lot of great character in that building, but it was getting difficult to expand.”

The company plans to hire an additional nine accountants in the coming year, DeJoy said. There will be plenty of room for them at the new location. The firm leased 13,700 square feet of office space.

“Everyone is very happy in our new location. They like the layout and the space,” DeJoy said. “From the individual workplace to the meeting spaces, we designed everything for more collaboration. There are a lot of breakout meeting areas. It’s a mobile environment because teams change from week to week.”

There is also a kitchen area that can serve as a breakroom for employees and an event space for client functions.

“That’s a great benefit and another opportunity for robust interactions with our team and clients,” DeJoy added.

Tower280 was one of several locations the firm reviewed as it considered its options, DeJoy said, noting one site was in the suburbs.

DeJoy, Knauf & Blood, Bergmann Associates and Second Avenue Software Inc., which does business as Second Avenue Learning, constitute the three commercial tenants in the building, which is fully leased on the commercial side, officials said.

The first retail tenant is a restaurant that has made its name in Perinton and has decided to expand by making its move downtown to Tower280.

Joshua Miles, the co-owner of Branca Italian restaurant on Pittsford Victor Road and president of its parent company, SCN Hospitality LLC, plans to debut in Tower 280 with a second location in December.

He estimates it will take 35 employees to run the downtown eatery. That is five more workers than he employs at the Bushnell’s Basin restaurant.

While both restaurants will have authentic Italian cuisine, Miles said he plans to add some items downtown that on-the-run patrons might enjoy.

“We anticipate a faster experience so people can keep on a business pace. So we may carry certain coffees and pastries, and the price point may lessen in some categories,” Miles said.

There has been much effort on the interior design, he added, so the ambience is not lessened. Branca downtown will be open for lunch and dinner, Miles said, noting he hopes to appeal to people who live downtown as much as those who work there.

“There are 17,000 people who come into the city to work. We want people to feel comfortable to come here to grab and go, sit with their laptop for 45 minutes or relax for a nice dinner,” Miles said.

He did a lot of research before deciding to move to Midtown, including focus groups with office and residential tenants in the area, as well as current Branca customers.

“This is not a windfall by any means. We know we will have to work for it,” Miles explained. “But the downtown landscape is a changing environment. We’re excited to go into the city, and we’re passionate about Tower280.”

Branca is leasing 4,500 square feet, which is roughly 10 percent of the total retail space in Tower280, said Alexandria Sebastian, property manager with Morgan Communities Management LLC.

“We have a lot to go on retail,” Sebastian said, commenting on the 90 percent still available to lease. “Traditionally, retail doesn’t pick up until the building is full.”

She believes once businesses see the daily activity of the building’s 200 residents, there will be a steady increase in retail leases.

Currently 90 percent of the residential units are leased. There are 181 apartments, including studios, one- and two-bedroom units and penthouses. Monthly lease rates start at $949 for a studio and rise to $4,099 for a corner penthouse, depending on square footage.

“Some people think the tenants are all young professionals, but we really have a wide range,” Sebastian said. Nine percent are students, 55 percent are 25 to 35 years old and 36 percent are 36 years and older, she noted.

The amenities are the draw, she said, with features such as a 1,200-square-foot fitness center, dry cleaning pickup in the lobby and a rooftop terrace with gas grills, a fire pit and a dog park. There is also a concierge and security on staff 24 hours a day.

“We try to make it as full service as we can,” Sebastian said. “And the architects had a vision for bringing in urban living. We have bike storage. We’re trying to cater to a change in downtown.”

There has been a steady stream of inquiries, Sebastian said, with potential tenants coming from the area as well as other cities as they move here for contract work.

There is a preferred employer program that offers discounts to workers downtown and other local employers including Windstream Holdings Inc., University of Rochester and Xerox Corp.

“I think we should be 92 or 93 percent leased by the end of the year,” Sebastian said. “It really is a great success story.”

11/18/2016 (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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