Thomas Masaschi has a long-term vision for the development of downtown. And five years in, the managing partner of DHD Ventures LLC is happy with what has been done so far.
“I’m excited to see the new development downtown,” Masaschi said. “It will be a challenge to keep that momentum going, but I believe we’re on the right track.”
Masaschi spoke to nearly 500 people who attended the downtown development event this week, part of the Rochester Business Journal Power Breakfast Series. The sold-out event was held at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
Joining Masaschi on the panel were:
Steve Dubnik, president and CEO of the Strong;
Andrew Gallina, president of Gallina Development Corp.;
Ken Glazer, managing partner of Buckingham Properties LLC; and
Kevin Morgan, vice president of Morgan Management LLC.
The developers spoke about the need for housing in the center city.
Glazer, who developed Tower280 with Morgan Management, and Masaschi, whose firm’s recent developments include the Residences at the Columbus Building on Chestnut Street, both said the residential units for each project are nearly full.
The other amenities at projects such as Tower280 are also popular among tenants, Glazer said, including the rooftop patio and dog park.
“We are no longer just trying to fill buildings,” he said.
Masaschi has seven projects in the works downtown, all in different phases of development. He showed the audience aerial drone footage of the properties taken by his two sons.
One is 88 Elm St., a mixed-use development slated for completion this summer. In addition to first floor retail and 35 luxury apartments, the top floor will be the new home of DHD’s office, which is currently on East Avenue.
DHD also is working with Morgan Management on the re-use of the former Gannett Building on Exchange Street. Initial plans are for the 150,000-square-foot structure to have one commercial tenant, Masaschi said, noting there has been interest from a number of businesses.
Gallina expects to welcome the first residential tenants this spring to the Metropolitan, a mixed-use project at the former Chase building. Work on Morgan’s Court Street Apartments project along the Genesee River continues to move forward, with construction slated for later year.
Morgan also likes what he sees when it comes to developing downtown. His firm is involved with projects such as the $20 million renovation at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown with Christa Cos. and the Alliance Building, a mixed-use development with DHD that will feature 130 apartments, first floor retail and second floor event space.
“We’re excited at the momentum we see,” Morgan said.
While the residential units are a start, the panelists agreed downtown’s success will be tied to a mix of residential, commercial, retail and entertainment elements.
The Metropolitan’s new commercial tenants include DAC Group, a digital marketing firm, and Datto Inc., a backup and disaster recovery services provider. Datto plans to add 200 local employees, boosting its area employment to 350 people.
“The successful rebirth of downtown will depend heavily on vibrant businesses locating to the center city,” Gallina said.
Dubnik spoke of the Strong’s proposed $110 million expansion project at the site, which has plan for a hotel, parking garage, market rate housing options and urban retail space.
The organization and its partners, Konar Properties and Indus Hospitality Group Inc., are developing a site plan and working with the city to move the project forward, he said.
Comments from audience members were supportive, with the group applauding the panelists’ commitment to and investment in downtown.
The panelists and the audience agreed that challenges remain.
Those challenges discussed included having more entertainment options at night in the center city, having ride sharing options, changing negative perceptions about the area and offering incentives—such as a sales tax abatement for Main Street businesses and a parking abatement to help ease the cost of parking for business owners.
“We can be successful with a little more creativity and by being proactive,” Gallina said.
Glazer also voiced optimism.
“I can see Rochester on the cover of a magazine in five years with the headline, ‘Here’s a city that did it right,’” he said.
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