Plans underway for U of R to acquire College Town properties

Plans underway for U of R to acquire College Town properties

The University of Rochester has a tentative contract in place to purchase the retail, office and residential properties that make up College Town along Mt. Hope Avenue (archive image).

The University of Rochester is preparing to take over ownership of College Town, the mixed-use development that helped revitalize the Upper Mt. Hope neighborhood.

Project developer CT Rochester LLC intends to sell the property and the university has exercised its right of first offer.

A letter of intent to purchase the buildings was signed in November, Mark Wright, senior counsel for the school, told the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) at the January board meeting. The university already owns the land, having leased it to CT Rochester for development of College Town a decade ago.

Assuming there are no roadblocks during the due diligence process, the university will make the purchase through an affiliated for-profit LLC, Wright said. The proposed price was not disclosed.

The school used a similar process in 2021 to acquire Brooks Crossing, a student housing property on South Plymouth Avenue. Spruce Risk Purchasing Group LLC, a for-profit subsidiary of the U of R, became the owner after the 170-bed facility was put up for sale by the Minneapolis-based developer.

Adding College Town’s 154 apartments, 125,000 square feet of retail space and 55,000 square feet of commercial space between 1305 and 1355 Mt. Hope Ave. to the university portfolio ensures both stability and standards of management.

“It’s the front door of our campus,” Mike Chihoski, senior associate vice president of facilities and services, told the COMIDA board. “It’s too important for the university to allow somebody to not maintain it to the standards we need it maintained at.”

The university asked for — and was granted in a unanimous vote by the COMIDA board — approval to assume existing PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) and leaseback agreements originally issued to CT Rochester.

The purchase will not include the 136-room Hilton Garden Inn. DelMonte Hotel Group of East Rochester, the developer and operator, will maintain ownership, though the university still owns the land on which the hotel sits.

College Town was the joint venture of Gilbane Development Co. of Providence, R.I., and Fairmount Properties LLC of Cleveland. An intent to sell was expressed to the school over the summer.

“Since then university officials have been conducting due diligence to potentially purchase the 312,000 square-foot development,” said Sara Miller, spokesperson for the University of Rochester. “As part of the purchase exploration process, university leaders are engaged in communication with the city of Rochester, Monroe County, current tenants, as well as residents of the Mt. Hope community.”

The school considers College Town to be the gateway to River Campus as well as the University of Rochester Medical Center. Christened in 2014, College Town is anchored by the 20,000-square-foot Barnes & Noble Booksellers store at the corner of Elmwood and Mt. Hope avenues.

There also is a CVS Pharmacy as well as other retail, dining and office space. The school leases some of the 20,000 square feet of office space.

Mt. Hope Lofts is a full-leased 154-unit housing community, with 144 units rented at market rate while 10 meet affordable housing guidelines. Chihoski told COMIDA that apartments are leased by students and medical center staff members as well as the community at large.

“If the purchase of College Town is finalized in the coming months, university leaders envision owning, managing and marketing it in the same spirit in which it was originally designed — as a Rochester destination to shop, dine, stay and live,” Miller said. “University officials would assume the responsibility of recruiting additional tenants to the complex, while also supporting current business and residential tenants that call College Town home.”

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