The developer of a proposed Jeremiah’s Tavern on the site of the Titus Tavern and former Cooper Deli in Irondequoit says he will be forced to put the kibosh on the $4.32 million project if the building’s recent designation as a historic landmark is enforced.
Jeffrey Reddish, owner of four other Jeremiah’s restaurants across the Rochester area, filed a petition in state Supreme Court in Monroe County on Wednesday, challenging a ruling by the town of Irondequoit Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) that 690 Titus Ave. and adjoining addition deserves landmark status.
Since 2018 the petitioner, 690 Titus Avenue LLC, a company owned by Reddish, spent $1.435 million to acquire six properties for development of a Jeremiah’s Tavern, court papers say. That included the two-story Titus Tavern property and connected one-story extension that housed the former Cooper Deli property, as well as single family homes at 710 Titus Ave. and 24, 32, 38 and 44 Cooper Road.
The properties all fall within what is zoned as mixed use commercial, so plans for the development would require only planning board and town board approval, Reddish said in an affidavit filed with the court.
Under his plans, the 4,500-square-foot building at 690 Titus would be would be demolished and a 7,000-square-foot building and adjoining patio would be built in its place at a cost of $1.7 million. He said “retrofitting is impossible” for the current building, especially with regard to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
His court filing says that in June of 2022 the organization Helping Irondequoit Plan for Progress (HIPP) submitted a proposal to designate 690 Titus Ave. as “a historic landmark in accordance with Section 236-4 of the town code.”
“The existing structure is simply too obsolete, too poorly configured and not amendable for use as a Jeremiah’s Tavern restaurant,” Reddish says in his affidavit. “If HIPP’s application is approved, we will be forced to abandon our plans and look elsewhere.”
Of six criteria listed in the town code for landmark designation, the building met two, according to court papers filed by the attorney representing Reddish, Donald W. O’Brien Jr. of Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP:
One, that the property “possessed a special character or historic or aesthetic interest or value as part of the cultural, political, economic or social history of the locality, region, state or nation;” and two, “that the property, because of a unique location or singular physical characteristics, represents an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood.”
The petitioner, however, contends that the building has no “significant aesthetic, architectural or historical value.” The filing says the building is “a hodgepodge of various architectural styles and construction materials, had been enlarged and modified over the years without regard to any architectural style or aesthetic considerations, was functionally obsolete and that its preservation would render petitioner’s plans cost-prohibitive and impractical.”
The petition also contends that the determination of historical status is “infirm and unlawful because the HPC failed to explain its reasoning, make any findings of fact or cite any evidence from the record to support its determination and, instead, simply parroted the language of the section of the town’s ordinance (that) its vote was purportedly based upon.”
O’Brien supported the argument with case law from 1977, where an appellate court in Kadish vs. Simpson said “The requirement of a clear statement of factual grounds for the denial of a permit is not met merely by restating the terms of the applicable statute. … It must make finds of fact essential to its conclusion.”
While HIPP members and town residents expressed fond memories of patronizing businesses that exist or existed at the location during the landmark designation public forum, those memories “are not evidence which justifies a historic landmark designation,” O’Brien wrote. “The century-plus history of the subject building alone does not satisfy the criterion relied upon by the HPC” and that “there is no probative evidence to support the HPC’s determination.”
690 Titus Avenue LLC is asking the court to annul and vacate the HPC determination of landmark status, restrain and enjoin the town from enforcing or implementing the landmark designation, plus costs of the proceeding and any other relief deemed proper.
That would also spare Reddish additional expenses on remedies for building repair following the Dec. 1 collapse of the parapet atop the former Cooper Deli building, the filing says. Because of the landmark status, Reddish said the emergency repairs he made in December were deemed to be a code violation and he has been summoned to appear in town court in April.
Titus Tavern has a lease until July. Cooper Deli was owned by Tracey Fitzpatrick, wife of Irondequoit Town Supervisor Rory Fitzpatrick, and closed last summer when the landlord (Reddish) didn’t renew the lease.
Other Jeremiah’s Taverns operate on Monroe Avenue in Rochester, Buffalo Road in Gates, Jefferson Road in Henrietta and Fairport Nine Mile Point Road in Penfield.
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