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Midtown falling

Rochester Mayor Robert J. Duffy (inside excavator) delivers the first blow to Midtown Plaza’s south wall, facing Broad Street, during a ceremony Monday marking the beginning of the building’s demolition. Vasiliy Baziuk

The demolition phase of the Midtown Rochester Rising project kicked off Monday morning with a press conference and ceremonial first blow, attended by several state and local politicians and development officials.

After addressing those in attendance, Mayor Robert J. Duffy himself lowered an excavator boom onto the south wall of the Midtown Mall on Broad Street.

“The demolition that is about to take place will open the door to a new future that fits the opportunities for today’s downtown,” Duffy said in a statement. “In its day, Midtown defined Rochester. That day has come and gone. Now the Midtown Rising Project will define our Center City.”

“For the past several years, all of the Midtown project partners have been working towards this day,” Empire State Development Chairman and CEO Dennis Mullen said. “While progress has always been occurring, this is when we will finally start to see tangible evidence of that progress and hard work. Today, we will begin to see downtown Rochester’s future unfold before us, which is an exciting time for us all.”

Empire State Development signed an agreement with the city in October 2007 to redevelop Midtown Plaza. Since that time, an environmental impact statement, master planning and structural engineering studies have been completed; Midtown tenants were relocated; Midtown properties were acquired; advisory and stakeholder committees were created and remediation and abatement processes have been completed.

The Midtown Mall Atrium and B. Forman Building areas are included in the first phase of demolition, slated to be completed in April. The Sibley’s skyway pedestrian bridge was demolished last week. The Xerox skyway bridge is scheduled for demolition next week, and the Chase skyway bridge is scheduled for late October or early November. The entire demolition of the former Midtown Plaza site is expected to be complete by December 2011.

Later Monday, Assemblyman David Gantt; Brian Lawlor, commissioner and CEO of the recently integrated New York State Homes and Community Renewal agency; Carol Wheeler, Rochester manager of Housing;  and Jean Lowe, Greater Rochester Housing Partnership executive director, joined Paterson and Duffy to unveil a $495,000 Sustainable Neighborhoods Demonstration Program award to revitalize the 100 block of Weld Street, center of the city’s Marketveiw Heights neighborhood.

Known as a “Focused Investment Strategy area,” the neighborhood is eligible for program resources to turn vacant and abandoned buildings, blight and otherise distressed properties into affordable homes for owners and renters.