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Developer makes plea for use of Sibley site

By: Mike Murphy//February 7, 2013

Developer makes plea for use of Sibley site

By: Mike Murphy//February 7, 2013//

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One of the first orders of business for developer Gilbert Winn was redoing a five-story staircase used by Monroe Community College students that was “in shambles.”

Renovating the 12-story Sibley Building will continue as the historic structure’s new owner attempts to create a new urban center consisting of not only commercial and retail space, but also housing — with or without the primary tenant, MCC — over 10 years.

Winn, managing principal of WinnCompanies, which bought the building last November, prefers that the college stay and is making a last-ditch attempt to keep the college’s Damon City campus in place and keep the renovations cheaper than the cost of moving.

Time may not be on his side.

The college’s board of trustees recommended a move to State Street in December 2011.

The full Monroe County Legislature could vote next week on a nearly $3 million plan to buy 562,000 square feet of parking and Eastman Kodak Co. office space there as part of a $72 million project for a new college campus.

The legislation, submitted Jan. 28 by County Executive Maggie Brooks, was OK’d in committees last week. The Legislature last December gave the OK to borrow $28 million for the project’s first phase, but for a non-site-specific plan.

MCC President Anne Kress, in an open letter dated Feb. 4, said the vote would end a 20-year search for a permanent downtown campus. The Kodak site offers the college the opportunity for expanded programming and growth, Kress said in the letter.

“For this vision to be realized and for our community to benefit, the reality is simple: Our current downtown campus is incompatible with our vision and the Kodak property presents the best opportunity to meet student needs, today and tomorrow in a fiscally responsible way,” the letter, available on the college’s website, reads.

An online petition has been started to keep MCC at the Sibley Building, and an open house is scheduled today to show off the historic building, which was built between 1906 and 1911 and housed the former Sibley department store. An office tower was built in 1924.

A redeveloped Sibley Building can check all the boxes for MCC’s current and future needs, and for $18 million less, Winn said.

In addition to modernizing the structure and meeting the college’s needs for improvements, extra space can be set aside for growth, said Winn, who today plans to give a detailed presentation on his plan. The open house is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The college also would own the campus space at Sibley, but Winn said taxpayers would be asked to finance unneeded vacant space at Kodak.

“If given the opportunity and things slow down a bit, people will realize we’re the best alternative,” Winn said.

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