Syracuse developer Douglas Sutherland has been driving by the historic landmark building on South Washington Street for three years.
Sutherland noticed the vacant building looked a little worse for wear each time he visited. That was a shame for a building as beautiful and historically significant for the city of Rochester as the Bevier Memorial Building is, Sutherland said.
“It’s an interesting old building with a terrific story,” Sutherland said.
And Sutherland is trying to write a happy ending for the structure.
Franklin Properties LLC, of which Sutherland is managing partner, is seeking to redevelop the building, which was designed in 1904 by noted Rochester architect Claude Bragdon for the Rochester Athenaeum & Mechanics Institute, a precursor of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Bragdon also designed the city’s New York Central Railroad Station and First Universalist Church Building on Court Street, among other notable city structures.
The developer is seeking tax incentives from the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency, or COMIDA, to restore the exterior of the building at 48 S. Washington St. and convert the interior into a mixed-use development of 15 loft-style apartments on three floors.
The ground floor would be Class A office space, suitable for law offices or other type of business that fits in with the existing government and business offices in this section of the city, Sutherland said.
A public hearing is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.
The market is there for housing, particularly in renovated buildings such as this, Sutherland said.
“Young adults are showing more interest in living in downtowns and they seem to gravitate to historic buildings,” Sutherland said.
Franklin Properties has a history with rehabilitating historic buildings in Syracuse, Oswego and other areas. The Syracuse-based developer was supposed to be part of an effort to refurbish the historic Lincoln Alliance Building near Midtown, but a “last-minute glitch” stalled the plan, Sutherland said.
The Bevier building fits the developer’s work in other areas, he said.
“It just seemed to be right up our alley,” Sutherland said. “This is not a typical apartment. When you walk into this building, you feel different.”
The plan follows a trend evident since the turn of the century of people moving back into the city and of developers rehabilitating older structures for housing, said Heidi N. Zimmer-Meyer, president of Rochester Downtown Development Corp.
The project would represent the latest in a series of successful projects in the Cascade District, and it brings a successful out-of-town developer with a great track record to a “beautiful” building, Zimmer-Meyer said.
“This is a little jewel,” Zimmer-Meyer said. “The work they do is beautiful. We’re very lucky.”
The incentives are necessary, Sutherland said, in order to “level the playing field” for the project. He hopes work will begin in the next 90 to 120 days. Construction would take about a year to complete.
“We believe we have an attractive space,” Sutherland said. “It will be nice to restore this building and get the lights back on.”