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City threatens demolition of Chestnut Street building in Rochester

By: Kevin Oklobzija//August 28, 2023

65-67 Chestnut St., Rochester, N.Y. (Photo by Kevin Oklobzija)

City threatens demolition of Chestnut Street building in Rochester

By: Kevin Oklobzija//August 28, 2023

The city of Rochester is threatening demolition of a dilapidated former downtown hotel and office building at the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets if the owner doesn’t remedy code and safety violations.

The city sent a Notice of Hearing to building owner Midtown Reborn LLC on Friday saying the nine-story building at 65-67 Chestnut St. “is dangerous or unsafe and/or a public nuisance because it has been abandoned and the owner has failed to correct property code violations.”

Built as the Richford Hotel in 1915, the building has been vacant since 2011, has been in and out of tax foreclosure and, in the spring of 2022, prompted the closure of surrounding streets when the substitute façade began falling off in a windstorm.

The Notice of Hearing also was filed in state Supreme Court in Monroe County, part of a concerted effort by the city’s legal and Neighborhood & Business Development departments to eliminate dangerous, blighted and/or nuisance properties.

Since the beginning of May, the city has filed papers at least 51 times in Supreme Court regarding unsafe buildings. Most filings have been related to single-family properties or other abandoned structures on residential properties.

“We’re not looking to ruthlessly go through the city and destroy peoples’ property,” said Dana Miller, commissioner of Neighborhood & Business Development for the city. “But we have a problem in the city with these vacant properties being a burden on the community. We can’t allow them to exist over a period of time.”

Friday’s filings also included a Notice of Hearing to a building owner from Puerto Rico regarding a vacant warehouse/manufacturing facility at 27 Portland Ave.

Midtown Reborn LLC bought 65-67 Chestnut for $37,200 in October of 2015, according to the deed filed with the Monroe County Clerk’s office. There at one time was a proposal to rehabilitate the 90,000-square-foot building and create a hotel, but plans have yet to materialize.

The Chestnut Street property will be part of the city’s next monthly hearing on all properties cited for demolition, at 9 a.m. on Sept. 28 at City Hall. Should it be determined by a hearing officer that razing of the building is necessary, the city says the owner will be liable for all related expenses, including site restoration.

Public records show Judith Hain of Irondequoit as the registered agent for Midtown Reborn.

Miller said it is atypical for a demolition to be immediately ordered by the hearing officer. The property owner usually is given a few weeks “to identify what they’re going to do and when they can do it by.”

But if the deadline assigned at the hearing is not met, the city has authorization to proceed with demolition. It’s very much considered a last resort.

“We don’t want to demolish it,” he said. “That building is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to demolish.”

While the cost of any demolition is passed on to the property owner — first as a bill and then, if unpaid, added to the tax bill — having the building in the name of an LLC insulates the owner from personal liability.

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