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Demolition hearing postponed as developers unveil plan for Chestnut Street building

By: Kevin Oklobzija//September 29, 2023

65-67 Chestnut St. (Photo by Kevin Oklobzija)

Demolition hearing postponed as developers unveil plan for Chestnut Street building

By: Kevin Oklobzija//September 29, 2023//

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The city of Rochester has given the owner of a neglected and decaying vacant downtown building two weeks to provide concrete redevelopment plans and show why a demolition hearing should not proceed.

Midtown Reborn LLC was to go before a city administrative judge on Thursday after Commissioner of Neighborhood & Business Development Dana Miller last month declared 65-67 Chestnut St. to be a public nuisance because of multiple code violations relating to safety.

(Rendering provided by FORTIFY)

But a representative for the property owner said not only will the code violations be corrected, but the building will also be refurbished to feature market rate and affordable apartments along with office and retail space.

Since the city said it prefers to work with property owners to find resolutions, a two-week continuance was granted.

Midtown Reborn LLC, a real estate holding company registered to Judith Hain of Irondequoit, has hired development and architecture firm FORTIFIED to commence with a $20 million rehabilitation of the 108-year-old building. The nine-story property opened in 1915 as the Hotel Richford and the developers intend to apply for historic tax credits.

FORTIFIED is a collaboration between developer Patrick Dutton and architect Mauro Cringoli. They envision 64 loft-style apartments along with 7,500 square feet of office space and 6,000 square feet of what it calls “neighborhood retail space.” There also would be a rooftop amenity space.

However, before redevelopment can begin, testing must determine structural integrity of the property. FORTIFIED representatives said.

If deemed sound, FORTIFIED will work with the State Historic Preservation Office on an appropriate architectural plan. If approved by the SHPO, developers will seek acceptance by the National Park Service, which oversees the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program.

In the meantime, the property owner and developers must prove to city officials that they have an immediate plan to remedy safety violations as well as financing for the project.

“The adjournment allows the city to review the current owner’s proposed rehabilitation plan, which it expects to receive within the next few business days, and engage its engineering, code enforcement, legal and other teams to confirm the feasibility of the proposal,” a city spokesperson said.

A defined timeline for abatement of current safety hazards will be required and the city “would reserve the right to progress with demolition proceedings if any deadlines are not met.”

The building created a significant safety hazard in the spring of 2022 when a substitute façade began to fall onto the street during a windstorm. In hindsight, the destruction from the forces of nature proved to be a blessing.

“It may have been the best thing that could have happened,” Dutton said in a news release. “It exposed a beautiful natural brick façade underneath, revealed several original window openings that were previously covered up, and it jump-started a thoughtful discussion with the State Historic Preservation Office regarding this historic building.”

Any agreement with the city will include reimbursement of tax dollars spent in response to the safety hazard created during the 2022 windstorm, City Hall said.

FORTIFIED is no stranger to re-creating downtown real estate. Dutton recently opened The Glenny, a mixed-use development on East Main Street in what had been the historic Glenny Building. Other projects by the firm include Hotel St. Andrews, Woodbury Lofts, Geva Lofts, the Edwards Building and Capron Street Lofts.

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