One of downtown Rochester’s architectural gems has a storied past, a dismal present and perhaps a new future.
A Syracuse real estate developer plans to remake the long-vacant Bevier Memorial Building on South Washington Street into housing and office space. Apublic hearing is scheduled for Jan. 21 on a set of county tax breaks being sought by Franklin Bevier LLC toward the $3.85 million project.
The pedigree of the Bevier building is notable. It was designed by noted Rochester architect Claude Bragdon, whose portfolio also includes downtown’s First Universalist Church building. And it sits on the site of Rochester founder Nathaniel Rochester’s home. But the four-story building, built in 1910, has been vacant and decaying for at least a decade.
“We’d looked at it for several years, just driving by and noting it,” said Douglas Sutherland, one of the principals with Franklin Properties. “Intriguing building. Really handsome structure. Marvelous tile work. Good-sized windows.”
But, he added, “Each year it looked a little worse than the year before. It looked like the kind of thing we enjoy bringing it back to life.”
Downtowns across upstate New York have been a residential real estate success story in recent years.
In downtown Buffalo, historic building renovation projects proposed in recent months include the Miller’s Livery building on West Huron Street and the Knights of Columbus building on Delaware Street, while a 78-unit apartment complex, Buffalo River Lofts, was announced last year for Ohio Street.
And Syracuse’s downtown population, at about 3,000, is up nearly 50 percent over the past decade, according to the Downtown Committee of Syracuse.
More than 6,000 people live in downtown Rochester, and between 2000 and 2010 that population grew more than 11 percent at the same time the city’s overall population was declining, according to the Rochester Downtown Development Corp.
Downtown Rochester’s numbers continue to grow. Along with the Bevier project, the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency has before it the proposed $6.8 million renovation of 155 and 169 Saint Paul St. into 54 lofts and retail space.
Behind that proposed project are developers Larry Glazer and Robert Morgan — who last year received nearly $19 million in COMIDA tax breaks toward redeveloping downtown’s Midtown Tower into office and retail space and 181 apartments — and Dan Morgenstern, one of the principals at St. Paul Properties, which previously redeveloped 116 St. Paul.
Franklin Properties’ Sutherland said that while the office market in upstate is soft, “There are some residential opportunities … in particular spots.”
Plans for the 26,000-square-foot Bevier building are for 15 loft-style apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail space. Work is expected to start in June and take about 12 months, Sutherland said.
Last month, Rochester City Council approved canceling any past-due city taxes on the property owed by current owner Robert Conte and a loan of up to $750,000 to help cover redevelopment costs.
Demand for downtown housing is driven by young professionals and by empty nesters now downsizing. “Those two markets, the belief is, they’ll continue to grow for some time,” he said.