Ex-Eastman Dental Dispensary opens as senior housing
by: Meaghan M. McDermott
A century-old former dental clinic on East Main Street has a new lease on life as a housing complex for seniors.
Officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday for Eastman Gardens, a 52-unit apartment complex for people who are at least 55 years old.
The $20.7 million project in the city’s Marketview Heights neighborhood entails a complete rehabilitation of the long-vacant Eastman Dental Dispensary.
Jolie Milstein, president and CEO of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, said the project is one among numerous similar endeavors that make Rochester a model for how public/private partnerships can work to provide quality housing that serves to revitalize surrounding communities. The Eastman Gardens project leverages private investment with funds from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $1 billion House NY program, resources from the state’s Homes and Community Renewal program, the city of Rochester and the State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Milstein said Rochester is a leader in leveraging state and federal funds to strategically target neighborhoods in need. That’s a significant reason her organization is holding its 13th Annual Upstate Conference here. The event, at the Hyatt Regency on Thursday, is an informational session for affordable-housing experts in the public, private and nonprofit sectors across the state. Discussions will include fair housing, middle-income and mixed-use housing programs, low-income housing tax credit preservation and sustainability and design.
During Wednesday’s event, Nelson Leenhouts, chairman and CEO of Home Leasing — which owns and manages the finished building — said the project was a challenge. The building had been vacant for nearly four decades and had fallen into disrepair. But developers took great care to preserve or restore many features of the original building, including painted panels in what had been the children’s waiting area depicting fairy tale and folk tale characters.
The building was listed on the Landmark Society of Western NY’s Five to Revive list in 2013. According to the organization, it was designed by Rochester’s largest architectural firm in the 1920s, Gordon, Madden and Kalber, which was also responsible for the Eastman Theatre and School of Music, Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. headquarters, Reynolds Arcade and Rundel Memorial Library.
The dispensary was constructed by Eastman Kodak Co. founder George Eastman in 1917 and, according to the Landmark Society, was instrumental in improving dental hygiene not only in the United States, but also in Europe. It was the first school in the nation licensed to train dental hygienists, and at a time when dental care was largely nonexistent in the rest of the world, the dispensary promoted preventative and restorative treatments, educated dentists and developed dental equipment and materials.
The dispensary’s Italian Renaissance-style buildings inspired similar structures in Stockholm, London, Rome and Brussels.