Redevelopment Projects Make Good Sense
Submitted by D. Saperstone
Recently, THE CABOT GROUP has become involved in the redevelopment and reuse of a center city property with significant historic and cultural value. The first development on the site, circa 1860s, was a church. Over the ensuing years, the church was demolished and became a prominent hotel. That use lasted until the mid-1960s. The hotel was subsequently razed and replaced by the country’s first enclosed shopping mall. As center city populations migrated to the suburbs, the indoor shopping mall no longer had a population to serve and eventually was abandoned. This landmark property stood vacant, as did its adjoining sister commercial buildings, for several decades. Forlorn and a constant reminder of what once was a vibrant downtown commercial corridor, the property seemed to beg passersby and city officials for a new life. And, as with so many endeavors in human lives, buildings appear to be victims of the old adage, “timing is everything.”
For two decades, the timing just wasn’t right for this building or site. Reuse projects were floated almost annually but nothing came to fruition. The obstacles to redevelopment of center city buildings (mostly environmental) were many and available, affordable financing options were pretty much non-existent. A perfect state of development paralysis was created whereby city officials and developers wanted to see the building and surrounding area redeveloped but neither party was able to put the vision, financing and overall development plan together to make it happen.
Sometimes, it takes a bit of luck, a forward thinking, energized local government, a committed developer willing to take on some risk and a true partnership with a shared vision to make redevelopment/reuse projects work. Such is the case with the historic Seneca Building in downtown Rochester. A year or so ago, the timing was finally right for the building’s rebirth. A well constructed public/private partnership was formed that truly worked to the advantage of all parties—including the local citizenry—to achieve a common good. In our opinion, the revitalization of center cities is critical to the vitality and overall long term health of a community. The redevelopment of long abandoned existing structures is not without its challenges, but the outcomes are often spectacular. The CABOT GROUP is delighted to be involved with this project and takes great pride in participating in what we believe will be just the first step toward the success of Midtown Rising.