There is a gaping hole in the roof. The wood-slat floors buckle in waves. And much of the East Main Street building’s facade is concealed behind sheets of rusted, corrugated metal.
To passersby, this remnant of a downtown lost is unremarkable — likely noticed only because its narrow, six-story brick profile is taller than the buildings alongside.
Once destined for demolition, the Glenny Building is the next big renovation underway in the center city. Project costs for the mixed-use redevelopment last were estimated at upwards of $8 million, also including the property next door. Work should be completed by summer 2020.
“It’s going to be dynamite,” said developer Patrick Dutton.
More than $160 million has been invested along the East Main Street corridor from the river to East Avenue. The list includes city streetscape improvements, the Hyatt Regency Rochester, Hilton Garden Inn, Sibley Square and 245 E. Main, housing the D&C. Add in the Dutton project, development plans of CGI Communications’ Bob Bartosiewicz to the west, the completion of 200 E. Main to the east, and work underway at the Lincoln Alliance building across the street, or still to do at Sibley down the block, and the total far surpasses $300 million.
A newly announced performing arts center, hotel and apartments proposed to replace the Rochester Riverside Hotel, would add $250 to the redevelopment total. And then there is the question of whatever is to become of Parcel 5 at Midtown.
“We have so much going on in downtown Rochester,” Mayor Lovely Warren said, announcing the proposed Golisano Entertainment Complex at Riverside Place last month. “This will be the completion of this corridor.”
‘This is the epicenter’
The Dutton project promises at least 24 loft apartments with monthly rents between $700 and $1,350, a rooftop deck, plus office, a possible restaurant or microbrewery, and retail space.
“This is the block where retail can survive,” Dutton said, noting the foot and vehicle traffic, the proximity to hotels and the convention center. “If there is any chance for it to come back (downtown), this is the block; this is the epicenter.”
The area around Main and Clinton used to be the center of the regional retail universe. Today, downtown has multiple “centers of gravity” when it comes to what Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, president of Rochester Downtown Development Corp., refers to as “street-level activity corridors.” Others include Upper East Avenue, and the proposed Strong Museum of Play expansion and mixed-use development on the Inner Loop.
“I would put the word retail in quotes,” Zimmer-Meyer said, “because I think what we are really talking about is what kinds of businesses or uses create street-level vitality.”
Rather than a dress shop, or other traditional retail (which is increasingly moving online) urban areas are about non-conventional, unique draws, like makerspace, video-game testing, or an art gallery. Down the block, Bartosiewicz opened a muscle car museum.
‘The building keeps its story’
From the windows that are not covered, the building offers views of Sibley Square beyond the rooftops, or its own reflection from Gateway Center to the west.
Built as a department store in 1885, the Glenny Building takes its name from its original tenant, Glenny, Sons & Co. of Buffalo. The 190 E. Main St. property has survived a devastating fire that leveled much of the block in 1904, and avoided the wrecking ball when the Renaissance Square project collapsed in 2009. That latter effort — involving one of several proposed sites for a downtown performing arts center — left the block between St. Paul Street and North Clinton Avenue in limbo and increasing decay, blighted, vacant and awaiting demolition then seemingly beyond repair.
Turning the block around has been years in the making.
The prior owner lost the building to tax foreclosure. Dutton, his uncle Gary and cousin Luke Dutton, bought it for $110,000 in 2013, records show.
Key to the redevelopment effort was creating a historic district, making the properties eligible for historic tax credits — expected to provide $2.5 million in funding for the Dutton project. New York state has kicked in $1.5 million.
Vacant for much of the past 15 years, the property is deceptively large, totaling more than 30,000 square feet, and stretching the full block from East Main in the front to Division Street in the back. A rear elevator shaft has collapsed. And while the nesting pigeons have been cleared, an occasional visitor still flies in through broken windows.
“Certain buildings have a certain charm or feeling that you can’t replicate,” Dutton said.
Work now is all interior and structural, building supports to repair or replace columns and rafters. That has to be done first, to ensure the roof is supported when repaired, Gary Dutton said.
Developers, meanwhile are working to keep or replicate as many of the historical elements as possible, including an old, somewhat ornate passenger elevator that remains largely intact. One of the biggest challenges will be the 10 foot-by-10 foot wood-frame windows on the front. There are also smaller questions, like whether a faded and tattered recruitment poster for a World War II-era Cadet Nurse Corps found on the wall of one of the upper floors is worth saving.
“You are constantly thinking, ‘Do you keep that?” Luke Dutton said. “If you do, the building just keeps its story.” — DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE