Cobbs Hill Village reconstruction plan draws criticism, support

April 04, 2017 12:46 AM

Activists and tenants spoke out for and against plans for Rochester’s Cobbs Hill Village senior citizens apartments as developers planned to tear the complex down and rebuild it.

“Everyone we talk to they say ‘this is not necessary,’" exclaimed Lee Segenbush, a Cobbs Hill Village tenant and president of the tenants’ association. “So, we're looking at it and were saying ‘these are in fine shape.’ You can build new apartments any place. Build them some other place and leave these.  Then we'll even have more senior housing."

Originally built in the 1950s, the complex consists of 60 one-story apartments for seniors on land that is technically part of Cobbs Hill Park and leased from the City of Rochester. In a community meeting Monday night at New Life Presbyterian Church, Rochester Management Inc, unveiled plans to demolish the buildings and replace them with 98 units in five two and three-story buildings made up of apartments and townhouses.

Current tenants of the complex would be allowed to relocate into new units as they are completed and the old buildings torn down. Rochester Management insisted those tenants’ rents would not go up, even as they moved into larger, better equipped homes.

While 70 of the new units would be reserved for low income housing, rents for future tenants would rise. Rochester Management predicted an increase from an average of $414 a month now to between $657 a month for studio apartments and $1000 a month for townhouses.

“All current residents are protected,” said Rochester Management President and CEO Peggy Hill. “They'll pay the same rent for as long as they live there, including utilities, but even after that, we are certain that our rents are well within affordability here. We had a market study done and we are below pretty much all of our competitors.”

“Love it. Can't wait,” declared tenant Pat Sanders.  “It's going to be bigger. It's going to be safer. Health wise it's going to be awesome." Sanders said she couldn’t understand why some people who made their home in Cobbs Hill Village would oppose the reconstruction project. “I don't know why they don't want a better place to live," she said with a laugh.  “I think it's just because they don't, they don't want to change. I think that's the big thing."

Critics of the project, including the Upper Monroe Neighborhood Association, the ABC Streets Neighborhood Association, The Highland Heights Neighborhood Association, Friends of Washington Grove and the Sierra Club have come together into a group calling itself the Coalition for Cobbs Hill Park. Advocates say, even if current tenants’ would not see their rents rise, allowing rents to creep up as those residents move out or die would eventually reduce the amount of the cheapest housing available for Rochester senior citizens.

Area groups also complained that the addition of large new buildings on the property would deface Cobbs Hill Park, in which the current one-story buildings fit unobtrusively.  Rochester Management drew intense criticism over the summer with its original plan for the site which called for apartment buildings four stories tall, a plan that was substantially revised after it was released.

“Putting four story apartments there would totally change the landscape, the looks of it, the vista," said Peter Debes, with the Sierra Club and the Coalition for Cobbs Hill Park.

"I care about the inside because I'm a resident,” retorted Sanders.  “I care about the inside and it's going to be awesome."

A representative for Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the city would not comment on any plans for site until a final plan was submitted.

Hill predicted a plan could be ready to go to the city later in the month of April.

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Charles Molineaux

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