Fire at Former Riverside Hotel ignites questions on “what’s next”

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A fire at the former Riverside Hotel has sparked questions about “what’s next” for the property. The hotel, on East Main Street has been vacant for about four years.

News10NBC’s Stephanie Duprey has been doing some digging and spoke to the city, along with a few organizations who try to attract business, and visitors to the flower city.

It’s a little complicated, but the city says it doesn’t have the authority to improve the property, because its privately owned. So, in the process of tracking down the owner, we spoke to Visit Rochester, and the Rochester Economic Development Corporation, (REDCO) and asked if the vacant hotel is affecting business.

News10NBC Reporter, Stephanie Duprey: “I’m sure you can speak to the fact that you can’t utilize it, which I’m sure is harping on some serious money that Rochester could be gaining right?

CEO of REDCO, Baye Muhammad: “Well ya, these projects take time, that is a very large hotel and it can be complicated especially if there are economics in a hotel.”

It’s no secret that the empty former Riverside Hotel is a missing money piece for Rochester. Muhammad says the building is massive, as is financial backing needed to improve it.

“A bank is not just going to give $100 million for you to do it, so there are many entities that have to come together. I’ve worked on some of these projects in the past, they can be complicated, economic times are hard right now, as your interest rates are going up,” Muhammad added.

The hotel is directly connected to the Convention Center by a skyway. We asked the Convention Center president to talk on the subject, but he declined. We also caught up with Visit Rochester. They say the unoccupied building hasn’t been a hindrance in its mission to bring business to the city.

“We would love to see a hotel in that space again, but for the time being, because it’s been closed, there is not an immediate impact on the tourism industry,” Visit Rochester Communications Director, Rachel Laber said.

We asked if it was difficult to attract business.

“Since the hotel closed, it’s been such a transformational time for the tourism industry and because of the pandemic, we were able to open and welcome visitors again without the hotel,” Laber added.

We’re still working on tracking down the owner and the developer.

We also reached out to the City’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development commissioner.