Possible new life for Rochester building that lost part of its façade

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — After sitting vacant for more than 20 years, there are plans to give a makeover to the Hotel Richford on the corner of Chestnut and Elm streets in downtown Rochester.

People have tried to do this before, but the new developers say this time will be different.

The developers are looking to turn it into an apartment building, with a floor of office spaces and a floor for retail shops.

The original Hotel Richford opened in 1915. It served as a hotel until 1961 and was then turned into an office building. But since it’s closure in the late 1990s, it has sat vacant.

“One of the problems is that it’s full of asbestos. Okay? So, pretty much anything that’s in the building currently that’s coming out from a demolition standpoint has to go into asbestos containers and removed off site. So it’s a difficult project to begin with and it’s been sat vacant because nobody really knew how to figure it out. Nobody put the time in or understood best path forward for the building with all of its existing conditions,” Developer Patrick Dutton said.

Now, the building is owned by Midtown Reborn LLC and is being developed by a company called Fortified. And they’re looking to turn it into a multi-use building.

“Highest and best use for the building is without a doubt in downtown Rochester. It’s its apartments, it’s residential. We have a housing shortage and most buildings that produce great new apartments lease up quickly,” Dutton said.

The plan for now is to have 80 apartments throughout the top eight floors, the second floor will be office space and the first will have retail shops.

But they aren’t able to start any of the $20 million project until the City deems it in good enough condition.

“We’ve tested core samples. They’re testing steel, they’re analyzing the building. And it’s going to take another couple of weeks to determine our next path forward. We think it’s going to be structurally sound, but we’ll wait and see here over the next couple of weeks and how,” Dutton said.

This is the same building where the siding was falling off about a year and a half ago.

That’s why there is a demolition hearing Thursday morning with the City of Rochester to work towards a decision on whether to renovate it or tear it down and move forward on this project.