ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Those who have lived in Rochester long enough remember Sibley Square as a place that used to bustle with business, retail, a Christmas monorail across the street and even a Wegmans. But with the decline of Rochester’s retail downtown, the center had a downfall over time.
With years of uncertainty, one company had a vision. That company, WinnCompanies, a multi-family housing operator, acquired the property in 2012 with Rochester businessman Gerry DiMarco, as the company’s local development partner. From there, the vision for affordable housing, and added vitality to the downtown area began.
Thursday morning marked the new life for the site, after the completion of the multi-million dollar project. It’s called Liberty Lofts, and has 104 workforce apartments that target a diverse-income range. The property also includes ‘Landmark at Sibley Square’, an apartment community for renters ages 55 and older.
Mayor Lovely Warren said the project started with a growing demand to live in the downtown area. She said many luxury lofts have dominated the area, making it less affordable.
“Our city has a growing Gen-z and Millennial population, and they all want to live in downtown Rochester but many don’t qualify for what we consider affordable housing, but they don’t make enough to live in our luxury lofts,” she said.
“Everyone talks about affordable housing,” said the Larry Curtis, President and Managing Partner of WinnCompanies. “Among developers maybe one out of 1,000 even give it an attempt, they talk about it, and write papers, but to do it, is really, really, really tough,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way since I toured building with the DiMarco family in 2012,” said Curtis. “Thousands of people had wonderful memories of the Sibley Building as a joyful centerpiece of downtown … few had a vision of what this building could be … so we listened to the city, to the state, and elected officials and collectively we came up with a plan to make Sibley Square a big part of Rochester’s future,” he said.
Lieut. Gov Kathy Hochul said the process wasn’t always hopeful.
“To have a building, the biggest building in the city be abandoned, taunted us. And now, the building inspires us – in just a five year period,” she said. “But for a company to come from the outside and see the possibilities, it really just injected enthusiasm.”
“I can remember coming to Sibley’s when I was a little girl for back to school and clothes and other occasions, but I also remember how it sat empty for many years,” said Warren.
The financing for Liberty Lofts was provided by Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from the New York Housing and Finance Agency (NYHFA), and purchased by the Bank of America.
Gov. Cuomo also made a comment on the development today, saying this redevelopment is an, “anchor for downtown Rochester’s renaissance, and mirrors neighborhood’s rebirth as well.
“By investing in affordable housing, we are strengthening families and our communities in Finger Lakes and beyond,” he said. Cuomo said the State’s investment in Liberty Lofts complements the Finger Lakes Forward initiative, a commitment to strengthen the Finger Lakes economic and community growth.