ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The owner of the vacant Otis St. warehouse that went up in flames Monday night owed the city of Rochester a hefty sum for two properties within city limits, records show.

301 Otis St.

301 Otis St. is a roughly 52,500 sqft commercial lot built in 1950. It’s changed hands a few times, with the most recent owner, Steven Coffey, letting it sit vacant for years. City records show that Coffey hasn’t paid taxes on the warehouse since 2016 — he currently owes about $199,000 in taxes alone.

The warehouse parking lot in 2007, three years after Coffey purchased the property. (Courtesy City of Rochester)

The location also had 15 outstanding code violations, none of which have been resolved. City representatives said this includes fire alarms and sprinklers that didn’t work. The pending fines for these issues total $11,800.

Records show the city has been doing minor work on the warehouse, visiting three times over the past two years to clean up trash and debris (for which the unpaid fines total almost $15,000).

On February 22, 2023, the city boarded up the building, covering windows and entrances (and charging Coffey another $100). But this has not stopped “squatters” who have repeatedly stayed in the warehouse, firefighters told News 8 last night.

Despite the tens of thousands owed, 301 Otis St. was listed for sale in 2018 on by either an owner or broker, company representatives confirmed Tuesday.

Chester St. Residence

Coffey also owns a single-family home on Chester St. in Rochester’s Dutchtown neighborhood, purchased in 1997. While city records say that this property is not vacant, he owes the city about $5,100 in taxes. On the county level, Coffey owes an additional $1,100.

He first stopped paying the city in 2016, but started back up again in 2020 under an installment plan. City records show that Coffey has not kept up with the last four installments.

This home has 4 outstanding code violations.

The most recent recorded use for the vacant warehouse was storing wooden pallets, Rochester Fire Department Chief David Abdoch said. RFD representatives have not yet confirmed the cause of Monday night’s five-alarm fire.

For photos and videos of the blaze and first responders on scene, click here.

Tuesday afternoon, the city released the following statement on the fire:

The City of Rochester is working closely with the residents impacted by last night’s five-alarm fire at 301 Otis St. Approximately 16 homes were affected by the heat, smoke and water, and power service was severed. The City will continue to coordinate emergency shelter for those who need it – including their pets – until utilities are restored. In addition, City human services team members are working in the area to ensure residents get necessary additional support.

The building at 301 Otis St. was a one-story, 52,527-square-foot warehouse that was officially vacant at the time of the fire. The warehouse had 15 outstanding code violations, including for inoperable fire alarm and sprinkler systems and a collapsed portion of roof, as well as a deteriorated parking lot and fencing. At this time, it does not appear that any code violations were the cause of the fire. The building collapsed during the fire, and the remaining walls were demolished for safety. The fire remains under investigation by the City’s Arson Task Force.