Rochester Riverside Hotel closing, what’s next for site remains a mystery

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Riverside Hotel will close in 2020; an announcement that didn’t surprise Rochester Chamber of Commerce CEO Robert Duffy.

“It’s not a surprise, certainly been involved in discussions where we knew that was coming,” Duffy said.

The prominent downtown location, with waterfront access along the Genesee River, was supposed to be the site for a new performing arts center development. A development which officials said would attract more than 360,000 people per year to downtown Rochester, with a 3,000-seat theatre, a hotel, retail options, apartments, and more.

However, since Tom Golisano pulled his $25 million from the project last year, those plans have seemingly stalled out. Duffy says he hasn’t heard of any updates regarding the proposed development.

“I’ve been around a long time with the performing arts center discussions. I have not heard — it’s always out there,” Duffy said. “I have not heard any more. I certainly heard quite a bit in the past about a Parcel 5 site. That stopped and dissipated and I have not heard anymore.”

Duffy did say he did support the development of a performing arts center in Rochester, but added “you have to pick your priorities.”

Arnie Rothschild, Chairman and acting CEO for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League (RBTL) has been a vocal advocate for the development of a performing arts center in downtown Rochester for years. He released a short statement Wednesday regarding the announcement of the hotel closure.

“We will continue to watch the progress on the site,” Rothschild said.

The Riverside hotel on Main Street is located in the same stretch of property that was included in the ROC The Riverway project, which included $50 million in state funding to renovate and upgrade areas along the Genesee River in downtown Rochester.

“I’ve been involved with the ROC the Riverway, and that’s part of the whole ROC the Riverway process down there, so whatever the outcome will be, it gives an opportunity for some major changes downtown,” Duffy said.

Duffy said he didn’t know exactly how much money was earmarked for this specific location, but added that most of the ROC the Riverway funding was for outside renovations like walkways and bridge upgrades.

“Enhancing the areas around the river, pathways and what have you,” Duffy said. “That project, there wasn’t a discussion of razing the hotel, but the hotel area there was in play, it’s a beautiful spot.”

Should the building be demolished or renovated? Duffy says the building isn’t in great shape.

“If you look back at the history of the building, I actually worked there between college and my first career one summer, and I don’t think it would be considered the best built building in Rochester,” Duffy said. “There’s a lot of issues, the elevators didn’t work for some time, a lot of issues. You get to a point where so much work has to be done inside, sometimes it’s better to just close and make a different decision for the building.”

When asked what he envisioned for the site, Duffy said the decision wasn’t up to him, but mentioned some possibilities that could benefit the city.

“You have the convention center across the street, which is a huge asset to Rochester,” Duffy said. “There could be a theatre, a hotel, condos, restaurants. I think dining along the river on a ground level is a great attraction point. Whatever you build, build something that will add value and attraction downtown.”

City of Rochester officials sent out a brief statement regarding the hotel’s announcement that they would cease operations:

“We are aware of the Rochester Riverside Hotel’s decision regarding operations in 2020. Mayor Warren is working with business leaders and government partners to revitalize this important location at the intersection of our Main Street and the Genesee River. We are hopeful that together we can make the future of this site greater than its past.”

Duffy maintains that the hotel closing is an opportunity for growth rather than a sign of decline.

“When one door closes, another one opens up, so I see this as a great opportunity for downtown Rochester,” Duffy said.

A day after the announcement Mayor told News 8 she is not sure what’s going to happen next. But she says a preforming arts center will benefit the people of the Rochester.

“I still believe that Rochester needs a performing arts center but that’s just me,” said Warren. “But you all know when Hamilton was here that it sold out every night. Every restaurant, every hotel you had people from all over came in. It is a driver of economic growth its a driver of jobs. “

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