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The city of Rochester looks to move Police Accountability Board into D&C building

D&C Building facade
Emily Hunt
/
WXXI News
The Democrat and Chronicle building on East Main Street.

The city of Rochester is negotiating with the parent company of the Democrat and Chronicle to sublease a portion of the news outlet’s building at the corner of East Main Street and South Clinton Avenue to house the new Police Accountability Board.

Details of the talks surfaced in legislation submitted to City Council that, if approved, would authorize the city to set aside funds sublease the first floor of the building from Gannett Media Corp. City Council is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city would acquire up to 19,000 square feet for up to two years at roughly $29,000 a month, although the legislation notes that the two sides have yet to settle on the size of the space, the lease payments, and the length of the lease.

“Nevertheless, the city and Gannett Media Corp. want to be able to execute the agreement as soon as they can agree upon those terms so that there is no unnecessary delay for the Police Accountability Board to set up its offices on the premises,” the legislation reads.

The deal would be financed by the board’s $5 million budget, according to the legislation.

Conor Dwyer Reynolds, the executive director of the Police Accountability Board, said Gannett wants the city to commit to renting space for more than two years.

“The hope is to be in sometime in March, but it’s kind of up to the lawyers,” Reynolds said.

The Democrat and Chronicle’s executive editor, Michael Kilian, referred questions about the deal on Thursday to Gannett’s corporate offices. A spokesperson has yet to respond.

The building, at 245 East Main St., is formally known as the Seneca Building and is owned by Gallina Development.

Gannett has been leasing about 42,000 square feet of space in the building since 2016, when it moved the Democrat and Chronicle’s operations there from its longtime offices on Exchange Boulevard, which once served as the headquarters for the entire company.

At the time, the newspaper’s president, Michael Kane, wrote in an editorial describing the move that the space’s “natural light and open architecture” gave “new meaning and modern convenience” to the services the news outlet provided.

“Like our consumers and the technologies you use, we’re changing and evolving fast in a digital world,” he wrote.

Two of the most visible signs of the news outlet’s drive to transform its image from a daily newspaper to a next-generation media company was a new logo, "D&C Digital," on the facade and a state-of-the-art video studio on the first floor fronting East Main Street.

Another prominent feature of the new space was an expansive conference room, dubbed the "First Amendment Room," that could be seen through a wall of tall glass windows ringing the corner of South Clinton Avenue.

The news outlet’s finance and marketing staff occupied the first floor, while the editorial department was housed on the second floor.

But the size of the staff shrunk annually as a result of layoffs and the building has been mostly vacant since the start of the pandemic, when the company ordered employees to work remotely.

Reynolds said the PAB is looking to occupy the entire first floor and use the space for public hearings, evidence and document storage, and work stations for its employees. He said the board hopes to eventually employ 50 people.

“Our original goal was a space that was city-owned, move-in ready, that would fit our needs, but there was no space like that,” Reynolds said.

“We looked at close to a dozen places, and this was the one that was move-in ready, that we could bring staff right into, and we could start getting to work as quickly as possible,” he added.

The plan to lease the building is not the first brush the PAB has had with the Democrat and Chronicle this week.

On Monday, the board announced that it had hired Will Cleveland, the newspaper’s public safety investigative reporter, as its deputy chief of accountability inspections.

Gino Fanelli covers City Hall for CITY and WXXI News. He came to CITY as a reporter in 2019 by way of the Rochester Business Journal, and formerly served as a watchdog reporter for Gannett in Maryland and a stringer for the Associated Press.
David Andreatta is the editor of CITY. He joined the WXXI family in 2019 after 11 years with the Democrat and Chronicle, where he was a news columnist and investigative reporter known for covering a range of topics, from the deadly serious to the cheeky.
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