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Rochester finds buyers for 4 center city garages

East End Garage - City of Rochester, Main St.
City of Rochester
East End Garage - City of Rochester, Main St.

The city of Rochester is poised to sell off four major garages it owns in the city center, most of which are slated for sale to go to out-of-town investors.

This month, the Rochester City Council will vote on whether to approve selling the Court Street, Mortimer Street, East End, and Washington Square garages, at a total cost of nearly $16 million.

The city tentatively plans to sell the Court Street and Washington Square garages to Boston-based LAZ Parking Realty Investors, LLC, for $5.6 million and $2.2 million, respectively, plus an additional $1 million sum negotiated as part of the deal.

Cox Rochester, LLC, a firm based in the Syracuse suburb of Clay, is slated to buy the Mortimer Street garage for $2.5 million. The plan is to sell the East End Garage to the University of Rochester for $4.4 million.

The three companies responded to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the city last year. Parking fees are to remain the same through June 2025 as a condition of each garage’s sale.

LAZ is a nationwide firm which bills itself as the second largest garage landlord in the country. It owns some 17 garages scattered across the country, including properties in Seattle, San Antonio, and San Francisco. The company estimates the value of its portfolio at about $3 billion.

Cox Rochester is headed by developer Derek Persse, and currently owns the Cox Building on St. Paul Street. The Mortimer Street Garage is adjacent to the Cox Building, and the purchase of the garage is expected to coincide with a $30 million rehab project the developer plans to undertake on the Cox Building.

Deputy Mayor Patrick Cunningham said the buyers were thoroughly vetted prior to approval by the city administration to ensure they follow good business practices. He said after June 2025, the city will have no real say in how the garages are operated.

“There’s no contingency saying the sale is invalid if they don’t live up to standards,” Cunningham said during a Council committee hearing Wednesday. “We have ways to put pressure on entities to live up to standards, and I’ll tell you, we did significant background checks on these companies.”

In total, the city is selling half of the garages it currently owns and manages. In the RFP documents, the city specified that the sales are meant to increase revenue to the city and broaden the city tax base. According to the city, the garages are expected to remain open for use by the public and local businesses. A public hearing on the sales is scheduled for Thursday, July 13 at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

The bill to sell the garages will go to vote on Tuesday, July 18.

Gino Fanelli covers City Hall. He joined the staff 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.