ESL looks to become first tenant in Bull's Head redevelopment and fill a gap in banking services
ESL Federal Credit Union plans to build a new full-service branch near West Main and Genesee streets.
Doing so would make ESL the first tenant on the Bull's Head redevelopment site — a city-led project in discussion for decades.
Bull's Head is something of a western gateway to the city, located near St. Mary’s Medical Campus and the intersection of West Main, West Avenue, Brown and Genesee streets. Putting an ESL branch here also would reintroduce banking services in a quadrant of the city currently going without.
“All the other banks are gone,” said Dana Miller, the city’s commissioner of neighborhood and business development.
The once-thriving neighborhood and commercial corridor has seen decades of disinvestment. And the southwest part of Rochester, in particular, has struggled with maintaining banking services as those services increasingly migrated online. There used to be five bank branches in the southwest quadrant, including a Chase branch at Bull's Head that Miller said shut down because it didn’t cover costs.
But Miller and ESL are confident this venture will succeed. ESL has reason to be.
The Rochester-based institution had a branch on Merchants Street and its headquarters downtown when it committed to build three additional branches in the city. Bull's Head fulfills that promise. The other branches opened on Lake Avenue and, most recently, North Goodman.
On Lake Avenue, the company relocated an office from inside the Eastman Kodak Building on State Street and saw teller transactions double in the first year, said ESL spokesman Rich Pulvino.
“We always say it's our purpose to help the community thrive and prosper,” Pulvino said. “And we can't do that, if not everybody has that opportunity. So these investments in these neighborhoods are really all about us making that effort to expand that opportunity and expand that access.”
Miller has been working on the Bull's Head redevelopment for 25 years, starting as a neighborhood organizer in the 19th Ward. The city has spent years amassing several properties totaling 12 acres, and brought on a team of development firms in 2021 to begin mapping the future.
Plans are to present the team’s development proposal during a session scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, at Rochester Regional Health’s St. Mary’s Medical Campus, 89 Genesee St.
Miller said everything’s on the table: “What kinds of housing, what kind of retail, and what kind of business opportunities we would really like to see there.”
Why go ahead with ESL now? Because they were ready, Miller said.
“And we think that's important, because, quite honestly, the public has seen not a whole lot of movement other than things being torn down for the last, you know, 10 years,” he said.
City Council could vote later this month on a 20-year lease with ESL with optional renewals for nearly an acre at 835-855 W. Main St., what is today a section of the old Bull's Head Plaza parking lot. The retail plaza is slated to be demolished.
The lease amount starts at $55,000. The branch would employ eight people and include parking as well as drive-through teller and ATM lanes.