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Go inside Constellation Brands' new downtown HQ, and learn what surprise awaits with its marquee

Constellation Brands should begin moving into its new downtown headquarters on Tuesday, with the first in-office workday set for next week.

More than 300 employees will now be based out of the Aqueduct Building complex off Broad and State streets, overlooking the Genesee River.

That's down from the 400-plus that were promised three years ago. But their arrival is notable not just for the influx of people — adding to an estimated downtown workforce of 15,000 — but for the addition of a Fortune 500 company’s world headquarters in a downtown skyline once defined by giants like Kodak, Xerox and Bausch + Lomb, and today by Excellus BlueCross-Blue Shield and ESL Federal Credit Union.

Three people stand outside the front entrance to Constellation Brands' new multi-story brick building headquarters building in downtown Rochester mid-morning with the sun shining on the right side on a clear blue sky day and a flag pole out front.
Brian Sharp
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WXXI News
The entrance to Constellation Brands' headquarters building in downtown Rochester was created new, on the west side of the building adjacent to the Broad Street bridge and aqueduct.

Constellation is making its own mark.

Not just with a dazzling $50 million makeover that transformed the former home of Thomson Reuters, which moved out in 2019. But with a rooftop marquee that shimmers.

“Did you see the sign yet?” asked project architect David Crowe during a media tour of the new offices on Friday. “People are gonna say, 'Did you know that star shoots?'”

And it does. But more on that later.

The marquee is just one of many features infused into the new offices that reflect the brand and its beer, wine and spirits.

There are bubbles etched into glass plates affixed to the lobby’s brick walls. The boardroom ceiling is painted sparking gold, like the Modelo beer label. The conference rooms are built around a 3,000-bottle, walk-in circular wine cellar and tasting room, encased in glass. Breakroom areas are themed with tropical motifs in a nod to Corona’s “Find Your Beach” slogan.

And it’s all lit by thin pin-lights or star-shaped lights extended from the exposed ceilings that — seen from the outside at night — makes the building appear as if it is “stuffed full of stars,” Crowe said, “like a constellation.”

Constellation Brands' CFO Garth Hankinson motions with his hands extended, wearing a white dress shirt and blue blazer, on the rooftop patio of the company's downtown headquarters building overlooking downtown Rochester. Project architect Dave Crowe stands in the background with hands clasped.
Brian Sharp
/
WXXI News
Constellation Brands' CFO Garth Hankinson talks about the company's upcoming move-in on May 24, 2024, standing on the rooftop patio of the company's downtown headquarters building overlooking downtown Rochester. Project architect Dave Crowe stands in the background.

“It's a brand new building inside of a wonderful old historic shell,” Crowe explained. “It's almost like a more European approach to historic restoration where you don't try to fake it. The new stuff is new, you know? And the old stuff is old.”

The transformation is dramatic.

Crowe described what was here before: “Suspended ceilings and drywall and horrible doors. You couldn't see the walls. It was just tight, cramped, it had no air. It was awful. But we knew there was something behind it.”

The building was stripped down to its base. And every inch of the interior brick was sandblasted. And that rooftop patio and bar with 360-degree views of the city was added; all fully wired so staffers can work there as well.

“Isn't this fantastic?” asked company CFO Garth Hankinson, emerging from the elevator to atop the seven-story building. “I mean, this is this literally, it's got to be, the best location in the city of Rochester.”

The rooftop patio circles around to the marquee, with seating at the base of the structure.

Constellation Brands' marquee sign atop the downtown headquarters building is shown with seating around the base of the frame and the white letters and blue and white shooting star logo.
Brian Sharp
/
WXXI News
Constellation Brands' marquee sign is shown atop the company's downtown Rochester headquarters on May 24, 2024.

The marquee reads Constellation Brands alongside the company’s shooting star logo. And yes, the letters can change color. But that’s not the thing.

“Every 30 minutes, the tail (of the star) goes dark, briefly,” Crowe explained, “and then it shoots up in the star sparkles, just for one minute. And then you gotta wait another 29 minutes to see it again."

The design is in keeping with the vintage of the building. The inspiration was the landmark Silvercup sign in New York City, which has a thin framework of many small pieces, instead of large beams — so it is not obscured by large beams but almost appears to float.

Crowe’s favorite time is right before dusk. He describes it, standing at the base of the marquee.

“The sun sets right there,” he said, pointing to the west, “and the sky is this gorgeous orange with the blue sign is just spectacular...Those are the little surprises you didn't expect, and you just sort of roll around in it and drink it up. “

Windows behind the bar in the rooftop patio of Constellation Brands' new world headquarters in Rochester look out at the Times Square and First Federal building and the west side of downtown.
Brian Sharp
/
WXXI News
Windows behind the bar in the rooftop patio of Constellation Brands' new world headquarters in Rochester look out at the Times Square and First Federal building and the west side of downtown.

“The best time to be here is at sunset,” he repeated. “That's my opinion. But that means people work longer.”

And maybe some will.

“There's a lot of excitement around the move down around our employee population,” Hankinson said. “And we've seen when we ask people how many days a week that they're going to be in the office, the number of people who've increased their days, based on the move, has gone up substantially.”

Constellation allows staffers to work from home a couple days a week, so the full workforce won’t be in the office every day.

“We expect that there's going to be more than 50% of employees here three days a week,” Hankinson said. “And on any given day, all of the employees might be here. So there is the expectation that there will be a lot of folks coming downtown.

“We think it’s going to have a pretty positive impact on the area, on the city.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul is in Rochester to announce that Constellation Brands will move its headquarters from Victor to downtown Rochester.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.