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Old downtown building to get new look as city prepares to knock down another one

A new rendering for Gateway Apartments, currently Gateway Centre, shows the seven stories of glass panels removed and a new facade with an arching set of windows on the east side and square blocks of windows on the west.
Provided image
The latest rendering for Gateway Apartments shows a new facade developers say is inspired by the building's original design.

Plans are coming together for a series of projects that will transform a section of East Main Street in downtown Rochester.

But this isn’t the corner at North Clinton Avenue that's been getting all the attention. This is several doors away.

The one-story Metro Market will be taken down, making way for a new pedestrian plaza or commons.

The former Kresge (Family Dollar) building will be taken back — restored to how it looked a century ago.

And the mirrored-glass face of the Gateway building will be taken off.

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“We looked at the possibility of restoring the facade,” said Connor Kenney, regional director with developer SAA|EVI out of Buffalo. “Unfortunately, it’s in terrible condition. ... So that being the case, we elected to put a new facade onto the building.”

The former Metro Market, built as a McDonald's, is pictured on East Main Street in downtown Rochester with the Gateway building on the left and one-time Kresge (Family Dollar) building on the right.
Brian Sharp
Built as a McDonald's in the 1980s, the former Metro Market on East Main Street in downtown Rochester is to be torn down to make way for a pedestrian plaza. The Gateway building is shown on the left and the one-time Kresge building is on the right.

The building will be renovated into Gateway Apartments for low- and extremely low-income renters. And Kresge will become a yet-to-be-named hotel. Both are likely to have street-level restaurants, opening into the center commons area.

Together, the planned $80 million in combined investment mid-block between St. Paul Street and North Clinton Avenue should dramatically change the look and feel of an area plagued by vacancy and blight.

Work should begin early next year and continue well into 2027.

“We're taking tons of risk downtown. Tons,” said developer Patrick Dutton, whose team is tackling the Kresge building. "And it was difficult for us to take another risk when we don't know when the commons is actually going to get started and when it's going to be done.”

The city’s demolition of the one-story market (formerly McDonald’s) building comes first. That initially will provide a construction staging area for Gateway and Kresge on either side.

“Right after the staging area is done, we come in with the well driller, and we knock out all of our geothermal wells, boom, boom, boom,” Dutton said. “After our wells go in, then the niceness comes in. I mean, it's a complicated little bugger, but it's going to be great.”

A rendering shows a historic renovation of the former Kresge department store on East Main Street into a boutique 28-room hotel and restaurant.
FORTIFIED/Dutton Properties
A proposed $11.7 million historic renovation of the former Kresge department store building on East Main Street would convert the space into a 28-room boutique hotel adjacent a separately proposed Main Street Commons. Commercial tenants would focus on a restaurant, brewery/distillery space on the ground floor and rooftop bar/restaurant. Good Luck and Jackrabbit Club are partners in the proposal, records show.

The city was to begin work last fall or winter. But it took until last month to acquire the property from Dutton, who negotiated to retain the ground rights beneath the plaza for geothermal wells to heat and cool the hotel and his other nearby properties.

The city is providing Dutton a bridge loan to reduce his financial risk until work is complete. City Council this month will consider hiring T.Y. Linn for $200,000 to plan the demolition and to repair and stabilize the adjacent building walls.

That project, along with Kresge, were among the projects funded through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Gateway, meanwhile — by far the largest of the three projects, with costs estimated at $68 million — primarily will be financed through the New York State Housing Finance Agency using tax-exempt bonds.

The latest plan for Gateway shows 132 apartments. Planned amenities include a yoga studio, a theater room, computer labs, community space and more.

“We feel pretty strongly about having playgrounds at our family properties,” Kenney said. “Obviously, there's no outdoor space here. So we elected to get a little creative on the design side and figure out a way where we could incorporate area for the kids inside the building.”

Gateway Apartments also will be energy-efficient, with solar panels filling the rooftop.

The initial proposal was a $119 million, multi-building plan taking in half the block. Now it's a $62 million proposal focused on one building.

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.