Downsized 150-unit affordable housing project adds to East Main Street transformation plans

An evolving plan to convert the vacant Gateway building into housing is the latest in a series of projects to transform a beleaguered stretch of East Main Street.

Initially, the plan was to redevelop the Gateway, Atrium AND Granite buildings – a $119 million undertaking effectively taking over half the block between St Paul and North Clinton.

But developer SAA|ERI, which has a regional office in Buffalo, could not agree to acquire the other two buildings.

“So we had to refine our concept and limit the project to Gateway,” said Connor Kenney, regional manager of the development company, “which is not a bad thing, because it is a huge building, and it certainly has enormous transformative potential on this block.”

When the project went from three buildings to two buildings and then to one, the price dropped to $62 million. While the number of units has gone up and down, 150 are now on offer.

Rents would vary. But there would be certain income limits on all units. The average renter would earn around $34,000. The building itself would have a new look, a new facade. Plans for the remainder of the block include the demolition of the small building immediately east of the Gateway building, creating a pedestrian plaza.

This would make the planned commercial space on the first floor of the building more attractive.

“Maybe we’ll put a coffee in it,” Kenney said. “But right now we think we’d like to do a food court.”

More: Main & Clinton’s Plans Seek To Restore Horror To ‘Historic Glory’

It would be the company’s first project in Rochester. They are active in Buffalo and several states, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region.

“Developers who have been active in larger markets are starting to see a lot of the merits of markets like Buffalo and Rochester, and Syracuse and Albany,” Kenney said. “A lot of great things are happening in these cities.”

The company is expecting a few applications for state grants and other funding. Given that, they don’t expect to close and start construction until mid-2024.

The building once housed the local offices of Blue Cross Blue Shield, but has been vacant for years. The floors are large and open, officials said, which should make for a relatively easy conversion.

From the archives: Learn about proposals to revitalize downtown Rochester

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