Dollar Store Developer: "Not one preservationist stepped forward"

Dollar Store Developer: "Not one preservationist stepped forward"

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published March 20, 2013 and can be found here.

The former Westminster Presbyterian Church at 660 West Main Street could become a Dollar General store. [PHOTO:]

   On Monday I wrote     a post    about a Zoning Board public hearing coming up on Thursday (tomorrow). Marvin Maye, owner of an old church building on West Main Street will be challenging that building's status as a Designated Building of Historic Value. If the building is removed from that list of protected city properties, he plans to demolish the church and build a Dollar General store.

Craig Walker is a developer who has been working with Mr. Maye on this project. He tells us that while he would have liked to see the church converted into a jazz/blues club and dance hall, conversion of the church would be cost prohibitive. And while the building was on the market, "not one 'preservationist' stepped forward to advance any plan."

Here are Mr. Walker's comments in full, with a few follow-up questions afterwards...

The former Westminster Presbyterian Church at 660 West Main Street, and Stacie Colaprete's home at 644. [PHOTO:]

   Hi folks. My name is Craig Walker and I have had the chance to work with the developer on this project. While we are preparing for the     March 21st meeting    let me share with you some details that you may not be aware of. By now most of you know that this building has sat for years and when it came on the market not one "preservationist" stepped forward to advance any plan.

The building has been referred to as a designated building of historic value. The building as the City defines such buildings does not meet the threshold. The list that the city uses limits it to one category under "eligible for listing on the national registry of historic places". The building has since been removed from the list of eligibility. The State's reason for removal is that the building lacked qualifying characteristics.

In addition we provided a petition with over 500 names verses 200 plus who are opposed. The city insisted that we confer and give access to Edgemere Development, the same party who developed the Voters Block buildings and rehabbed the apts across the street. They declined to give an analysis as to what it would take to re-use the building for residential purposes.

[      Fact check:     It looks like there were two different petitions opposed to the demolition. The      first petition

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had less than 200 signatures and      another one

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by someone calling themselves Susan B. Anthony has more than 500. ]

The Landmark Society gave the Susan B. Anthony organization $5,000 to hire another engineering firm, Jensen engineering. They were also given access, made a brief report and told that organization that they would need to spend even more money to obtain the necessary kind of report and they gave the balance of the money back.

[      Fact check:     Landmark Society says they didn't give SBA $5000. They gave them $1500 because the engineers charged less than what they thought it would cost to determine if the building was structurally sound. The building was found to be structurally sound. There was nothing more to determine or report on. ]

What this tells you and what we have argued all along is this: its not that we would not like to do something great with this building. In fact my involvement with the building initially was to develop a jazz/blues venue with an additional component that would feature a ballroom dancing venue tied to PBS TV. The reason that did not happen or any of the other great ideas such as a theater (one group did contact us) or coffee shop or urban mall is this: you can't spend nearly $1.5 million or more and expect to pay lenders back. Even with 30% owners equity and another 20% grants and tax credits how much business do you have to do to pay back $1 million???????. Your talking $10-15,000 a month in mortgage payments not to mention things like taxes, utilities etc. Wanna pay $20 for a cup of coffee?

The next thing is serving the people who live there. The closest store for food is Tops over at West Ave. All the other stores in the area are crappy corner stores with beer and cigarettes as staples. If our tenant moves into our building there will zero tobacco or beer products and plenty groceries, sundries like house hold products, clothing, housewares etc. things this demographic now must travel to Gates to get to Walmart. This building will employ nearly 40 minority construction workers and about 20 store staffers, jobs much needed in the area.

In conclusion what we have here is people who are passionate about preservation with no money yet feel entitled to determine how people in this area will live according to their image. An urban environment is for all of us and not for those on high. See ya at the hearing.

Follow-up Questions

Stacie Colaprete's home at 644 could end up sandwiched between two commercial strip malls, putting it in jeopardy too. [PHOTO:]

   I followed up with Mr. Walker to ask him a few clarifying questions. Here are my questions and his responses...    Hello Craig. You say you have had the chance to work with the developer. In what capacity did you work with the developer? And I assume by developer you mean Mr. Marvin Maye (TW Jones Development)?

Craig Walker:    I am a small minority contractor and developer. My background is extensive from having been Assistant Project Manager on the Buffalo Bills Stadium project to managing a 7 story 34 unit high rise bldg in NYC. I returned back to the area about 2 years ago and am building my brand here, my home town. I met Marvin by knocking on his door one fine summer day, introduced myself and explained my concept for the bldg.

That concept was to turned the building into an entertainment venue based on jazz and blues. With its parking it would have been able to pull in national acts, draw in city and suburban customers. This would have been a 3 day a week venue. In addition given the craze of "Dancing with The Stars I thought of having perhaps a midweek event where big bands could play and even tie it into WXXI to tape as a TV program. Mr. said "hmmmm, interesting" he said and then showed me the door. Upon leaving I told him that if he as a Black Developer ever needs any help that I was at his disposal to assist in any capacity. Lets face, you can count all of the minority developers in this city on 3 fingers. I felt obligated to assist him if ever possible. About 2-3 months later he called me to help him navigate the mounting opposition. Please note that his enterprise is very small so when the call came, I jumped at the chance.

By the way, you may want to check out the new hat store in the Southwedge at Cypress and Mt. Hope. I designed and built that store. Marv and I have been working very hard on this project and expect it to be very successful. By the way Marv and I also work on various construction projects together.    I love your idea for a jazz club in there. It doesn't sound like Mr. Maye took the idea very seriously, which is too bad. I'm guessing he didn't consider the Theater group very seriously either then? Do you know why he bought the property if he knew it couldn't be fixed up?

Craig Walker:    First off, the jazz venue or any other type of venue would cost at least $600,000 to to bring the building into code compliance. He owns the plaza on then other side of 644 the brick house. The properties connect in the rear. He can now build a larger retail center. the theater group didnt have the money to be a tenant and when he put the building up for sale when all the ruckus started no one stepped up to purchase it from him.    That's interesting point [about the brick house next door] and one argument against the plan... The fact that there is a residential house at 644, and if a commercial strip mall goes up at 660, this home owner will see her property value drop and be forced to move. Has Mr. Maye given any consideration to this? Does he want to buy her house?

Craig Walker:    You should know that this is a BS argument. Mr. Maye has record by email of the owner seeking to sell way before he bought the building. Further more while we all may have sympathy for the owners plight can Mr. Maye be held to account for her buying a home in a commercial zone? This owner had the gall to tell city council that "Mr. Maye should have done his homework before he purchased the church". Funny how this does not apply to her.    Alright, thanks for the information Craig.

     Craig Walker:    Thank you.

Zoning Meeting Details:

WHAT: Zoning Board public meeting
   WHEN: Thursday, March 21, 2013. 11:30 AM
   WHERE: City Council Chambers, Room 302A
   City Hall,     30 Church Street

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NOTE: The Church is case #8. You will have to sit through cases #6 and #7 first.     See the full meeting agenda

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   If you absolutely cannot make the meeting, you can submit your comments ahead of time to:
   Zina Lagonegro
     [email protected]
   (585) 428-7054

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA