LOFTY DREAM WITH DOWNTOWN REHAB
By THOMAS ADAMS
Rochester Business Journal
March 2, 2012
The last of 19 condominiums at 1 Capron Street-all of which are spoken
for-will be ready for occupancy in June, with the recently opened Nikko
restaurant on the first floor expected to be profitable in its first
year, owners said this week. The completion of the final six units of
the Capron Street Lofts marks the culmination of a five-year
redevelopment of a warehouse built to store goods that were shipped
along the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. Ten of the 19 condos,
ranging in price from $159,000 to $339,000, were sold in the last 12
"The most interesting thing about all of this is that we
had to sell through a lot of objections from the buying public,"
developer Patrick Duffon said this week. The five-story building faces
the South Avenue on-ramp to I-490 and is surrounded by barren side
streets. Duffon describes the view as "a beat-up streetscape, an
unfinished building with no curb appeal whatsoever, no trees in sight,
no updated street lighting." "There's nothing, really, from an exterior
standpoint," he said. "We had to sell through all of that stuff. We
didn't have any type of completely finished model units for our buyers
to look at, and still we were able to sell units."
view, however, includes the river, the Frederick Douglass-Susan B.
Anthony Memorial Bridge and several landmark downtown structures.
Stephen Golding, manager of downtown development and neighborhood and
business development for the city of Rochester, is pleased with the
Capron Street development. "It's a beautiful space," he said. "We're
really happy with it. If you walk around that area, it reminds you of
what's left of the old part of the city, with the buildings right up to
the narrow streets. It has a lot of potential to grow into a nice little
neighborhood. "Longer term, the city would like to see more mixed use of
the buildings down there, maybe more conversion of some of the older
buildings to commercial retail and residential."
Street Lofts, a $5.2 million project, began with the purchase of the
vacant 40,000-square-foot warehouse by Belmont Properties Inc. in 2006
for $600,000. The upper four floors are roughly 7,000 square feet
apiece, with four condos on the fifth floor and five on each of the
three floors beneath it. Construction began in August 2008. Two months
later the economy went into an extensive tailspin.
"We had our
construction financing and were ready to build," Duffon recalled.
"However, as a result of the recession, there wasn't a bank in the land
that was willing to provide a mortgage for new condominiums. "While we
were ready to go, and our buyers had interest, people just couldn't get
financed for new construction condominiums."
considered marketing the units as apartments because of the mortgage
issues, Duffon said. The economic crisis eventually eased enough to free
up mortgage financing. "The real tipping point came when we had some of
our earlier loft units fully finished and being lived in," Duffon said.
"People could look at what was going to become here, and sales just
dominoed. That was about seven months ago. People saw the finished
product and loved what they saw."
Duffon and his wife have
purchased a condo and plan to move in this year. "I've always been
planning to move in, if the timing was right," said Duffon, a city
resident. "To put my stamp on this project by also taking ownership here
speaks for my belief in the product. "I'm going to be living with all
the owners that bought from us. A lot of developers have discouraged me
because people come to you with complaints, if there are any complaints.
But I'm confident that what we're doing is right from a development
standpoint and from a building standards standpoint."
ownership group comes from the suburbs and from the city, Duffon said.
They include empty nesters, young professionals and families. "We were
able to achieve all of our sales prior to the streetscapes being fully
finished," Duffon said. "I think that's a testament to the interest in
downtown Rochester-from a living standpoint, the interest in
owner-occupied housing downtown and the interest in this neighborhood.
"It was a leap of faith by all 20 of our buyers, including Nikko."
Nikko opened in December and held a February grand opening. Mark
Chiarenza, co-owner of Murphy's Law pub on East Avenue, is Nikko's
managing partner. Marco Muoio is general manager. Nikko offers New
American and sushi cuisines. New American cuisine, developed in the
1980s, is a twist on traditional dishes. "It is classically rooted
techniques flavored with modern technology to create a new twist," Muoio
Executive chef Jeremy Nucelli prepares offerings such as
char-grilled Spanish octopus, sake-steamed littleneck clams,
slow-roasted pork belly and the Nikko burger. Sushi chef Ching Imperial
Bolima, who came to Rochester from Miami, prepares sushi rolls, sashimi
and nigiri. "We're taking almost a Mediterranean approach to the sauteed
foods," Muoio said. "We've used that as a cornerstone for building the
menu." The restaurant seats 65, the bar, 13.
"We couldn't be more
pleased with the results," Muoio said. "The special thing has been
people's reactions to what we're doing. We wanted to create something
different for Rochesterians, something that you'd find in a larger
market." Most of the business comes from people who live or work
downtown, he said, "but as the weeks go by, we've been pulling from the
suburbs too. "Everybody that comes through here is enamored with the
space itself and the fact that we saw the potential to do a project in
kind of a tucked-away space. It's all part of the revitalization of
downtown." "The restaurant is currently profitable, after three months
in business," Duffon said. "We haven't done any advertising. At this
point, it's word of mouth that is carrying the brand around town."
In addition to Nikko and the Capron lofts, the Washington Square
District is benefiting from the $2 million renovation of a four-story
warehouse at 250 South Ave. into apartments and commercial space. Opened
in October 2008, it was the first residential development in the
neighborhood. All three of its apartments are rented.
others involved in Washington Square activities are awaiting word on a
study commissioned by the city of Rochester that could result in St.
Paul Street and South Avenue to the west and N. Clinton and S. Clinton
avenues to the east becoming two-way streets.
"If this part of
South Avenue becomes two-way, there really isn't a need for this (I-490)
on-ramp," Duffon said. "The folks around here are talking about doing
some type of decorated, elevated park. "We've already had a site plan
put together for something like this. For homeowners and people who have
dogs, it's a great place to potentially come." Two-way streets would
allow north-bound traffic from the South Wedge to reach Capron Street,
Residents, businesses and organizations are working
together to form the Washington Square Neighborhood Association. They
include Geva Theatre Center, St. Mary's Church, Excellus BlueCross
BlueShield and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Duffon said. "Now that this project
is finishing up, I think you'll see confidence in this part of
downtown," he said. "We're talking about owners, people who are
committed to living here. This is their home long-term."