When you hear "Sibley's", what comes to mind? Perhaps you remember stories of your grandmother popping into the Tea Room after a long day of shopping to enjoy some cucumber sandwiches. Or maybe you think back to the elaborate Christmas displays as you hustled past on your way to work. Or, it’s possible that nothing comes to mind at all, in which case, you’re much, much too young…
Established in 1868, Sibley, Lindsay & Curr was once an iconic Rochester-based company with the largest department store between New York City and Chicago. Their flagship store was originally located in the Granite Building until a devastating fire in 1904. The company then rebuilt itself at the northeast corner of East Main Street and Clinton Avenue in the building that came to be known as the Sibley Building. After incredible success, Sibley’s sold their company to May Department Stores in 1986 and the Sibley Building closed its doors to retail. As many of you know, Wilmorite’s acquisition of the building in the late 1980's resulted in a vacant building idly collecting dust while property tax bills went unpaid. Eventually, Monroe Community College chose to establish their Damon City Campus in the Sibley Building in 1991 and continued to operate there until just recently, when they relocated to a building across from Kodak Tower.
So what's next?
The Sibley building, now referred to as Sibley Square, was acquired by WinnDevelopment five years ago for just $5M with hopes of restoring the landmark to its former glory. Before diving into any detail, you should know that Winn has already spent upwards of $100 million on this renovation, with no intention of letting up. Their plans for the building are to re-establish it as a mixed-use centerpiece for downtown. Unlike so much of downtown revitalization, Winn has remained true to their reputation and are sparing no cost or expense in making their lofty pronouncements a reality. Ken Greene, whose company, Greene RE Solutions was just assigned as the Asset Manager for the 1.1M sq ft property, was kind enough to walk us through the plans! Ken is in the process of collaborating with the broker community and a full 6% commission is available for office and commercial space!
So what does Winn plan on doing?
In addition to mechanical and structural renovations (roof, floors, elevators, HVAC, windows, etc.), much of the revitalization of Sibley Square will focus on how to transform this incredibly large property into a place that serves the community. To do so, Sibley Square will become home to a combination of business, retail, and residential space.
- Residential - Spectra at Sibley Square will soon become one of Rochester's most beautiful luxury apartments. Floors 9-12 feature over 104 apartment units, and let me tell you... they are spectacular. No expense was spared, no detail unnoticed, and the finishes are top-of-the-line. Floor to ceiling windows allow for panoramic views of the city. There's a 24-hour fitness center, a rooftop deck, media theater, onsite daycare, attached parking garage, and even an indoor pet playground. Yes, you read that correctly. A place where your furry friend can play or even get walked by a staff member. The apartments will be officially complete by year's end and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, they may be the nicest apartments to rent in downtown Rochester... In addition, there will also be 72 affordable apartment units for the 55+ community complete by year's end.
- Business - The 6th floor of Sibley Square will be home to High Tech Rochester, a nonprofit organization that acts as an incubator for innovation-based development and entrepreneurship. This is where local scientists, entrepreneurs, and high-tech businesses will be able to rent office space. This floor includes what used to be the Tea Room, so Winn has made sure to carefully preserve all of the incredible historic details that helped make Sibley's so iconic (including the egg-and-dart molding pictured below!). To give you some reference, Winn spent $100,000 just to restore the ceiling! Renters on this floor will also have access to their own rooftop garden which includes a rare glimpse of the back of the Clock Tower!
- Retail - Once a booming retail-driven institution of Rochester's downtown, Winn hopes to re-establish Sibley Square as a desirable epicenter for shopping and dining. With over 50,000 surrounding residents with a median income of $67,000 and an average work commute of under a half-mile from the building, there certainly appears to be a demanding demographic. Ken described plans to welcome various local restaurants and regional markets for an indoor public-market-type feel. Trendy boutiques, local eateries/bistros and art galleries are the goal for this section of the project.
In short, my team and I were incredibly fortunate to catch a glimpse into what will surely be one of Rochester's most exciting revitalizations. I look forward to seeing what Sibley Square is able to do for our city and can't wait to revisit in the very near future!