The two buildings consist of a two-story brick structure, constructed in the 1930s and a larger, more visually prominent, 4-5 story painted brick Romanesque Revival style building constructed in 1889.
The demolition of the two buildings is proposed as part of a $2.6 million project to create a visitors center, museum, microbewery, and tasting room in another historic building adjacent to the Pont de Rennes bridge at 25 Cataract St. As part of this plan, 13 Cataract St. would be replaced with additional parking and green space.
13 Cataract St. is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings are also listed by the City of Rochester as “Designated Buildings of Historic Value.” What does this mean? Section 120-65B of the City’s Zoning Code prohibits the demolition of designated buildings of historic value thus the applicant must obtain an area variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Both buildings are historically and architecturally significant. The larger, 19th century building was designed by a prominent, nationally recognized architect, AC Wagner of Philadelphia.
Both buildings have also been vacant for a number of years. The larger building is in need of significant rehabilitation, however, it is not beyond repair.
The Landmark Society believes that the buildings at 13 Cataract St. deserve strong efforts to preserve them. As National Register eligible buildings, as physical manifestations of Rochester’s brewing history, as potential magnets to bring visitors across the bridge from High Falls, and as potential catalysts for redevelopment and investment in the neighborhood, both are significant. The larger building, in particular, is unique and irreplaceable.
While stabilizing and/or rehabilitating 13 Cataract will require significant investment, North American Breweries will likely spend more money demolishing the structures than they would stabilizing them. The Landmark Society believes that the brewery has put too tight a timetable on this project without sufficiently exploring alternatives.
Such alternatives might include:
- Pursue developers with incentives in hand such as gap financing, tax abatements, and a more flexible or phased timeline.
- While the brewery is open to retaining the buildings if a developer comes forward with financing and a plan, the timetable they have put forward is again too tight. A phased approach–with stabilization and facade improvements occurring prior to the opening of the visitors center–represents a more realistic strategy.
- Stabilize the larger building, redevelop the smaller building and use the cash flow from the latter to fund rehabilitation of the former.
- Donate the buildings to a non-profit organization. This is a common scenario and is a win-win for the brewery, allowing them to take a tax deduction on the value of the donated property and avoid the high costs of demolition.
- Donate a portion of the funds that would be used for demolition to a non-profit organization to help fund stabilization. Again, this is a common scenario that benefits all parties, including the brewery, those who want to see the building saved, and the general public.
The Landmark Society and other interested organizations such as the Rochester Regional Community Design Center need more time to explore these options.
What can you do?
For additional information, see some of the local press coverage and links below:
savecataract.com – A new website devoted entirely to 13 Cataract St. The site is a treasure trove of historical documents, articles, and images.
Democrat & Chronicle
- Crowd speaks out about brewhouse demolition at city zoning meeting
- Genesee brewhouse hearing draws a crowd
- Preserve old brewhouse or turn it to rubble?
- Don’t destroy another treasure