Birnbaum Planning Residential Space For State Street Property

Birnbaum Companies plans to turn 125 State St. into nine, moderately priced apartments aimed at 20-somethings, with retail filling street-level space (provided photo).

Birnbaum Companies has purchased the four-story building at 125 State St. in downtown Rochester and plans to create moderately priced housing in what has been office space.

While the creation of upscale apartments has been the rage in recent heart-of-the-city reclamation projects by various developers, Birnbaum Companies has a different idea for their newest space.

Bernard Birnbaum, the third-generation CEO of the Pittsford-based commercial real estate firm, believes city living should be within the price range of younger members of the workforce. Planning will continue through the year, with work to start late in 2019 or early in 2020, but the idea is to have nine housing units priced between $800 and $1,000. The street-level space will be home to some sort of retail establishment.

“I want to have places in downtown for 20-somethings,” he said. “I don’t see a vibrant downtown being a place with just a bunch of empty-nesters and mid-30-year-olds.

“One of the most important things in downtown is the ability to cycle through next generations.”

Birnbaum had looked on both sides of the Genesee River but said he didn’t find many available offerings on the east side, especially in the price range he was targeting. He said the building at 125 State St. is perfect for what he envisions. The deed filed with the Monroe County Clerk’s office on Feb. 5 shows a sale price of $450,000.

State Street hasn’t been seen as a residential hot spot, but the Birnbaum project and the planned Center City Place by Tony Cilino (with approximately 54 lofts, according to Imagine Monroe documents) will turn nearly an entire block of four-story buildings into housing and ground-level retail.

And with ROC the Riverway plans by the City of Rochester beginning to take shape, the State Street locale has great potential, Birnbaum believes. His building sits just to the south of the State Street/Andrews Street intersection.

“The East Side seems saturated and a lot of the ROC the Riverway is near the Andrews Street Bridge,” he said. “And if Broad Street does get closed (which is part of one proposal for river development), then Andrews Street becomes a vital artery to get across the river.”

Assuming he can get approval from the city, he’s hoping to have a rooftop deck for residents.

This project isn’t about striking it rich, though.

“It’s not going to create crazy cash-flow,” he said, “but, No. 1, I want to be part of the solution for Rochester, and, No. 2, I like the long-term potential.”

Birnbaum has plans for the back of block as well. Because of the proximity across Pindle Alley to City Hall, Birnbaum would like to join forces with other building owners and have a huge mural created.

He said he has had preliminary discussions with Wall/Therapy about a mural featuring “icons of Rochester” that would span “across the whole backside of the buildings. I think it would be a cool, powerful statement.

“It doesn’t change the value of the properties but it does change the perception of the back of the buildings.”


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