Monroe Community College's decision to abandon the Sibley Building for Kodak headquarters leaves a lot of winners and losers.Winners:
1. County and State Taxpayers
– MCC claims Sibley would have been more expensive to renovate. MCC also says it is more fiscally responsible to own rather than rent and it wouldn’t have had an option to buy Sibley for 8 years.
– This is a qualified win. There don't seem to be many students who like taking classes at Sibley, but Sibley would have undergone $72 million in upgrades. While some students are overjoyed at Kodak’s ample free parking, others are concerned they may have to transfer buses. Sibley is a block from the planned transit center.
3. Anne Kress
– MCC’s president showed she would not be pushed around by either political party. She wasn’t wild about the Republican-led Renaissance Square project. After a long, deliberative process, she chose to buck the Democratic mayor in picking Kodak.
4. High Falls
– This is another qualified win. While there are some vacant storefronts, High Falls isn’t anywhere near as stressed as Main Street. In fact, High Falls is doing pretty well. Furthermore, the Kodak complex functions like a self-contained “indoor mall,” complete with a cafeteria. Students may take their classes and drive away with nary a glance across State St.
- The State St. headquarters complex is astonishingly half empty. This gets 500,000 square feet off Kodak's hands. Losers:
1. City Taxpayers
- Keeping MCC at Sibley was the best chance the city had at revitalizing Sibley. The owner, a subsidiary of Wilmorite Corporation, is $22.3 million in arrears on taxes and loans
. MCC would have occupied the former department store and Sibley tower would have been made into housing. It’s not clear if development will move forward without MCC. In addition, Kodak had been paying taxes on its State St. buildings that will be tax-free when MCC completes the purchase.
- Tom Wilmot has been trying to do something with Sibley for years. If the developer with the option to buy Sibley backs out because MCC won’t be there, Wilmot’s back at square one.
3. Tom Richards
– The mayor desperately wanted MCC at Sibley, realizing the building – at a million square feet - is very difficult to develop. This is a big loss for Richards and he risks alienating students, staff and citizens if he fights the relocation.
– This is a qualified loss. To bond for the project, a super-majority is required on the county legislature. That means two Democratic votes are needed. If they block the project on behalf of the mayor, detractors will declare they are anti-student and playing politics. And for the second time, city leaders will have gotten in the way of a new MCC downtown campus. (See Renaissance Square.)
5. Perception of Downtown
– MCC cited safety issues and a lack of retail as reasons for the departure from Sibley. Fighting at the Liberty Pole, portable toilets outside the front door, and the demolition of Midtown must have made the decision much easier. City leaders must shoulder blame for not solving those problems and taking MCC’s presence there for granted. The Biggest Loser:Main Street
– The loss of MCC on Main Street is huge. When MCC vacates that building, what is left? Sibley will be empty. Midtown is gone and efforts to lure developers could be hindered by an empty Sibley. Renaissance Square failed, leaving the blight on the northwest corner of Main and Clinton. The future of Main Street – the heart of downtown Rochester – is as uncertain as ever.