Rochester, N.Y. – Neighbors are mobilizing against a plan to tear down a historic church and put up a dollar store.
The church on West Main St. was built in 1870 as the Westminster Presbyterian Church. It’s now vacant and badly in need of repair. Owner Marvin Maye said he cannot find another church interested in the property and he cannot attract higher-end retail. He plans to demolish the church and construct a Dollar General.
“I think it makes economic sense for West Main St.,” Maye said. “It would cost $600,000 to make it habitable.”
Maye faces several obstacles. He must get approval from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals because the church is eligible for historical designation. Maye said the city wants him to prove it is not feasible to preserve the structure. The zoning board has twice postponed a hearing on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association is gathering signatures of residents opposed to the project. The group cites development and preservation efforts along the corridor.
“We’re going to lose a piece of our history that we’re never going to be able to rebuild,” said association president Dawn Noto. “Living in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood, we value the old structures and the history we live around.”
Perhaps the resident most directly affected by the project is Stacie Colaprete. She lives in an 1878 house right next door to the church. On the other side of her property is a plaza owned by Maye that she says can be a nuisance.
“There was crack in my driveway. Condoms all over the place, dime bags all over the place, stuff goes on here at night,” Colaprete said.
She said she has a good relationship with Maye and her fight against the dollar store is not personal. But she says she’ll move if he gets approval.
“There’s a lot of really good stuff happening on this strip right now and to tear down this old church and put in a box store, is just so counterproductive,” she said.