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From Eyesore to Opportunity: Powers Building

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Transforming Buildings & Neighborhoods

Recent discussions about the fate of the 120 year-old brewhouse at 13 Cataract Street got us thinking. Those in favor of demolishing the building say it’s an eyesore, beyond repair, and a haven for crime. With peeling paint, missing windows, and holes in the roof, certainly the iconic building has seen better days. And yes, crime does occur around the building; that is not an issue to be taken lightly. But will demolishing the building solve this problem?

If we demolished every “eyesore” in Rochester, would we have solved all the City’s problems? Or might we end up tossing the proverbial baby out with the bath water? Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting some of these former “eyesores” to show that almost any building can be rehabilitated, to demonstrate how this rehab can, in turn, transform a neighborhood, and to remind us all of opportunities that were almost lost.

Powers Building
16 West Main Street

The Powers Building on Main Street. From Eyesore to Opportunity: a snapshot of adaptive reuse in Rochester N.Y.

Before Daniel Powers erected the Powers Building in the late 1860s, the site had been home to Hamlet Scrantom’s log cabin, the Eagle Hotel and Tavern, and the Powers Banking House. Originally a five-story structure, Powers had two additional stories added as well as a three-story tower so the building would hold its supremacy as Rochester’s tallest. A century later the “Grand Old Lady of the Four Corners” had lost its luster and by the 1980s would sit largely unoccupied, deteriorating quickly. At least five separate efforts to rehabilitate the building failed before Value Properties Inc. (a New York City developer) bought it in 1988 for an estimated $400,000-$500,000, spent $20 Million restoring and renovating it, and reopened it in 1991. While the Powers Building could have easily been lost, today it is widely regarded as an irreplaceable Rochester icon.

Here is the “opportunity” that could have been lost:

The Powers Building on Main Street. From Eyesore to Opportunity: a snapshot of adaptive reuse in Rochester N.Y.

Richard Margolis photo-documented the entire restoration process. This “after” photo was taken in 1991 when work was completed. To get the perfect shot, Margolis stood on a 2-foot ledge outside a 4th floor window of the Wilder Building across the street.

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Want to see more “eyesores” that have been turned into economic opportunities and assets for our neighborhoods and city? Visit our Success Stories page to see the full list.

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From Eyesore to Opportunity: Powers Building

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1 thought on “From Eyesore to Opportunity: Powers Building”

  1. Good post-having a renovated Powers Building is definitely an asset to the area. As I pointed out on May 13, some prominent structures are so hideous as to be a disaster from day one. One came immediately to mind, which I mentioned, although I’m sure everyone can think of many local examples.

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