The year: 1962. It was the first Christmas celebration at Midtown Plaza. Now, more than 40 years later, people are saying their goodbyes to the downtown shopping center.
"Downtowns not what it used to be we used to shop down here Wegmans used to be over there my mother used to go grocery shopping downtown and its just completely changed now," says Gwen Shepard who visited Midtown like many Rochester-area residents to say a final goodbye to the shopping plaza.
The shopping center is now getting ready for major changes in 2008-2009.
“It is 10 acres large and right in the middle of downtown and it represents a symbolic impediment, to everyone who visits downtown Rochester, it represents decline, decay rather than the beauty and vitality that truly characterizes downtown,” says Governor Eliot Spitzer who announced plans to tear down the plaza in Fall 2007.
Midtown will go from a now nearly 85% vacancy to the new world headquarters to PaeTec. Just before the end of the year, Rochester City Council approved a document that officially gets the ball the rolling on the project.
In the New Year, the City plans to take ownership of the property whether by sale from the current owner, Blackacre Realty Inc., or by a legal process known as eminent domain.
“A very aggressive schedule would have us at about a year and a half to have a shovel ready site prepared for construction and have us at about 2-plus years for PaeTec to construct their building,” said Mayor Bob Duffy who commented on a early schedule for the project after Governor Spitzer’s October fall announcement.
The current store owners in Midtown will be relocated and the state is expected to come through with approximately $50 million to demolish and clean up the site before PaeTec builds its office space.
“The Governor has pledged the funds, certainly no one is going to fight that,” says Senator Joe Robach, (R-56th district).
In the meantime, PaeTec still needs to hire an architect and they are seeking design ideas from the public.
"Were all citizens of this community, we all have children here and we want to be here a long time why not take a shot and see if downtown can happen?" says Arunas Chesonis, CEO of PaeTec.