Tower280 at Midtown
Tower280’s rich history begins in 1962, as the first indoor mall in the United States. Then known as Midtown Plaza, the complex was home to McCurdy’s department store, an office tower, and an upscale hotel and restaurant. When Midtown Plaza closed in 2008, New York State and The City of Rochester developed a ten-year plan for the site, breaking it down into several parcels and a re-established street grid.
In an effort to begin this new chapter, the City demolished the majority of this “superblock,” leaving Midtown Tower as a skeleton of steel and brick. Buckingham Properties, along with a joint venture partner, acquired the remains of the Tower from the City of Rochester and began redevelopment in 2014. Buckingham sought to reposition the 400,000 square foot tower into a vibrant live-work-play destination.
A Pivotal, High-Profile Project
The Tower280 project is regarded as the most significant redevelopment in the Rochester region in decades. Progress was closely followed by local news outlets, and public opinions were expressed daily. The outcome of this pivotal project could greatly affect the success or failure of the region’s economic growth. While Buffalo has made strides in moving forward with major recent projects, the Greater Rochester region had seen decline for several years.
Paving the Way for Downtown Revitalization
The Tower280 project ultimately represented a turning point for the region. Its success has brought a sense of optimism and reinforced the confidence of citizens, officials, and other developers. At the time of ground-breaking, owners had not yet secured funding. Tower280 was being built on speculation—a huge risk for the owners. Getting the public, business community, national retailers, and financiers to believe in the vision was one of the project’s greatest challenges. Then, just four months after breaking ground, the project team was forced to overcome another major hurdle, when unexpectedly, the Rochester community suffered the tragic loss of Larry Glazer, the CEO of Buckingham Properties and face of the Tower280 project. Larry was often regarded as the pioneer of Rochester’s rebirth. The project team was determined to honor his legacy and follow through with his vision for the project.
Many more challenges arose throughout the planning, design, and construction of Tower280. Upon acquisition, the project team discovered that the building contained substantial amounts of asbestos, despite written documentation at the time of sale saying the property was completely clean. This led to added costs and a redesign of the existing elevator system. Additionally, Tower280 is situated over a three-story underground garage, which severely limited the positioning of cranes, and imposed significant load restrictions. Portions of the existing brick had deteriorated far more than anticipated, leading to unforeseen costs and significant design modifications.
Modern Design Elements
Tower280’s design includes several unique features. A living green wall in the three-story atrium brings the outdoors inside, while a 2,000 square foot rooftop dog park for residents and their pets offers social gathering space with communal grills, a fire pit, and outdoor seating. Additional features include a dog washing station and a state-of-the-art fitness center. Multiple aspects of the façade were focused on blending the old with the new. The exterior brick was preserved while a four-story curtainwall system was installed on the top. Additionally, Parklex and aluminum panels were added to the ground floors for a more modern look.
Tower280 has also dramatically transformed the Rochester skyline. A contemporary look was achieved by adding a curtainwall to the top four levels of the building. With the addition of state-of-the-art color-changing LED lighting, Tower280’s exterior has become a beacon in Rochester’s skyline. Other building owners are following suit, proving once again that the Tower280 project is a catalyst of Rochester’s transformation.
A Successful Lease-Up
After two years of construction, Tower280 officially opened its doors in February 2016. Residents immediately enjoyed contemporary finishes, a pet-friendly atmosphere, and the excitement of true city living. Spacious two-story penthouses on the top floors feature open concept layouts with floor-to-ceiling windows and one of the best views in Rochester. The lower three floors provide over 130,000 square feet of retail and Class A office space, which is 90% leased.
Commercial tenants at Tower280 include Bergmann Associates, DeJoy, Knauf & Blood, Second Avenue Learning, Brand Networks, Reward Gateway, Branca Midtown, and Original Grain, among others.
Creating a Destination
As the first mixed-use redevelopment to open its doors within the Midtown Block, Tower280 paved the way for Downtown Rochester’s resurgence. Providing an experience that appeals to both professional and recreational users alike, Tower280 not only preserves the history of this landmark building, but also creates an energetic presence and memorable destination for the next generation of urbanites.
The Successful Turning Point for Downtown Development
Tower280 was awarded the 2017 Award for Excellence in Repositioning or Redevelopment from the Urban Land Institute New York – a state-wide competition recognizing the best public and private projects across New York State.
Ultimately, the completion of Tower280 has successfully captured the vision of the City of Rochester’s “Midtown Rising” initiative, bringing new life to the heart of Rochester’s Central Business District and significantly reshaping the downtown core into a mixed-use district that attracts residents, businesses, and retailers.Back
Regarded as the most significant redevelopment in the Rochester region in decades, Tower280 at Midtown has become a symbol of downtown Rochester’s resurgence. What was once just skeletal remains of a 1960s office tower in the heart of Center City, is now a flourishing contemporary mixed-use tower with ground floor retail, modern office space, and luxury residential units.