A local developer wants to demolish a 140-year-old church building on Rochester's West Main Street to make way for what some call a big box retailer. That developer, along with those in favor and opposed to the idea, went before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals to argue their cases.
"This building is not a designated building of historic value."
The 140-year-old church at 660 West Main Street is the building in question. Developer Marvin Maye, who owns the property, wants to take the structure down, along with a vacant home next door, and replace it with something new.
A Dollar General store has been proposed for that site; however, Maye says the new development will be more than that.
"I wish it wouldn't be the phrase, 'you're taking down a church to put up a Dollar General.' No, I'm taking down these two dilapidated structures to create a shopping center. One of the tenants may be Dollar General, then I got other people that I'm talking to, but we've been working on this for almost a year now," said Maye.
Those living near this church say they'd like to see it stay and have it be used for something that would benefit the community more than a Dollar General.
A refurbished brownstone sits next door to the vacant church. Those living there say they've been working with others in the neighborhood to come up with other ideas for Maye to consider.
"My two favorite ideas are a church co-op. I'd like to see maybe three or four churches that can't afford their own spaces to move in here and have an outreach into the community. We've also discussed a venue of some kind. There's a theatre interested in moving in here," said Stacie Colaprete, neighbor.
Millions have been invested in revitalizing the West Main Street corridor. Others living in that area believe Dollar General will be a step backwards. They say there are already other low end retailers in the area.
"There's a Family Dollar on Genesee Street, a Family Dollar a half a block away, a Family Dollar over on West Avenue, there's a Dollar General farther down. Why do we need a Dollar General in our neighborhood?" asked Vivian Moss, neighbor.
But not everyone living near the church wants it to stay. Seven people testified before the Zoning Board of Appeals in favor of the project.
"We the people that actually live in that area, who actually shop in that area and who actually work and worship in that area, we don't see the need for the structure to remain because it is an eyesore," said Anthony Gibbs, neighbor.
This hearing was for informational gathering to get public comment on the proposed project. It's now up to the board to decide if Maye can go through with his plans.
"We have to take a lot of factors into the whole project, not only what is going to be taken down but what is going to be put up," said Joseph O'Donnell, Zoning Board of Appeals. "What benefits that has to the neighborhood as opposed to the owner, does it fit into the context of the city's design guidelines and what the city's goals and objectives are for revitalizing especially the West Main Street section. And you have to take into account what has and is happening there now which is pretty substantial and significant and very impressive."
A decision isn't expected until at least next month.