From Tea Room to Tech Space

What was once known as the Tea Room of the Sibley Department Store in Rochester will become an incubator for high-tech start-up companies in the area.

By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor

WinnCompanies broke ground this week on a redevelopment project that will convert the top floor of the historic Sibley Building in Rochester’s historic downtown into a state-of-the art facility suitable for more than 20 high-tech start-ups, including those that require wet lab facilities for biotech innovation and development. The $24 million High Tech Rochester (HTR) Business Accelerator has been a priority project of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council for the past several years. High Tech Rochester—which is an affiliate of the University of Rochester—has received $10 million in state financing for this project, according to the university’s news wire.

High Tech Rochester - Collaboration Zone - before and after

Designed by The Architectural Team, the $11 million renovation currently underway at the 1.1-million-square-foot commercial building located at 228 E. Main St. will take about 12 months to complete. The 68,000-square-foot business accelerator will include co-working space, traditional office space and labs, a 3-D prototyping lab, conference rooms, as well as a 120-seat auditorium for programs, workshops and events for the business and venture community in greater Rochester.

The tech incubator will also feature an open commons area that will foster interaction and mutual support for the startups, and an outdoor patio for meetings and special events. According to the developer, video conferencing capabilities will be installed, linking HTR’s new Rochester headquarters to its Lennox Tech Enterprise Center in Henrietta, NY, and to satellite locations in the region.

Built in the early 1900s as the six-story Sibley Department Store, the building grew an additional six stories to include an office tower in 1924 to accommodate the growing demand for office space in downtown Rochester. Three years ago, Commercial Property Executive reported that the 12-story property was acquired by Sibley Redevelopment, an affiliate of WinnDevelopment—the real estate development arm of WinnCompanies. Shortly after changing ownership, the century-old building embarked on a $200 million revitalization process in order to transform the former department store into a mixed-use building with retail spaces on the first and second floors, office space on the third and sixth floors, as well as market-rate apartments on floors 10 through 12 and affordable housing on the seventh through ninth floors.

Image via WinnCompanies

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