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701 Seneca: The Larkin Center of Commerce

Progress and development is gaining momentum in the Larkin District and if a trio of local developers have their way, the restoration of one of the largest buildings in the city will add to the transformation of the neighborhood. 701 Seneca will be restored and reused at the tune of $50 million. Seneca Holdings, LLC has big plans for redevelopment, according to Jim Cornell of Praxiis Business Advisors, one of the three principal investors involved with the project.

The property was purchased on October 12 for $3.1 million. Peter Krog of The Krog Corporation and Gordon Reger of Reger Holdings, Inc. are the other principal investors. The partners chose to team together because “It is the right mix of talent and resources, each of us have successfully developed complex real estate projects in the past, and Peter Krog is a gifted engineer with the ability to see solutions to problems often long before others have even framed the question” says Cornell.

701 Seneca is a leftover from the days when Larkin dominated the scene of mail order household goods. It appears to be one massive building, but in fact it’s eight different buildings that have been connected into a single complex totaling around 1.3 million sq. ft.

Phase one of the 701 project includes improvements in the façade like windows, new/improved entrances, and elevator improvements. Currently there are negotiations with several large tenants to move into 701 and Jim has plans to move Praxiis’ offices to the complex. One of the best qualities of 701 is proximity to the 190 and downtown as well as the large amount of parking. Currently the building has 550 people working in it with an expected increase to 3500 people in the future.

701.jpgAlthough it will likely take until March to get SHPO approval, improvements are currently underway to show progress and investment in the building. These improvements include the construction of a new entrance, replacing damaged stucco, and illuminated signage across the new first story soffit, reminiscent of the signage from the days the Larkin Company was at its peak in the 1920’s. Unfortunately this section of Seneca was not included in the streetscape improvements but work is underway to secure funds to extend the improvements.

701 will be restored to the appearance it was in the 1950s/1960s with a full stucco façade. The main reason for this is due to the associated costs of the stucco removal and the resulting damage to the bricks beneath. When the stucco is removed it leaves multiple two inch holes in the brick and would damage the brick to the point of not being restorable.

One of the best improvements that will be made will be the installation of shop windows on the ground floor, as was the historical presence on Seneca Street. The plan is to allow people to window shop, but do so outside of the weather. Areas of the main floor will be pushed into the complex to allow people to step into the building and avoid the weather if desired. The completion date of Phase I is scheduled for December 2011. Subsequent phases will extend several years after that.

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Renderings by NH Architecture from Rochester, NY
Principal Architect, Norbert Hausner

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