Malorie Lebeau 08/16/2021

Home Leasing to bring affordable housing to Hickey Freeman building

By: Kevin Oklobzija August 11, 2021

The historic Hickey Freeman building will remain home to the iconic Rochester men's clothier but Home Leasing will be creating 134 affordable senior housing units within the structure (photo by Kevin Oklobzija).

The historic Hickey Freeman building will remain home to the iconic Rochester men’s clothier but Home Leasing will be creating 134 affordable senior housing units within the structure (photo by Kevin Oklobzija).

The four-story Hickey Freeman building, one of the most iconic manufacturing sites in Rochester, will be undergoing a $70 million transformation, with two-thirds of the sprawling facility turned into affordable senior housing.

Under plans expected to be finalized in the spring, Home Leasing will buy the 225,000-square-foot facility and then lease back about 77,000 square feet to Hickey Freeman. The upscale men’s clothing manufacturer has operated at the 1155 N. Clinton Ave. location since 1912.

The remainder of the facility will be converted into 134 apartments for low-income seniors and seniors in need of supportive housing. An additional outparcel at the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Morrill Street is being reserved for a possible medical office building or retail development.

“This is a big one,” said Bret Garwood, CEO of Home Leasing. “We’re able to deliver 134 units of senior housing, which we feel is a real need in the neighborhood, and also preserve an economic institution, and there’s maybe no more historical Rochester institution that Hickey Freeman.”

The arrangement between clothier and affordable housing developer enables Hickey Freeman to shift all necessary operations into a more efficient space while at the same time shedding nearly 130,000 square feet of unneeded real estate.

A new 2,000-square-foot Hickey Freeman factory store will be part of the new design.

“The fact is, they want to make luxury apparel and other goods, not be in the real estate business,” Garwood said. “Right now they’re really spread out and inefficient. With this arrangement, they can operate at the scale they’re at and still accommodate future growth.

“The concept of the partnership is that they get a more efficient space and are relieved of the burden of being the person responsible for that amount of real estate.”

SWBR is providing design plans for redevelopment of the six-acre site and LaBella Associates is doing civil engineering work. Assuming all approvals are received, construction will begin in the spring, with anticipated completion in the fall of 2024.

The idea of a joint venture was first floated past Garwood and Home Leasing officials about two years ago by Hickey Freeman. They have been working on financing and the many other elements of the project ever since.

“A project like this takes a lot of time,” Garwood said. “You have to determine how to finance it, how to design it.”

A significant percentage of funding will come from New York State Homes and Community Renewal through tax exempt bonds and other credits. Since the building is designated as a historic property, the project is eligible for federal and state historic tax credits.

Home Leasing will present specifics of the project to the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA) on Tuesday as part of a request for tax abatement.

The residential portion of the project will cost about $59 million, while redevelopment of the manufacturing and commercial space will cost about $11 million.

Of the 134 residential units, 44 will house frail elderly who can continue to live in their own home with some assistance. Rent will range from $645 to $870, including utilities, and be available for persons with a household income from less than 30 percent up to 70 percent of the area median income (the median household income for the Rochester Metro Area is $62,104). Eight units are planned to have project-based rental subsidies through the Rochester Housing Authority.

Home Leasing will partner with People, Inc., to provide services to the frail elderly and other specially designated residents who require assistance under the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative.

Affordable housing remains a critical need. Rochester has the highest rate of older adult poverty, 31 percent, than any city in New York, according to the Center for Urban Futures.

Another 104-unit housing initiative, the Ibero American Development Corp.’s Pueblo Nuevo, is underway in the North Clinton neighborhood. Home Leasing believes re-creating the Hickey Freeman building would fit perfectly with the city of Rochester’s North Clinton Avenue Corridor Market Strategy, which began with La Marketa at the International Plaza.

“Home Leasing has been a great affordable housing partner with the city for a long time,” city spokesperson Justin Roj said. “We’re very excited to see Home Leasing moving forward with another affordable housing project, and particularly excited that it’s in the northeast where there has been a massive amount of investment.”

The redevelopment of the Hickey Freeman building will require the usual asbestos abatement, but there aren’t other environmental remediation concerns, Garwood said.

“There aren’t chemical concerns, they’ve never done dyeing or dry cleaning, they are just fabrics and steam,” Garwood said. 653-4020