NEWS BLOG: A downtown campus, from MCC’s perspective

BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN

This is a corrected version of this story.

While student safety is the narrative the media has cottoned to, it’s just one element driving MCC’s proposed move to the Kodak campus on State Street. Emeterio Otero, the college’s executive dean, and MCC spokesperson Cynthia Cooper took us on a tour of the Sibley building — MCC’s present home — and the Kodak site last Friday.

The much-larger Kodak space would allow MCC to grow its enrollment from about 3,000 students to approximately 5,000, Otero said, and there would be space for new and expanded programs. The extra room would also lend much-needed “green” space: places where students can gather to study and socialize. MCC would get a full-service cafeteria — something it does not have now — and a larger lecture hall. The biggest hall the downtown campus has now seats 126. That’s prohibitive for many events, Otero said, especially if you’re trying to draw big-name speakers.

“We know we can draw 200 to 300 people, easily,” he said.

MCC occupies two floors in Sibley, using about 140,000 square feet (it has 208,000 square feet, but only uses about 140,000). The Kodak site is approximately 560,000 square feet.

MCC also wants to own its site. Officials say it’s a sounder financial investment than renting, which they currently do at Sibley.

“The projected cost of purchasing and renovating the five connected buildings at the Kodak site is $10 million less than the Sibley building,” says a brochure given to us by Otero.

Otero said MCC officials looked at about 18 sites in and around the City of Rochester before settling on Kodak.

Politics has injected itself into the site-selection process. Mayor Tom Richards wants MCC to stay at Sibley, and appears to have the support of Democrats in the County Legislature. That’s important because some Democratic votes will be needed to approve the borrowing for the project.

The fear is that if MCC doesn’t get its way, it might scrap the downtown campus altogether. Neither Otero nor Cooper wanted to address that point during our tour.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Cooper said. “We’re focused on Kodak.”

4 comments

  1. Lincoln DeCoursey · · Reply

    If floor space and ownership are the issues, the county needs to frame the discussion around those two issues. Until now, the county has framed the discussion around “security”. Anybody who knows Rochester knows that it’s absurd to talk about the Kodak site as being somehow more secure than downtown. Compared to the High Falls/Jay St/Lyell Ave/Lake Ave neighborhood where Kodak is located, downtown is a real safety net. We’re talking about something that’s really a well-trafficked, well-policed, well-populated professional office area vs. something which is frankly, well, not squarely within yet on the very cusp of the ghetto.

    The main thing here, and I think Mayor Richards hits the nail on the head, is that a critical component of MCC’s charge is to provide accessible education to the city community. Positioning within downtown is critical because students are reliant upon RTS buses: any city campus needs to be not just downtown, but within close proximity to the bus lineups. Kodak on the other hand is not even downtown – it’s in the High Falls neighborhood and leaning towards Lyell Avenue/Lake Avenue at that. If the Sibley Building is no longer suitable for MCC’s downtowm campus, I think the real question is what other downtown location is available? Moving the downtown campus outside of downtown just doesn’t constitute a valid option.

  2. Lincoln, Does “Ren Square” ring a bell?

  3. This whole MCC project makes no sense at all. I’m all for growing downtown, but building this 2 miles from the sprawling (lost of room for expansion) Brighton campus is foolish. If you want a second campus, how about putting it in the northern part of the county. I suggest the vacant Kodak parking lots at Lake and Ridge, next to Kodaks research buildings. New construction and plenty of room for expansion. Furthermore, this could serve people from Hamlin, Parma, Greece, northern Rochester, Irondequoit and Webster. Wouldn’t it be wiser to have a north campus and a south campus, rather than a south/ central and a south campus? When school administrators make these non-sensical decisions, how are they legitimately qualified to teach our students?

  4. As for downtown, I’ve noticed that there is a SUNY UB and a SUNY Buffalo state college, but no SUNY Rochester. How to pay for it? UB, already the largest SUNY school wants to spend $2 billion of our money to expand and build a whole new campus in their downtown (after we spent a fortune building the Amherst campus). Surely there’s money for Rochester, rather than spending it on UB, making it bigger, but not better.

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