Funding Announced for Midtown Plaza Asbestos Abatement

ROCHESTER, NY—Earlier this month, while on a visit to Rochester, New York Governor David A. Paterson announced that the state would make an estimated $55 million in funding available for the removal of asbestos at Midtown Plaza.
Midtown Plaza, which opened in 1962, is a complex comprised of four downtown buildings, a two-level retail shopping mall, an underground parking garage, and a series of elevated pedestrian bridges linking the complex to adjoining buildings. Although the site has declined in recent years, with both retail and corporate tenants moving to other locations, it is now being incorporated into a revitalization plan for downtown Rochester known as Midtown Rising.

Removing asbestos from the site is an important step toward revitalizing Midtown, said state officials. The abatement project, which is expected to be one of the largest in the region’s history, will create up to 200 new jobs. Work on the project is expected to last from 10-12 months. Currently, the site cannot be redeveloped because of asbestos contamination, among other infrastructure problems. Financial assistance from the state is crucial to not only restoring the safety of the Midtown structure, but also to job creation and the increase of value for surrounding properties.

Asbestos, a well-known carcinogen, has been phased out of current construction but remains legal in many building materials. It consists of long, thin fibrous crystals and may be mixed with other substances in order to resist heat, electricity and chemical damage. Asbestos was widely used in the early and mid 20th century in wallboard, insulation, tiling, shingles and siding, and many other substances. Damage to asbestos-containing structures, such as that which occurs during construction, renovation and demolition, can release microscopic fibers into the air. These fibers are then breathed in by workers, who become vulnerable to diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The funds will be allocated towards contractors by the Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency. The high costs of removing asbestos at the site have been the largest impediment towards private investment in the Midtown project, which will in turn help to transform the entire Rochester downtown area.

One of the city’s largest corporations, PAETEC Communications, Inc., will relocate its new national headquarters to a portion of the downtown site after its renovation. PAETEC is scheduled to occupy the new site by 2012.

Area representatives such as State Senator Joseph E. Robach and Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle applaud the announcement, citing its commitment to economic revival in the upstate region. Says Morelle, “Even in the midst of the worst fiscal conditions in three generations, it is important to maintain our investments where the dividends will be paid in terms of job creation and more vibrant communities.”