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October 29, 2014

From Renderings to Reality: College Town is Dedicated with Bookstore Opening

Meliora Weekend features a celebration of College Town—both what’s up and running, and what’s up and coming.

map of College Town

University officials along with local dignitaries and project partners celebrated on Oct. 17 the eagerly awaited dedication of College Town, the $100-million shopping, dining, business, and residential district at Mt. Hope and Elmwood Avenues.

A Few Routes to College Town

The weekday shuttle service to College Town will be on the Blue Line, which runs every 20 minutes and goes down East Drive with a stop in front of Goler House. The destination signs on the front and side of the Blue Line buses will rotate every couple of seconds with the display “Blue Line,” “College Town,” and either “Whipple Park” or “Rush Rhees Library,” depending on the direction.

Beginning Oct. 18, a weekend “College Town Express” bus route began running every 20 minutes from Rush Rhees Library to College Town. The service will operate from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays during the semester. The Express will sto on Mt. Hope Avenue and East Drive with stops on campus at Rush Rhees Library, Wilmot, and the Towers (student residences).

With some parts of College Town in the final stages of completion, it’s important to note that the area is still an active construction site— some sidewalks remain closed and pedestrians are prohibited from walking through the site. Therefore, until Celebration Drive and other walkways open in the coming weeks, the following paths along the perimeter of the construction site should be taken to the Barnes & Noble: on foot, walk along the north side of Elmwood Avenue (closest to Mt. Hope cemetery) and cross at Mt. Hope Avenue, entering Barnes & Noble through the front door; from the Blue Line weekday shuttle, get off at the Goler House stop, walk east along Goler, past building 5/6, and then along Mt. Hope to front door of Barnes & Noble. The weekend “College Town Express” will stop at the new RTS bus shelter right on Mt. Hope Avenue, just north of Celebration Drive.

The 20,000 square-foot, two-level Barnes & Noble—which anchors College Town and is not only the more spacious and shopper-friendly replacement of the University’s River Campus bookstore but a community store, as well—is the first tenant to open for business, with others moving in this fall. Representatives of some future College Town tenants—Breathe yoga and juice bar, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Constantino’s Market, Insomnia Cookies, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, and the DelMonte Hotel Group—took part in the ceremony, previewing the goods and services they’ll offer.

Other confirmed College Town tenants include Bean Cruises & Travel, The Beer Market, Bourbon, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust, The Creator’s Hands, Corner Bakery, Flaum Optical, GNC, Hairzoo, and Saxby’s Coffee, which will be connected to the Barnes & Noble. Parking is available directly in back of the bookstore.

Developed by Fairmount Properties and Gilbane Development Company, College Town’s construction began in summer 2013 and has continued throughout the fall.

In addition to 500,000 square feet of shopping and dining space, College Town features the Mount Hope Lofts apartments; a five-story, 136-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel and conference center to open in spring 2015; a 500-space parking garage; and 50,000 square feet of office space, into which several University offices will transition next month.

“This is a historic day for the University and the city of Rochester,” said University President Joel Seligman. “As one of the largest development projects in the history of the City, College Town is strengthening the economic fabric of our community by providing essential services and incredible new spaces. It is an excellent model of how public-private partnerships should work, and let me express my sincere gratitude to all our outstanding partners who have made this vision a reality.”

College Town sits on 14 acres of University-owned property and is the fulfillment of a six-yearlong vision for local community partners to create a welcoming and cohesive University-neighborhood community. The project has involved years of planning and coordination among officials from the University, the city, and local organizations including the Mount Hope Avenue Task Force, the Mt. Hope Business Association, the Southeast Area Coalition, and Mt. Hope Cemetery.

The development has brought more than 900 construction jobs to city, and project heads are continuing to recruit for more than 320 permanent service and retail positions. Additionally, $2.5 million in estimated annual sales tax will be generated from the retail operations of College Town, as well as $1.8 million in income taxes and $600,000 in annual hotel taxes.

The College Town website (www.collegetownrochester.com) gives a glimpse into the types of entertainment and community activities planned for College Town, including live music, farmers markets, and literary events for both children and adults.

“It’s a beautiful and desperately needed contribution to this area,” said Deb Woodman, an area resident recently found browsing the new Barnes & Noble for a new-release true-crime book for herself, and picking up a gift card for her hard-to-buy-for adult son. “The best way I can put it is, this neighborhood and the people in it are enjoying a great big breath of fresh air.”

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