Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson and Rochester Community House board President John Cadieux shake hands after signing a new 20-year service agreement Oct. 6.

Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson and Rochester Community House board President John Cadieux shake hands after signing a new 20-year service agreement Oct. 6.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Rochester, Community House sign new 20-year service agreement

City-owned building to benefit from $1 million in renovations in 2022

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published November 17, 2021

 Earlier this year, the city approved $1 million in renovations at the Rochester Community House that will begin in early 2022.

Earlier this year, the city approved $1 million in renovations at the Rochester Community House that will begin in early 2022.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROCHESTER — After two and half years of negotiation, the city of Rochester and the Rochester Community House have reached a new service agreement solidifying several more decades of partnership.

The city — which owns the nonprofit’s building — and the Community House board recently signed a 20-year service agreement spelling out each organization’s responsibilities.

“What we just signed is really unique,” Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson said. “The arrangement before was, the city owned the building and the Community House board ran things, but it wasn’t quite clear. This is the first time we have a clear, transparent partnership between the city and the Community House board, so everybody knows what’s going to be going on.”

Rochester City Councilwoman Nancy Salvia said the agreement formalizes an over 50-year partnership that has existed between the city and the Community House.

“It’s been over 50 years, but it’s just been word of mouth, and when you have word of mouth, you end up having problems,” she said. “Having a formal agreement is like we’re getting married. After 50 years of dating, we’re getting married — and it better last longer than 20 years.”

The previous service agreement, which was renewable every year, featured some components — such as the utilities and building maintenance — that City Manager Blaine Wing said were unclear about which party was responsible for them, leading to an aging building in need of many repairs and updates. The two entities have worked hard over the past few years to make necessary changes, but now their roles are more clearly defined.

Under the new agreement, Wing said, the city’s obligation is “basically the landlord” — handling maintenance of the roof, windows and exterior of the building — and the Community House is “the tenant” and is responsible for paying rent and utilities.  

“It stops a lot of questions of who’s paying for what for the residents of Rochester,” Community House Executive Director Alan Smith said of the agreement. “It formalizes all that and allows us to, I call it, pay the city the debt reduction. I don’t call it a lease payment. We avoid that.”

Earlier this year, the city approved substantial renovations at the Community House  — to the tune of $1 million from the city’s budget — that will begin in early 2022. The building will have the entire roof and siding replaced, with the northern portion of the building being removed and replaced with a walk-out basement space and a much larger conference and gathering space above, with an improved lookout meeting room to the east. Patio, deck and other improvements are also planned, as well as elevator work.

The goal of the renovation, city officials said, is to improve the appearance and useability, and to make the building as maintenance-free as possible for the foreseeable future.

Beyond the city’s renovations, Smith said, the nonprofit is also planning extensive interior improvements and landscaping through a fundraising campaign titled “Polish the Gem.” The goal is to raise $500,000 to update all aspects of the interior and certain landscaping projects on the north and east of the building.

For over 40 years, the Rochester Community House has opened its doors to the public, serving as a hub for classes, events and celebrations of all types. Former Director Mary Lee Kowalczyk was instrumental in starting the Rochester Community House by first approaching the city of Rochester about using the 1934 Avon Pavilion — a 30-by-60-foot log building with a fieldstone fireplace in what is now Rochester Municipal Park — as a meeting place for local service groups. After a successful fundraising campaign and a building renovation, the Rochester Community House opened on July 23, 1975.

Today, the Community House serves thousands of residents and businesses annually through its support of local nonprofits, enrichment and education classes, and room rentals for weddings, reunions, fundraisers, business functions and other events.

The Rochester Community House is located at 816 Ludlow Ave. in Rochester.

For more information, visit rochestercommhouse.org or rochestermi.org/rch.

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