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."