It appears that Legacy Tower will be the downtown home of the recently announced, Department of Defense-backed photonics manufacturing institute. Or maybe not.
Last night, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and several local business leaders — few of whom have anything to do with the photonics field — announced that SUNY Polytechnic plans to lease
25,000 square feet in Legacy Tower to house the institute’s business outreach, workforce training, back-office operations, and business accelerator and incubator spaces. The announcement followed a few days of back-and-forth posturing between the pro-Legacy Tower Rochester Business Leaders Photonics Working Group and a group of prominent officials — including University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and RIT President Bill Destler — who talked up the Sibley building as a potential headquarters site.
SUNY Polytechnic has basically asserted that it has the decision-making authority, and its news release from last night refers to one of its executive professors, Dr. Michael Liehr, as the CEO of photonics institute. But there had been some confusion among the institute's partners about whether a SUNY Polytechnic official or UR President Seligman would be CEO.
In its statement, SUNY Polytechnic also pointed out that it was the entity that won the $110 million DOD photonics institute grant, and it's the entity contracting with DOD.
But some local officials continue to push back. Assembly member Joe Morelle, UR President Seligman, and Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman released this statement last night:
Despite press reports to the contrary, no decision has been finalized on a new downtown headquarters for AIM Photonics. We welcome SUNY Polytechnic’s interest in locating a headquarters downtown and we thank them for their recommendation, which we will take under advisement. The Rochester leadership, in conjunction with Governor Cuomo, will make the final decision on where to locate the appropriate photonics facilities in our community.
And during an appearance this morning on WXXI's Morning Edition, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle sharply criticized SUNY Polytechnic officials for basically overriding local officials.
But something's getting lost in this whole mess. The current dispute involves an administrative headquarters building, not the exciting research, start-ups, and high-tech manufacturing that officials say will create thousands of jobs. That activity will be spread across the Rochester region and across the rest of the country regardless of where the HQ goes.
SUNY Polytechnic provided this rationale for the Legacy Tower selection:
Legacy Tower has many advantages identified by the both the Rochester business community and SUNY Poly, notably the immediate readiness of the space within thirty days of a final agreement, which is critical to the mission and goals of the Department of Defense. Additionally, it requires no capital investments or lengthy and costly rehabilitation work. The selection follows a thorough process that took into account location, infrastructure and capabilities, readiness to be occupied, and cost. Headquartering in Legacy Tower is also consistent with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s strategy to establish iconic vacant buildings within the urban core as hubs for innovation and commercialization, much like the old Union Station in downtown Albany that is now a SUNY Poly hub for smart cities programs and companies.