December 4, 2014 (Rochester, NY) – DePaul joined with city, state, public and private partners to celebrate the opening of the Carriage Factory Apartments. An open house and dedication ceremony marked the transformation of the over 100-year-old Cunningham Carriage Factory into 71 studio, one- and two-bedroom loft apartments for income-eligible tenants.
The $23 million dollar project was completed with a $3.3 million award from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, a $600,000 loan from the city of Rochester and a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement. Approximately 300 construction jobs and 20 long-term positions were created as a result of the Carriage Factory Apartments.
Partners involved in the project included Christa Construction, the city of Rochester, the Community Preservation Corporation, DePaul, Goldman Sachs, Monroe County, New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Housing Trust Fund Corporation, New York State Office of Mental Health, Red Stone Equity Partners, LLC, Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association and SWBR Architects, P.C.
“DePaul is pleased to be a community partner in meeting the need for quality affordable housing options in Rochester and throughout New York State, in addition to bringing back to life a building that once was home to a thriving manufacturing business with historic significance to our city,” said DePaul President Mark H. Fuller. “We are so proud to be part of the revitalization of this community. The DePaul Carriage Factory Apartments are an example of progress and partnership in action.”
“DePaul has long been an important community partner, providing services and housing to some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “We congratulate DePaul on the opening of the Carriage Factory Apartments and a job well done! It is gratifying to see the transformation of this landmark building into quality, affordable apartment homes that will enrich the quality of life for our citizens and beautify the historic Susan B. Anthony District.”
Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner/CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said, “Congratulations to DePaul, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, the City of Rochester, CPC, and all the partners who helped transform the century-old Cunningham Carriage Factory. Rochester has been teaching us how historic preservation can be an important part of affordable housing and community revitalization strategies. By breathing new life into existing buildings, we honor our history and at the same time move communities forward. HCR has had the privilege to work on several preservation projects in the Flower City – these projects are making the city and region stronger, more attractive and more affordable places to both live and work.”
“Carriage Factory is another example of the how the state pension fund is making a difference in communities across the state,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “As trustee of the state pension fund, making sound investments for the more than one million members, retirees and beneficiaries is my first priority. Our partnership with the Community Preservation Corporation, designed to provide risk-adjusted returns for the pension fund, has an added benefit of providing new housing options for New York residents.”
“CPC is pleased to have provided a $10.35 million construction loan and $2 million permanent loan, with the support of the NYS Pension Funds, for this outstanding project. Though the closing of the construction loan was indeed complicated, CPC’s strong relationship with DePaul and our shared mission to meet Rochester’s housing needs helped bring this project to fruition,” said Sadie McKeown, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at The Community Preservation Corporation, Inc. (CPC). “The transformation of this formerly underutilized carriage factory into quality new homes for 71 families coupled with onsite supportive services exemplifies CPC’s commitment to working with our partners to create and preserve affordable housing and revitalize communities across New York State.”
“The preservation of the Cunningham Carriage Factory building, in the Nationally Registered Susan B. Anthony Historic District, respects this neighborhood’s rich history by re-purposing a 19th century industrial building within it,” said Dawn Noto, President of the Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association. “We are very excited to have many new neighbors moving into our district and to have another piece of our history to share with our community and our daily visitors. We are very thankful to DePaul and their partners for their vision and dedication to this project.”
Speakers at the event included DePaul President Mark H. Fuller, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Marian Zucker, President of the Office of Finance and Development, New York State Homes and Community Renewal; Senator Joseph E. Robach, New York State Senate 56th Senatorial District; Sadie McKeown, Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, The Community Preservation Corporation; Moria Tashjian, Director of Housing Development and Support, New York State Office of Mental Health; David Putney, Director, Monroe County Office of Mental Health; Darrel Aubertine, Special Assistant for External Affairs, New York State Comptroller’s Office; Deborah VanAmerongen, Strategic Policy Advisor, Nixon Peabody; and Dawn Noto, President, Susan B. Anthony Neighborhood Association. Also in attendance was New York State Assemblyman David Gantt.
DePaul’s renovation of the historic Cunningham Carriage Factory memorializes the thriving manufacturing business that was once housed in this 73,000 square foot building. The Cunningham name was recognized worldwide as the maker of superior quality vehicles from coaches and carriages to automobiles and airplanes. The renovation of the formerly vacant, four-story building celebrates its history with an original brougham-style Cunningham carriage purchased from John and Sue Greenall of the Greenall Carriage House of Windsor, Vermont on display in the lobby and a gallery of drawings, photographs and artifacts.
Generations of the Cunningham family came to celebrate and included Tyrrell Cunningham Dryer, the grandson of James Cunningham who served as the president of the company in the mid-1800s, as well as James Cunningham’s great-grandchildren Michael Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D. and Mary Cunningham.
They shared details about a company rich with history, which was always owned and managed by a member of the Cunningham family. Throughout its over 100-year history, the company produced everything from farm equipment and crossbar switch machines used by phone companies and in the first mechanical computers, to defense equipment including carriages for the union armies in the civil war, ambulances and automotive windlasses for observation balloons in World War I, and tanks and other armored vehicles. The firm began automobile production in 1908, with early models selling for $3,500. By 1910, that price had risen to $5,000.
“Cunningham cars were considered to be the American Rolls Royce of its day,” said Michael Cunningham. “They did everything meticulously by hand, so the vehicles were very expensive,” he said. Cunningham cars were the first vehicle to feature a radio as part of their design, and they also made the first bulletproof car.
Human rights crusader Rosa Parks was taken to her final resting place in a Cunningham hearse and former late-night host Jay Leno owns a 1920 Cunningham car, according to Michael Cunningham.
News of the Cunningham building’s rebirth also touched former employees and neighbors from days gone by.
“My parents were from Italy and they ran a family bakery on Prospect Street in the 1920s” recalled Julia Chiavaroli Viscardi, 92. “The president of the Cunningham Motor Car Company sometimes stopped in for freshly-baked bread. My father eventually purchased a Cunningham touring car and what a thrill that was. It was a real treat to go for a spin.”
Eventually, Julia would work for the Cunningham Motor Car Company, and recalls John Cunningham personally distributing the employees’ weekly pay in cash, carefully packaged in small, labeled envelopes.
Carmella Bobek, 87, also worked in the Cunningham Factory straight out of high school in 1945, inspecting bomb heads for M-52s along with her friends Rita Sulki and Flora Patti.
“We were the youngest workers on our floor, so they were all very nice to us and we enjoyed it immensely,” said Carmella, recalling company picnics and fond memories of playing on the company’s softball team. “It’s wonderful that the building now has a new life.”