From the Historian: The Rise and Fall of East Rochester’s Village Mall

Jim Burlingame

In 1964, concern over deteriorating property conditions downtown in the village, combined with the surging number of free parking shopping plazas in the area, caused action to be taken to revitalize the East Rochester business district four-block area.

The village formerly was one of the most prosperous shopping communities outside the city of Rochester, attracting a trading clientele that extended as far east as Wayne County, and to the south as far as the Pittsford and Perinton town limits. Starting in the late 1950s, new area plazas began to take their toll, and business declined to the point where veteran merchants closed or ceased making costly improvements. Many old-time businessmen retired and a few stores were converted to offices.

1967 was a long time ago, although for us older folk it seems much shorter, but it was a very influential year in village history. That year, an urban renewal plan was begun with a $154,000 grant to study the need for such a project. After much discussion and public meetings, it was approved by the Village Board under Mayor Paul Bauer. 

Along with board approval came another grant from the federal government for $3,378,606 to begin purchasing the businesses and homes involved. The area to be demolished was from the north side of the 100 block of East Elm Street to the south side of the 100 block of East Chestnut Street, and west to Main Street and east to Madison Street. A total of 60 structures were involved. 

In the fall of 1970 actual demolition began. This process continued and culminated in August of 1974 with the grand opening of the mall.

The mall contained 25 stores, including Neisner's Department Store, Key Drugs, A&P Market and many more. It was the first enclosed mall in any village in upstate New York. All went well for the first couple of years, then a series of events happened that started its financial downfall.

The two main reasons for this were the Wegmans Plaza on Fairport Road and Eastview Mall in Victor. This, along with the poor support of the local shoppers, spelled the beginning of the end. After many efforts to revitalize it the mall was sold to a developer, who in turn leased it to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance organization. They still occupy it today.

A later portion of the project involved the removal of many of the buildings on the south side of the 100 block of West Commercial Street to allow for the construction of a new village office and library complex. This was completed and the complex had its grand opening in 1978.

Jim Burlingame is historian for the town/village of East Rochester.

1971 sign announcing future tenants in the soon to be constructed East Rochester Village Mall.