Downtown lands Constellation Brands’ headquarters

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Constellation Brands will renovate five buildings on the Aqueduct campus, relocating its headquarters to the Aqueduct Building on the left. (Photos by Paul Ericson)

In a $50 million move acknowledging its roots and commitment to Rochester’s future, Constellation Brands has decided to relocate its global headquarters to the historic Aqueduct Building downtown.

The company’s investment will renovate five buildings on the Aqueduct campus located between East Main and Broad streets, across from Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial. In addition, the property developers—who acquired the complex in March 2020—plan to invest an additional $30 million at the 170,000-square-foot riverfront campus, officials say. The campus, which is likely to be operational in 2024, includes a 120-space parking structure.

Constellation Brands expects to create more than 80 new local jobs. It will get up to $4 million from Empire State Development through the Excelsior Jobs Tax Credit program in exchange for those job-creation commitments. More than 340 employees will move to the Aqueduct location, while roughly 200 people will continue to be based out of Constellation’s offices in Victor.

The announcement was made by Kathy Hochul in her first visit to Rochester as governor.

“I know a lot of companies could go elsewhere and we’re always competing with other states and other nations to take our very best, but a company like Constellation that’s been here for over 75 years—and yes, they’ve expanded, they’ve grown so much. They’ve created an international brand, (and) we’re so proud that they’ve called this area home,” Hochul said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Hochul spoke of the history of Aqueduct Building and its transformative potential.

“We bring over 340 people to work downtown and then they have friends and their family. Everybody wants to hang out downtown and you create this critical mass of a cool area. … It’s been long time waiting, long overdue,” she said. “Finally, that day has arrived to have one of the largest beverage companies in the world headquartered right here in downtown Rochester.”

Bill Newlands, president and CEO of Constellation Brands, said the company’s commitment to the Rochester’s urban revitalization efforts is strong. He reminded the audience of Constellation Brands’ founder Marvin Sands, who started the business in an old sauerkraut factory in Canandaigua. Today, Constellation Brands, which employs nearly 9,000 worldwide, is an international producer and marketer of beer, wine, and spirits brands such as Corona Extra and Modelo Especial beer brands, and premium wine and spirits brands, including the Robert Mondavi brand family, Kim Crawford, the Prisoner brand family, SVEDKA Vodka, Casa Noble Tequila, and High West Whiskey. The company also maintains an interest in the cannabis industry. 

“Our success really comes off the backbone of a great set of people. That’s what most businesses really rely on. And we are no different,” Newlands said. “And we think the future in this Aqueduct facility creates a great opportunity for us to not only take what we’ve done, but to build on that success for the future.”

The state and city are expected to fast track the Aqueduct Reimagined project near the proposed campus in line with Constellation Brands’ move-in date a couple of years from now. A centerpiece of the ROC the Riverway initiative, the Aqueduct Reimagined project will remove the vehicular bridge deck on Broad Street, which was added in 1927, exposing the original aqueduct framework that was constructed in 1836 at its original elevation, opening up the views of the river and potential trail connections in the downtown river corridor, officials said.

Work is expected to begin next year, starting with utility upgrades that most directly impact the Aqueduct campus. The initial infrastructure revamp will receive $9 million in state aid. The city of Rochester is expected to get a $5 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant for the public infrastructure improvements to begin the initial construction phase of the Aqueduct Reimagined project. 

Economic development, city and county officials present at the event expressed their hope that Constellation Brands’ move and the Aqueduct Reimagined project would spur other employers to move downtown. Constellation joins some 200 companies in the Downtown Innovation Zone, officials said.

Robert Duffy, president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, spoke of ESL Federal Credit Union’s decision to build its headquarters on Chestnut Street, a decision he believes prompted others to consider downtown Rochester.

“Constellation (is planting its) beautiful headquarters here,” he said. “Watch the reverberations economically, not only two years down the road, five, 10, 20, 30 years down the road. It makes a huge, huge difference. “It’s going to inspire more confidence and like (others) said, ‘downtown Rochester is on fire.’ There’s things going on everywhere right now. And this (announcement) just throws logs on that fire.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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