Taco Bell looks at Rowe’s photo site on Mt. Hope Avenue

A Taco Bell could replace a longtime Rochester photography business on Mt. Hope Avenue under a proposal being considered next month by city council.

Council members are expected to vote on Nov. 9 to dezone two properties behind Rowe Photo, Video and Audio that make up the parking lot the store has used there since 1969.

The applicant for this zoning change, Hospitality Syracuse, Inc., is a franchise management company that operates Taco Bells throughout New York State. The Taco Bell would be the first within city limits.

A call to Hospitality Syracuse was not immediately returned, but notes from a city zoning board meeting in October show the plan to demolish Rowe and two houses, one on Shelbourne Road and the another on Elmerston Road. The planned restaurant would be a 2,000 square foot facility with two-lane drive-thru, depending on demand.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter Taco Bell that’s on offer,” Betsy Brugg, a lawyer representing Syracuse Hospitality, said at the meeting. “We include screening and landscaping, pedestrian accessibility, pedestrian safety, and balancing the pedestrian experience with (the) automotive needs as required by the overall plan. We have adequate infrastructure.

The minutes of that meeting also indicated that several residents had expressed concerns about the noise and traffic potentially generated by the Taco Bell.

Rowe Photo owner Richard Rowe confirmed in a telephone interview on Tuesday that Taco Bell had made him an offer for the building, but said the details need to be worked out. Among them, he said, are cleaning up the property, which sits on the site of what was once a gas station.

“At some point in my life the property needs to be cleaned up, which means the building has to go,” Rowe said. “So Taco Bell made us an offer, however, there are a lot of things we have to go through to get approvals.”

Rowe Photo was founded in 1898 by Rowe’s grandfather, Charles Rowe, originally as a store specializing in cameras and bicycles. For decades the company has been split into two companies; a retail store under the name “Rochester Camera Exchange” and a commercial photo studio called “Rowe Commercial Photographers”.

The studio portion of the business was eventually cut off, and today the store offers a wide range of cameras, photo equipment, high-end audio equipment, and televisions. A second location, Scott’s Photo by Rowe, is on East Avenue.

Rowe declined to comment on the future of the business and whether the current building would be moved.

“I don’t want to make a public statement right now because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Rowe said. “If you ask me bluntly, ‘What is Rowe going to do? Or ‘Where is Rowe going?’ I don’t know at this point.

Rowe said he didn’t know when concrete steps could be taken.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Rowe said. “It looks like it will be next year. “

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or [email protected]

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