In four weeks, a shuttered relic of Kodak's golden age on Rochester's north side will go on the auction block after the developers who pledged to make it part of the city's future surrendered their vision, Monroe County sources said.

Rehab of the Kodak Hawkeye factory at St. Paul Boulevard and Avenue E began in 2018 with a ribbon cutting and a big vision to bring new opportunities to a struggling Rochester neighborhood. Five years later, local leaders are backing out of the deal after the company never delivered.

What You Need To Know

  • WBS Capital will place the former Kodak Hawkeye plant on Driving Park up for auction after filing for bankruptcy

  • The property will be made available, according to its real estate listing, five years after WBS envisioned low-income housing and commercial development at the 726,000 square foot facility

  • Development benefits from Monroe County and New York State pledged to the project have been canceled amid more than a quarter million dollars owed Rochester and the county by WBS Capital. The company also owes creditors $1 million, according to a city official

  • The former Hawkeye plant was a research and development facility for Eastman Kodak

  • Hawkeye plant once housed a secret surveillance program operated by the U.S. government during the Cold War era

The company, WBS Capital, a Chinese investment firm based in New York City, envisioned low-income housing and a cyber-commerce hub that would grow from Kodak's old Hawkeye plant. WBS planned to invest $55 million. State and county aid followed.

Rochester's mayor at the time, Lovely Warren, was among those who supported the plan, calling it "a job-creating engine."

Representatives of WBS, which has filed for bankruptcy, did not respond to requests for comment.

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The Hawkeye site had been dark for more than a generation. It once housed a research and development hub for Kodak in its heyday. It even doubled as a Cold War surveillance site for the U.S. government during the 1950s and '60s.

According to county and city sources close to the situation, funding from WBS never fully arrived.

The company blamed the pandemic and Chinese-U.S. relations that turned sour, sources said. Less than half the investment was made, and local tax debt accumulated.

Sources said the company owes Monroe County and the city of Rochester $260,000 in back taxes. The company owes creditors $1 million. Last month, the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency revoked its tax breaks for the project. County sources said the state had planned to give a $1 million grant for the Hawkeye plan, but that's since been halted.

The property looks as empty as it has been for a generation - at least from the outside.

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One of the few instances that created attention at the property was a cannabis business, run by the husband of WBS's president, that was discovered by authorities to be operating in the facility, sources said. It's unclear whether that business was operating legally.

Next month, WBS will put the site up for auction. The company is still trying to find new investors to move into parts of the building, sources said.

The family that owns WBS has also tried to reinvent historic properties in other parts of the state. According to Monroe County sources, they bought the landmark AM&A's department store in downtown Buffalo, and also St. Mary's Manor in Niagara Falls.

Neither of those projects got off the ground.