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Downtown living

Over the last 15 years, the number of people living in downtown Rochester has roughly doubled, even as the overall population citywide has slipped and in Monroe County has edged up marginally.

Still, with a residential population of slightly more than 6,000 in its urban core, Rochester trails many cities in terms of downtown residential density. As a result, many retailers have struggled to make a go of it downtown.

Some people think even with the residential growth of the last decade and a half, Rochester simply doesn’t have what it will take to reach a critical mass of people living in the center city. Hopefully at least some of them spent a bit of Wednesday morning listening to the four developers on the panel at the RBJ Power Breakfast on the downtown residential revival.

The four—Joseph Eddy of WinnDevelopment Inc., Ken Glazer of Buckingham Properties LLC, Nelson Leenhouts of Home Leasing LLC and Thomas Masaschi of DHD Ventures LLC—represent companies that have made a large bet on the downtown residential market. And they believe in downtown’s future. As Mr. Glazer put it: “Rochester is rebuilding itself.”

Their projects range from the iconic Sibley Building and Tower at Midtown to the lesser-known 50 Chestnut St. and 88 Elm St.—all of which involve rehabilitating existing structures, some of them historic. Also on the horizon is Charlotte Square, which Home Leasing will build from the ground up on a vacant parcel.

Most of these are rental developments; some are high-end, with prices to match. All of the developers report strong demand.

But will the surge continue? No one can say for sure. A number of factors—among them perceptions of safety downtown and still-sparse retail offerings—could cool the trend.

Even if it continues, downtown will not be transformed overnight.

A good dose of confidence also is in order, though. The people who are working to rebuild downtown clearly have it.

5/1/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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