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Busier downtown attracts millennials from suburbs

After busing from her Henrietta digs to her job in Rochester for two years, Cady Guyton pulled up stakes and moved downtown.

“Rochester today is very different from the Rochester during the Kodak and Rochester heyday—it’s picking up on a revival,” says the 24-year-old Bergmann Associates intern architect. “I thought it’d be very cool to get downtown and be in the heart of it.”

Nowadays, Guyton “commutes” from her apartment in Tower280 at Midtown to her office—in the same building.

Guyton is just one of the many millennials that have been drawn to Rochester in recent years. Their numbers appear to be growing: From 2010 to 2015, the city’s population of 20-to-34-year-olds grew by 8.8 percent, more than that of any other upstate city. By contrast, the number of millennials moving into all U.S. cities during the same period grew by just over 6 percent.

Downtown’s hustle and bustle could be a strong draw for local millennials. As president, CEO and founder of Basch Solutions, Justin Basch spends much of his time alone in his home office working for his business, which creates custom websites, social media strategies and other digital products.

That grew a bit monotonous when Basch’s office was in his quiet three-bedroom Greece home.

“It was almost like a lonely sense of ‘Why am I in the suburbs?’” the 30-year-old explains. “I like people being around; I don’t like it when it’s eerie quiet.”

After two years of not-so-peaceful quiet, Basch had had enough. He put his Greece house up for rent and moved into a spacious loft in the Temple Building at East Main and Franklin streets. Nowadays, he can spend as much time as he needs on growing his firm and then step out to enjoy a meal, walk his dog or just people-watch.

“You walk outside on a Tuesday at two o’clock and go get coffee or something,” Basch says. “It’s kind of just a mental break.”

Though Basch admits that he doesn’t partake of Rochester’s night life, he does enjoy heading to nearby Tower280 at Midtown for a meal at Branca Midtown.

“One of the guys over there was telling me I’m his new favorite regular,” Basch says.

The lure of downtown living can even pull millennials from other parts of the city. For about 10 years, Matt Squires, vice president and co-owner of the commercial construction firm Manning Squires Henning Co. Inc., cared for his Corn Hill home, which was built in 1908.

“I would go to work, doing construction all day, and come home and have a house that was a project and needed its lawn mowed,” he says.

Corn Hill’s semi-suburban streets also left Squires feeling a bit isolated. Just over three years ago, at the age of 32, he decided to shift to a loft in the Temple Building.

“It was my age, and wanting to be around people,” Squires says. “My buddies are down the street and in the Park Avenue neighborhood.”

Squires’ current place is only about a 30-minute drive from Manning Squires Henning’s Batavia offices—and a relatively short walk or bicycle ride from Rochester’s restaurants, entertainment venues and other attractions.

“From my place, there’s probably 10 very good restaurants in walking distance,” Squires says. “I’m half a block from the Eastman (Theatre) and their shows and the Jazz Fest.”

In addition, Squires likes the overall feel of the city, which is undergoing a kind of rebirth as new buildings sprout and others are renovated.

“Rochester’s on the rebound, and it’s incredibly walkable and vibrant,” he says. “There’s a certain buzz to the city that I think has been lost for decades and has been coming back.”

Downtown didn’t catch Guyton’s ear, but her eye.

“Given my own history in school and my own interest in architecture and urban planning, I was definitely interested in following the sort of rebirth of the city,” she says.

Guyton had originally planned to follow the city’s progress from Henrietta, but a change in RTS’ bus schedule forced her look for a place in Rochester that would allow her to continue working full time. Tower280 at Midtown, a mixed-use building on the site of the old Midtown Plaza, caught her attention. Guyton moved in just over a year ago.

“I really was kind of attracted to the nostalgic idea of the old Midtown mall building,” she says. “‘Living in a new building with an ‘old soul’ is what I like to say.”

The fact that the building houses the offices of Bergmann Associates was an additional perk—Guyton hates upstate winters.

“It’s been a game-changer for me that has made Rochester much nicer,” she says. “I don’t have to go outside unless I want to in winter.”

Another perk in Guyton’s perspective is being able to enjoy what the area has to offer without getting behind the wheel of her car.

“It’s the walkability,” Guyton says. “Being able to walk to restaurants and bars nearby, not having to drive, not needing to rely on that car.”

Downtown could still use a few more amenities. The area has only one real grocery store and lacks a drugstore.

“I’m still driving to Henrietta for my pharmacy,” Guyton says. “A Rite Aid or something downtown would really start to fill the little grocery-mart kind of need as well.”

Though developers are eyeing Parcel 5 of the former Midtown Plaza site, Guyton hopes the city will turn the East Main Street property into a park/entertainment space, as it was used during the 2016 Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

“That would just bring energy to the city that would really just pay off in dividends,” she says.

Plus, Guyton’s apartment faces Parcel 5.

2/10/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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