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Downtown growth: Tracking the Impact

jay-rettberg-portraitJay Rettberg

General Manager

Hyatt Regency Rochester

How would you characterize the changes you’ve seen to downtown Rochester over the last five years?

I believe that every bit of change that has occurred in downtown Rochester has been a positive one. For the first time since the downsizing of our major companies, new businesses such as Windstream, CGI and Datto keep the graduating classes from our top colleges in our marketplace. The number of residents that now call center city home is stronger than ever. We are fortunate to have major local investors and key city officials making the revitalization of our downtown happen.

As the downtown population has grown over the last several years have you felt an impact on your business?

It is great to see people walking Main Street again. New shops and restaurants add to the downtown buzz, and companies are now jousting over space. The boarded-up windows have dissipated signifying our economic rebirth. From our point of view, travelers, both corporate and social, have begun reconsidering the value of hotels in downtown as we see outlets and activity continue to grow. Among the large strides forward we have taken together for our city, we feel this is just the beginning towards a full potential we have not yet realized.

What is something downtown Rochester doesn’t currently have that it could use?

I am very happy to see a focus on our waterways as an area that can complement our new urban residents and growing tourism market. A newly developed Main Street that ties into a refined walkway along Genesee River is the backbone to reintroducing Rochester as the gem that it once was not so many years ago.

steve-dubnikSteve Dubnik

President & CEO

The Strong Museum

How would you characterize the changes you’ve seen to downtown Rochester over the last five years?

There’s growing optimism in Rochester. While there’s still some work to be done in transforming the city, momentum is building, and we’re seeing tangible results. With the fill-in of the Inner Loop and the redevelopment at Midtown, it’s made The Strong feel more connected with the city, too. Once dormant buildings have been renovated as residences or for mixed use. The food and beverage industry is growingÑeven boomingÑwith the addition of new breweries, wine bars, and restaurants. Some of the areas cultural gems, from museums to theaters, have started to invest in updating or expanding their facilities. Downtown is becoming a place that people increasingly want to spend time.

As the downtown population has grown over the last several years have you felt an impact on your organization?

The Strong’s long been a major draw for downtown, so the population growth hasn’t had much direct impact on the museum, but it has led to an increasing sense of vibrancy and vitality around us. There’s also been an increase in optionsÑwhether dining or activitiesÑfor staff and guests of the museum. We expect The Strong’s proposed Neighborhood of Play to be an additional draw downtown and give people from near and far even more reason to spend time here.

What is something downtown Rochester doesn’t currently have that it could use?

As the downtown population and visitation to the city grows, parking remains an issue, so The Strong’s proposed expansion includes a parking garage to help address this need. The city could also use more family-friendly dining options, hotel options (which we are adding as part of the Strong Neighborhood of Play), and evening activities to keep people out and about. We’re also interested in finding better ways for the museum to connect to other attractions and make it easier for guests to move around in our city whether that’s through increased walkability, specialized shuttles, or something else.


jim-brownJim Brown

Executive Director

Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center

How would you characterize the changes you’ve seen to downtown Rochester over the last five years?

In a word: Impressive! Our downtown has in a relatively short time period made a transformative leap into the 21st century. I am most struck by the enormous conversion of what was once commercial space into residential and or mixed use. Clearly the millennials are driving a large portion of that shift and their demand for urban living has spurred other development such as additional restaurants, bike share programs, increased need for green space and more readily accessible parking, none of which we really had five years ago.

The redevelopment of the midtown block seemed to be the catalyst that helped spark all this. That has been followed by numerous others projects including, the Sibley building, The Metropolitan, the Alliance Building, the Inner Loop and the list go on. I also don’t think we can underestimate the great vision of our local government both at the city and county level. They have, through a shared purpose, created dedicated public and private partnerships which provide opportunity for this all to happen and happen faster than would typically occur if each were working independently of each other.

The recently announced ROC the Riverway is another exciting opportunity for downtown wherein we have the chance as a community to identify how we can reenergize the Genesee River to make it part of the downtown experience, and not just a passive feature. With seed money from the state we are leveraging strategic projects that will hopefully provide greater access and connectivity into and out of our downtown.

As the downtown population has grown over the last several years have you felt an impact on your business?

For the convention center, a significant amount of our meeting business is repetitive annual business and in many cases groups also are in a rotation cycle returning to Rochester every 2 to 3 years, so they provide a very unique perspective on things they notice from a  previous visit.

A comment we hear quite often from meeting planners is that there is a noticeable increase in pedestrian traffic around our convention district which, when you consider business nearby such as CGI headquarters, the new Starbucks and Morton’s The Steakhouse located in the recently renovated Hyatt Regency Hotel, it is a natural visual impact of more people downtown, and that in turn fosters the feeling of a safer and more vibrant downtown.

As more and more people choose to live and work in our city, the additional activity provides more opportunity for securing tourism and convention business through word of mouth with meeting planners and attendees who have recently stayed with us and enjoyed a positive experience.

What is something downtown Rochester doesn’t currently have that it could use?

From our perspective as an organization that is tasked with positively impacting our community by hosting local residents and visitors to downtown through our convention center, we need to continue the trend of reinvesting in our public amenities, including our transportation hubs, our parks, trails, waterways, restaurants, as these are all vital components to a strong and vibrant urban center, and one locals and visitors alike embrace.

Retail seems to be the missing piece currently in downtown and, when it does arrive, will it be in the traditional form, or perhaps be something more unique, with one-of-a-kind items with a connection to our city and or the region? Also, having more activities taking place on the weekends and in the evenings, including pop-up events, concerts and food truck rodeos, would be beneficial for our out of town visitors who may be here for a convention during the day but also have plenty of free time to explore our city and all that it has to offer.

Last but not least I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the need to further enhance our public assembly facilities including the convention center, arena and performing arts center. These are critical public venues that are aging and must be updated to stay competitive, and all serve as links in the chain for enriching our quality of life and growing civic pride in our community. We have all the pieces to create a lively and thriving downtown, and in many cities these venues help to provide real synergies for entertainment, dining and retail expansion.



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