The Corn Hill neighborhood of Rochester had treated Dion Doucet and his wife, Kathleen Corrigan Doucet, quite well, but three years ago they decided it was time to move.
Having experienced city living his entire life — first when growing up in New Orleans, then as a Rochester resident — Dion Doucet said the couple wanted to give the suburban lifestyle a look. They toured townhomes in Victor and Webster.
But between homeowners’ association fees, taxes and the feeling of being too far away from all the things they enjoyed, the couple instead decided downtown is where they still wanted to be. So they bought one of the new properties in North Plymouth Terrace in September of 2015.
Their two-story, two-bedroom townhouse along Plymouth Avenue, across from Hochstein School of Music & Dance, includes a two-car attached garage and there are no association fees. Plus, the builder, Graywood Custom Homes of Rochester, secured a nine-year tax break that meant a total savings of around $37,000 over the first nine years.
For Kathleen, she has a 10-minute drive to her job at Strong Memorial Hospital. On a bad-traffic day, Dion has a 10-minute drive to his job at SPX Flow on Mt. Read Boulevard.
“We came back down here because it was for us,” Dion Doucet, 55, said. “We enjoy the arts, jazz, biking, baseball games. And I can walk anywhere.
“If you want to do things, everything is here for you in the city.”
They’re not alone in that thinking. New housing units are continually popping up throughout downtown, from lofts in the Centers at High Falls to townhomes and apartments on Charlotte Street off East Avenue. They’re a complement to already-completed upscale projects such as Tower 280, Spectra at Sibley Square and 88 On Elm.
There are 1,700 new housing units in the works that, when occupied, will bring Rochester’s downtown population to 10,000 by 2021, according to the Rochester Downtown Development Corp.
Why the resurgence and revival of downtown living? Developers aren’t exactly sure, other than it may be nothing more than Rochester riding the wave of a continuing national trend.
“I can’t tell you why, all I know is it’s real,” said Andy Crossed, managing partner with Rochester-based Park Grove Realty. “People are moving back to urban areas.”
For Doucet, one reason was easy to pin down. “I’m getting older, I don’t want to be doing yard work anymore,” he said.
Park Grove Realty has downtown lofts in the Kirstein Building on Bittner Street, just off Andrews Street. There are 24 units; rent ranges from $1,025 to $1,495.
“They’re really all-inclusive with parking, a washer/dryer and cable TV, and I think millennials and young professionals really like that one price for everything,” Crossed said.
Across downtown, 44 Exchange has 24 apartments occupying floors two through five of the five-story building. The ground floor and lower level feature office space. Zacarah Corp. manages the building, which was built in 1959 as the home for Central Trust Bank.
The Genesee River is a football field away, at most. Across the street is Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. The Central Library is on the other side of the river. And rent is a bit more modest than the luxury living spaces a few blocks away — around $1,000 to $1,100 a month, give or take, said Todd Clicquennoi, who oversees Zacarah and Metro Falls Development.
“We know what the market will bear, and we don’t want vacancies,” Clicquennoi said. “And folks really enjoy the proximity to everything downtown. When things are lit up at night and there’s people outside, it’s a cool vibe to be there.”
Metro Falls Development sought to create a little more upscale living when it opened two lofts in the Centers at High Falls. “You want to live downtown but not that downtown,” Clicquennoi said. “They were occupied before we built them.”
These aren’t the typical lofts, however.
“We built them large like townhouses,” he said. “You go up an elevator, go into the apartment and then you still have an upstairs. If you’re leaving a 3,000-square-foot house in Penfield, you still have 2,000 square feet here.”
Three or four more are planned over the next year or two. “I don’t want so many that it’s over-saturated. I want unique.”
Over on the East End, Home Leasing is finding that when they build apartments or townhomes, they’re leasing or selling them quickly. Very quickly. And they’ve been building a lot in the Charlotte Street area.
The first project, the 72 luxury units in Charlotte Square, have been open nearly two years and they are full — with a waiting list, said Nelson Leenhouts, chairman and CEO of Home Leasing.
The company’s second project, 10 townhouses on Charlotte Street, is underway. Seven are already sold. Construction of a 50-unit apartment complex on Parcel 1 of the old Inner Loop is just underway, and the final project, a 50-plus unit apartment complex, has been proposed for Parcel 3 but needs approval from the city. It’s a joint venture with Trillium Health and will be LGBTQ friendly, Leenhouts said.
The completed projects have one thing in common: they’re for empty-nesters and millennials.
“We have the two extremes but not much in between,” Leenhouts said of the age spectrum of residents. “Many of the people have come in from the suburbs. They want to be where the action is.”