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Evolving downtown Q and A: Sharon Napier

Bring Wegmans HQ downtown

Sharon Napier, founder and partner, Partners + Napier. (Provided photo)

Sharon Napier, founder and partner, Partners + Napier. (Provided photo)

To help track the impact of downtown’s ongoing evolution, the RBJ asked three stakeholders for comments. First up, Sharon Napier, founder and partner at Partners + Napier. Tuesday: Sergio Esteban, CEO of LaBella Associates; Wednesday: Christopher Mannelli, executive director of Geva Theatre. 

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

Positive and gaining momentum. We wanted to be in the middle of downtown’s ongoing renaissance and be active participants in its revitalization. We were attracted to the Metropolitan, a reimagined, iconic building in the center of downtown Rochester. It makes me smile every day walking into this building and seeing what Gallina Development had the vision to create. A mixed use building in the heart of the city for both businesses and residences. Each day coming into work I see beautiful art on display, a buzzing restaurant and bar, a convenient gym and ample seating areas inviting people to gather together. These features all contribute to a vibrant environment.

This energy extends outside the Metropolitan into the surrounding neighborhood. Like so many of us working and living in downtown, I recently decided to walk outside for lunch. I must have encountered at least half of our workforce taking moments during the day to recharge. Some were visiting the food trucks, others getting a coffee, reading a book, or taking a walk around the block. This just reaffirmed for me why we’re here. In our business, bringing the outside world in and immersing ourselves in culture helps inspire creativity.  We always encourage taking moments to recharge anytime throughout the day, and our new office space and location provides a diverse environment. Whether it’s trying out a new restaurant, or taking a walk to Eastman, creating “me time” in the middle of the day helps make all of our businesses stronger.

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

In order to create pride in our city and attract great talent, we can do more to revitalize downtown. We all win when we have a vibrant downtown. I see progress with more mixed generation living—college students, millennials, empty nesters increasingly calling downtown home. This creates a business, cultural and entertainment epicenter for Rochester. It’s important that we maintain the momentum as everyone gains with increasing opportunities to live, eat, work and play downtown.

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

 I think there is immense opportunity to create two anchor points in the heart of the city. First, I’d love to see Parcel 5 reimagined and developed similar to Madison Square Park in New York City. In this similar sized space, you see the fusion of people, art, food trucks, and an array of activities for adults and families. On one day, there is a sea of parked baby strollers with families gathered for a puppet show; the next day, adults milling about enjoying music or art.

Equally important to Parcel 5 is what you see when you look out over our city. There is a leading company missing from our skyline. Wegmans is part of the fabric of our community. I’d like to encourage our friends at Wegmans to be pacesetters by moving their headquarters to the heart of the city. This commitment would create magnetism encouraging other leading businesses to have their brand be part of Rochester’s skyline.

On a more tactical level, I’d encourage focusing on adding more parking and a grocery store to support continued growth.


  1. Why only Wegmans. What about Paychex?

  2. Napier says she would like Parcel 5 to turn into a Rochester replica of Madison Square Park in NYC, but there’s some big problems there. Madison Square Park is 6.2 acres, over six times larger than Parcel 5 at 1.1 acre. Also, Madison Square Park is mainly surrounded by commercial buildings and a big church, while Parcel 5 is ringed primarily by residential apartment buildings that, when current construction is completed, will house 1,300 residents. That means that if the park Napier proposes were to be used for music concerts, a very large number of people would have the sound (amplified by the “canyon effect” that exists at Parcel 5) blasting into their homes. You simply can’t do that on a sustainable basis in such a densely packed neighborhood. It will drive tenants out, eventually creating real problems in keeping those buildings filled — which is the very opposite of what Napier advocates in promoting downtown.

    A genuine park, with lots of trees, benches and flowerbeds would be fine, so long as it is constructed to prevent it from becoming a live entertainment space.


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