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Evolving downtown Q and A: Christopher Mannelli

Move away from automobile-centric model

Christopher Mannelli, executive director of Geva Theatre

Christopher Mannelli, executive director of Geva Theatre

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

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

Very positive. Like others, I am convinced that one of the keys to having a thriving downtown is the continued growth in the number of residents in the city center. I am especially happy to see many projects in the works to make sure housing units are available at all levels of income. We want a vibrant and diverse population downtown, and it is important this remain a priority. I am also encouraged by the number of businesses moving downtown and the many incubator opportunities that are coming online. Roc the Riverway and the completion of the projects on the (former) Inner Loop will be a huge opportunity for this city–I expect even more exciting and dramatic changes to come.

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

Certainly. We see increased attendance from city residents and also growth in amenities (such as restaurants and coffee shops) for patrons who live outside the city to take advantage of. This all helps build an energetic downtown, which we are proud to be a part of.

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

We have begun to dip our toes into really creating a walkable city, and we could do more to encourage this by making our roads even more friendly to pedestrians, bicycles, etc. This kind of intentional design, away from an automobile-centric model, is becoming more and more prevalent in other cities, and we should take the opportunity to embrace it now, so we aren’t playing catch-up in the future.


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