Mayor Lovely Warren was joined Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and leaders of the Rochester Economic Development Corp. (REDCO) to announce the opening of the application period for entrepreneurs to join a partnership to expand business opportunities in the city’s Commercial Corridors through the $13 million Revitalize Rochester Fund.
“Rochester’s commercial corridors are very fertile ground for bold and innovative business ideas,” Warren said. “Each city neighborhood has its own unique and special character, and our widely diverse commercial corridors represent the centers of commerce and vibrancy for thousands of residents and visitors. Thanks to the vision of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leadership of REDCO, the Revitalize Rochester Fund gives us a means to unlock the imagination of our entrepreneurs to help us create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.”
Cuomo first announced the creation of the fund in his 2019 State of the State Address. REDCO will award financing to entrepreneurs who present a viable model to establish a business in a city commercial corridor that is struggling with poverty and disinvestment. In addition to financing for working capital, the fund will provide emerging entrepreneurs with consultation services and the latest analysis of market conditions in particular neighborhoods.
“We are proud of our long history of fostering public and private collaborations in Rochester,” said REDCO CEO Bayé Muhammad. “Thanks to the leadership and support of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Warren, REDCO can be even more effective at bringing together our economic development partners and the community to support local businesses and provide growth opportunities along our commercial corridors.”
The RRF emerged from a $10 million Empire State Development Upstate Revitalization grant, which enabled an additional $3.1 million in loans from private-sector lenders, including the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership, Upstate National, M&T Bank, Canandaigua National Bank, Five Star Bank, Genesee Regional Bank, Citizens Commercial Bank and Key Bank.
The opening of the application period follows the completion of the city’s 2019 Commercial Corridor Study and coincides with an ongoing neighborhood shopping survey called Rochester TREND. The combination of data from the reports and targeted investments will strengthen the relationship between commercial corridors, commuters and surrounding neighborhoods.
“There’s nothing more powerful than a community that believes in itself, and the Rochester Revitalization Fund is helping to transform Rochester’s neighborhoods block-by-block,” Hochul said. “This fund is giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to unlock their potential and lead the way for Rochester and New York State to build back better, smarter and more resilient for a post-pandemic future.”
The RRF comprises the following areas:
• Building Renovation and Streetscape grants will provide funding for facade and building renovations to support existing and new neighborhood businesses and building owners who have limited equity.
• Catalytic Predevelopment Loans will provide flexible, low-interest predevelopment loans to early-stage real estate development projects that are focused on the revitalization of key commercial properties in targeted neighborhood corridors. Funds are to be used for developments that will have high impact, stimulate economic growth and create vibrant commercial areas in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.
• The Urban Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Program consists of $1.5 million to support organizations that provide training, technical assistance and mentorship to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
• The Worker Cooperative Business Revolving Loan Program consists of approximately $1.5 million to support the development of the Worker Cooperative business models, which provide employees with an opportunity share ownership of businesses. These funds can be used in targeted neighborhoods to start worker cooperatives or convert an existing business to the model.
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