Deputy Commissioner, Neighborhood & Business Development, City of Rochester
Years in current role: 3
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Within Neighborhood & Business Development (NBD), my specific responsibility is Business and Housing Development. Our mission statement is “to create great places in Rochester to live, work, and play” and I work with a great team of people here who do everything they can every day to help us deliver on our mission.
I really enjoy working with developers and helping them imagine, design, and construct projects in the city of Rochester. There are so many projects underway right now that it is hard to keep track of them all in both the housing and business areas. Since Mayor Warren took office in January 2014, almost $720M has been invested in affordable housing, for a total of 3,626 units and $413M has been invested in 1,675 market-rate units.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?
The biggest challenge over the past year is the same as almost everyone — how do we keep working at a rapid pace without being in the office and working face-to-face? We are very fortunate that the city’s IT department rallied to help from Day 1. They rapidly purchased laptops for everyone, provided connectivity solutions so that we had remote access to our files, and implemented Zoom and Teams so that we could communicate. We also had to rapidly create new programs to help businesses, homeowners, and tenants. Our Business Emergency Retention Grant (BERG) received over 1,000 requests for help and we distributed more than $2.2M to local businesses. We have also provided rental assistance of more than $20M through the Eviction Prevention Pilot Initiative (EPPI).
What do you see as the biggest changes in the real estate and construction industries in the next 3-5 years?
Real estate transactions and construction have fortunately been able to continue through the pandemic. The biggest issue right now is the extreme increase in the cost of materials. I am hearing from the development community that increases of 200%-300% or more are occurring on many of the materials they need to complete their projects. Obviously no one could have anticipated this when planning a project, so if these increased costs continue for 2-3 years or more, we will likely see a reduction or delay in projects. The other big change I expect is an increased interest in energy efficiency as developers continue to look at total cost vs. construction cost and incorporate more energy saving appliances, HVAC, and water heating along with more insulation and tighter buildings.
What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?
I am a board member of the Rochester Economic Development Corp (REDCO), Rochester Land Bank Corp., Greater Rochester Housing Partnership (GRHP), and NextCorps. I am also a 43-year member of the 19th Ward Community Association. I believe that each of these organizations is critical to the ongoing success of Rochester as a community with great housing for all, strong businesses, vibrant neighbourhoods, and opportunity for all to start and grow businesses here.
What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?
My wife and I have young grandchildren, so I am looking forward to being able to spend time together with them. Even simple things like going to a playground have become challenging with concerns about sanitizing and masking. I am also waiting patiently for an opportunity to visit the Strong Museum with them.