President, Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC)
Years in current role: 18
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The ability to have an impact, and to watch that impact play out in real time. Downtown’s real estate investors, business and institutional leaders, and my economic development partners are a remarkable group of people. So insightful about what it takes to make a great city, passionate about downtown, and committed to creating a vibrant and inclusive place that brings the whole community together. I’ve been lucky to be part of the urban renaissance now unfolding, and to position downtown as a key regional economic growth asset. Having such incredible real estate, A&E, and construction partners is why what has been built is so compelling. Growing stronger partnerships with the city, county and state have also been essential and very rewarding. It’s been the dream job of a lifetime!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?
We’ve all struggled with COVID’s impact on everything. The ripple effects are enormous, and may take years to normalize. The explosion of the work from home experiment, changing workplace expectations, and significant supply chain disruptions for building materials have hit the real estate industry hard. Now finally accelerating, our own construction project (The Commissary) was delayed and had a far slower start up than anticipated. In addition, the pandemic has exposed shocking inequities in our health care, policing, criminal justice, and housing systems. All of this impacts economic outcomes that reverberate throughout our region and impede our overall growth. Understanding how to corporately respond and to track market impacts is important work but remains a challenge.
What do you see as the biggest changes in the real estate and construction industries in the next 3-5 years?
I see three chief changes that will impact real estate and construction: (1) the price of building materials is currently high and may not return to pre-COVID levels, particularly if some product manufacturing is on shored; (2) choking off the single-family construction pipeline during COVID has caused regional home sales to be artificially high, and future pricing corrections will impact home values; and (3) the work-from-home model forced by the pandemic has morphed into a full throttle culture change which will likely impact commercial leasing, although the degree to which this will happen in our region is unknown.
What community organizations do you support as a volunteer and why?
My primary volunteer focus has been on the Community Foundation, with which I have been actively engaged for several decades. I served on its Board for 12 years, chaired its grant-making committee for three, helped lead the launch of ACT Rochester, and have led its Mission Related Investing work since its inception. In many ways, the Community Foundation acts as a trusted conscience for our community, backing its leadership, grant-making and investments with market facts, best practices, and community-based conversations and feedback. I continually see their work as ground breaking, and their leadership as honest, authentic, and high integrity. It has been a special privilege to have been able to work with this enlightened, hard-working, and nationally recognized organization.
What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?
Definitely travelling around the U.S and to other countries, and being able to go out into the community again — restaurants, festivals, cafes, live performances, museums and galleries, microbreweries, big celebrations, and face-to-face meetings. It can’t come soon enough!