The Rochester Downtown Development Corp. and Rochester Downtown Partnership have outlined next steps for center city’s proposed business improvement district. These steps include opportunities for community members to share their views.
Earlier this month, City Council voted in favor of exploring a business improvement district, a public-private partnership that uses private dollars to further economic vitality. Council had postponed the vote in July. Typically, business leaders lead a BID effort, shepherded by local government. A BID ideally is financed by area businesses and the funds are used to provide services like shelter for the homeless, street lighting and security.
“BIDs are tried-and-true tools that help facilitate recovery for downtowns that have experienced challenges,” says Galin Brooks, RDDC president and CEO and executive director of RDP, an entity created in 2021 by RDDC, Finger Lakes Empire State Development, the city of Rochester, and ROC2025. “I am excited at the opportunity we have before us to build on existing energy and enthusiasm and identify how best to be a strong steward for Rochester’s downtown.”
Over a two-year period, the groups say they plan to conduct a collaborative engagement process to listen to the community’s preferences. The proposed timeline calls for three phases, which includes community surveys and public input sessions.
“I am very interested in watching these next steps take shape,” says Rochester Mayor Malik Evans. “The best business improvement districts are strong partnerships that create powerful economic empowerment opportunities for diverse communities. With the targeted investments of the city, county and state in our center city, it makes sense to consider how private investments can support the public sector and make Rochester even stronger.”
Tory Van Voorhis, who relocated her small business Second Avenue Learning to Tower 280 several years ago, would like to be part of revitalizing the area. As would Matt Denker, owner of LBLD Living.
“As a downtown homeowner, I am incredibly excited for the upcoming BID discussions, and look forward to discussions about how to enhance programming in our downtown parks, increase beautification, and offer even more diverse events than we already have,” Denker says. “As a downtown business owner, I will be focused on the increased marketing efforts that could be available to downtown businesses as part of a potential BID.”
Not everyone is pumped about plans for the BID, however. Artists, for instance, have opposed Rochester’s proposed BID, outlining the negative impact of such districts. They say RDP would be able to tax the district and spend funds “in their own interests with little oversight or recourse from the community.” An Instagram account, Downtown Dubiously, a play on the “Downtown Definitely” tagline, also challenges the idea, including what it sees as the secretive nature of the process so far.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.
Unfortunately, this is a typical RDDC proposal, short on actual plans and about a year behind reality. Two years of planning? For what? By then Constellation will be moving into their new world headquarters on the west side of the river. Every resource devoted to downtown should be building a better experience for them by helping businesses get started – places to eat, better walking environment, etc. Two years and this thing will still be a proposal. Meanwhile there will be a huge influx of well-paid people working downtown that are not there now and they will be nervous suburbanites who might feel surrounded by empty storefronts instead of places to walk to. We’ve done really well so far but it was driven by development and small business, not initiatives with no real ideas.
I certainly hope that anything going on with the BID will NOT affect Parcel 5. This parcel has been used in wonderful ways by communities and particularly for inner-city residents and for Community use.
If you are thinking of using this parcel in any way, shape, or form for this or any other project then maybe you had better think again. Government derives its delegated power from voters. Elected Government should be working for the people. I wish to hear more about this BID initiative!