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.