Different vision of Flower City begins to blossom

Different vision of Flower City begins to blossom

Overview

By Seth Voorhees

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The building boom in downtown Rochester is really a microcosm of what’s already happening in other U.S. cities. It just took a bit longer to get here.

Rewind a bit to nine years ago, when Midtown Plaza closed for good. The permanent shuttering of the indoor mall, once a magnet drawing people in to make holiday memories and a point of regional pride, was perhaps the low point.

The former Midtown Tower is now Tower 280, with nearly all of its luxury apartments occupied. The old Chase Tower is transformed into The Metropolitan, with 26 stories of office space, retail, apartments and condos. Both reflect a shift in living, and in business, from the suburbs to center city.

“It’s kind of where all the different lifestyles and incomes and race and ages and off it it kind of comes crashing together in this amazing environment that’s high-energy, diverse, and it’s what people are wanting,” said Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, Rochester Downtown Development Corporation.

Zimmer-Meyer cites 145 tech businesses which have moved downtown in recent years, plus the nearly $1 billion in downtown investment this year alone. The state of New York has kicked in more than $100 million over the past seven years through efforts like “Finger Lakes Forward.”

“We now have all kinds of things happening in these beautiful old buildings that used to be something else but are now becoming the next generation of our economy,” said Vinnie Esposito, Empire State Development.

Despite downtown’s successes, challenges remain, chief among them perception that it’s unsafe. There’s also the issue of spreading downtown’s growing wealth.

“From an urban development perspective, we’re sitting in one of the poorest cities in the country,” Zimmer-Meyer acknowledged. “So how do we open the door to the train of prosperity that we’re seeing? How do we make sure everybody has access?”
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