All College speaker highlights Rochester revitalization efforts

City of Rochester Director of Development Services Kathleen Washington has put her faith into the potential for growth in a devastated downtown area of Rochester.

Washington spoke about the effort to develop the City of Rochester during All College Hour in the MacVittie College Union Ballroom on Wednesday Nov. 8. Her work in the Caribbean on business revitalization and her experience as a Fulbright Scholar allows for her to share a unique perspective.

Washington opened the speech by stressing an important change in the economy that has caused harm to Rochester: the move from a large to small business economy. Rochester was known for companies such as Kodak, Xerox and Bausch and Lomb, all of which have either withdrawn from the city or downsized considerably. 

“Those large companies no longer exist, but obviously the city still does,” Washington said. “So, we have to think about where we’re going and what our goals are.”

As a result, the city started seeing a rise in unemployment rates and increasingly vacant lots.

Rochester officials are focusing on three areas for development, according to Washington: more jobs, safer neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.

Creating jobs entails investing in businesses and providing incentives for businesses to stay in Rochester, and will help ensure safer neighborhoods, according to Washington.

“The more people who are employed, the less people who are going to be in situations where they’re harmed economically,” she said. 

Education is the most challenging part of the three-prong plan, as the city of Rochester only has a role in owning the schools’ real-estate. The city is, however, focusing on maintaining and improving facilities, as well as creating a better cultural environment to improve students’ learning experiences. 

Washington mainly addressed development projects the city has initiated, including ones that have been completed, currently in progress or have been planned for the future. One of the objectives of the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development is to change former commercial spaces into residential spaces. 

“The goal is to improve and maintain the quality of life for residents,” Washington said.

Completed projects include converting abandoned, historic buildings—such as the Academy Building and the Bevier Building—into affordable housing options and selling parking lots to developers so they can be turned into commercial or residential spaces.

Currently in the works is the renovation of the former Inner Loop to feature new affordable housing developments and an expansion of the Strong Museum of Play. This will include a new hotel to increase tourist revenue. 

Renovating already existing neighborhoods is also an important part of revitalizing Rochester. One such area is the JOSANA neighborhood, which initiated a successful development project of its own. 

This triumphant story is only one of many, illustrating the dedication of the community and the government to improving the city of Rochester. These developments are expected to turn Rochester into a modern city, ready for innovation and equipped to care for its citizens.u