There is so much talk about how to revitalize Rochester's downtown and make the city a more attractive place to live.
But many people have discovered the benefits of city life. Rochester is not too big, and is divided even further into manageable, diverse neighborhoods, each with its own character. A park is never far away. And treasures --- independent galleries, historic landmarks, fine restaurants, book and record stores --- are practically tucked into corners.
Housing is affordable, though many homeowners and renters may get the hassle of upkeep that comes with the charm and beauty of old things. Many homes in the city are over 50 years old, and there are some true architectural gems to be found in almost every neighborhood.
Gibbs Street-Grove Place Neighborhood boasts a mix of older, single-family houses, row houses, and contemporary townhouses. Some of the oldest structures date back to the late 19th century, and the whole area has an intimate, quaint feel.
People living here and in the nearby East End are right next door to some of the best performing arts in the city, like at the newly renovated Eastman Theatre at the Eastman School of Music, in which you'll find top-notch classical concerts (many free) most nights. The East End has seen a lot of residential development in recent years --- mainly loft apartments and condominiums --- the most luxurious of which will be the Sagamore on East condominium complex.
Downtown's Loft District includes St. Paul Quarter, North Water Street, Andrews Street, and, most recently, the Cascade District on the west end of downtown: an expensive, but grand, address.
To the northwest is High Falls, named for the 96-foot waterfall in the Genesee River Gorge. Some of the area's historic industrial buildings have been reclaimed for office, residential, and museum space. It's also seen a couple of iterations as a party sector.
East Avenue was a popular promenade in the 19th century; it's still impressive, and the community is still concerned about preserving its history. The local neighborhood association began a campaign to have the community involved in the design of new buildings --- including a planned Wegmans expansion. The area's landscape includes large churches, the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and some impressive mansions, including George Eastman's.
Park Avenue runs parallel to East. The "Greenwich Village of Rochester" is notable for a hip, energetic mix of homes, specialty shops, and restaurants. A lot of young people and students live here, drawn by the number of non-complex-style apartments, trendy atmosphere, and proximity to nightlife, dining, and shopping. Streets off Park are full of towering homes --- some that remain single-family, others that have been divided into apartments.
The area bounded by Main Street, East Avenue, Alexander Street, and Culver Road is called the Neighborhood of the Arts because of its high volume of cultural institutions and artists --- a creative vibe captured in recent years by ARTWalk, in "interactive museum without walls" along University Avenue. The Memorial Art Gallery, Village Gate Square, and the Arts & Cultural Council are all located along North Goodman, just a block or two from the Visual Studies Workshop and School of the Arts (both at University Avenue and Prince Street). You'll also find Writers & Books, craft stores, artisan boutiques, and artists' studios in this area.
Monroe Avenue, an important commercial street, has been rejuvenated in recent years, spurred in large part by business owners, making it a fun and eclectic location for shopping and eating out. It's perfect for weekend strolling, brunching, and shopping.
A tiny pocket of a neighborhood, Wadsworth Square is bound by the Inner Loop, Monroe Avenue, South Union Street, and I-490. It's an old, grand 19th-century square that has been, over the past decades, reclaimed. It's now a thriving urban neighborhood with a bohemian flair: School Without Walls, KrudCo skateboard shop, the Bug Jar bar, and the Abundance Co-op Market are all here.
Flanking Monroe Avenue, near Cobbs Hill Park, are two tree-lined Upper Monroe neighborhoods, with graceful homes, row houses, and apartments. Continuing on up the Avenue, the Winton-Nunda-Castlebar Neighborhood, tucked between beautiful Cobbs Hill Park and the suburb of Brighton, is a quiet, harmonious place to live.
The South Wedge is a pie-piece-shaped area defined by South Avenue, South Clinton Avenue, Linden Street, and Gregory Street. Along South Clinton and South Avenues you'll find a fun and resourceful mix of businesses. Order noodles, sushi, Indian or Mediterranean food; shop for old house parts, vintage clothes, or fine yarn for knitting; buy Asian or African groceries; grab brunch at the Highland Park Diner or a $3 double feature at the Cinema Theater. The South Wedge is a popular neighborhood with both families and singles because it has a safe, community atmosphere as well as the diversity and convenience of an urban area. It includes Swillburg (once a pig farm), an even smaller wedge of smaller, turn-of-the-century houses tucked into a small street-maze.
Bordering Highland Park is the Ellwanger-Barry neighborhood, which includes Highland Hospital and the Colgate Rochester Divinity School campus. The neighborhood gets its name from the 19th-century nurserymen George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry, who presented the city with the 20 acres of land that became Highland Park.
The Upper Mount Hope Neighborhood abuts the University of Rochester's River Campus and its medical center, Strong Memorial Hospital. Many faculty, staff, and students live in the area. A commercial strip on Mt. Hope Avenue offers stores, restaurants, and other services.
Much of the Mount Hope Preservation District feels like parkland, thanks to the dominance of Mount Hope Cemetery and Highland Park, home of the Lilac Festival each May.
Across the river from the University of Rochester lies the 19th Ward, an area with a rich housing stock of fine, early 20th-century houses, lots of trees, the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Genesee Valley Park, and the oldest continually operating community association in the nation, whose motto, "Urban by Choice," gives the feel of the area. The neighborhood prides itself on its ethnic and economic diversity; university professors, city officials, and some of the city's poorest families all live here.
The commercial heart of the area is Thurston Road, a pleasant strip of neighborhood stores. Years have gone into the planning of the Brooks Landing development project, at the intersection of Brooks and Genesee Streets. Neighbors are hoping the project will help bring economic vitality to the area, particularly in a location accessible by both 19th Warders and the University community.
The Corn Hill Preservation District is just south of downtown, on the river's west side. Its elegant houses are among the oldest in the city. Some are maintained as single-family homes, while others have been converted into sought-after apartments. Urban renewal destroyed some area homes, but the vacant land has given way to houses and townhouses whose designs fit in with their stately neighbors.
The neighborhood celebrates itself every July with one of the city's biggest and best-attended arts and music festivals. Work on a $20 million riverfront development within the Corn Hill neighborhood, including apartments, retail, restaurant, and office space, has begun. The Corn Hill Landing has been in the works for some time, and its completion is greatly anticipated by the City and the neighborhood.
The South West Area Neighborhood, between the 19th Ward and Corn Hill, has traditionally been one of Rochester's most depressed areas. Residents have worked with city officials and community groups to protect the neighborhood and make important improvements, including beautification and rehabilitation efforts along Chili Avenue. Institutions such as St. Mary's Hospital have made important and expensive commitments to staying in the area.
Just to the north of this area is the Frederick Douglass Historic Neighborhood, where residents have strived to rehabilitate the area's beautiful Victorian homes. The neighborhood is named for the black statesman and author who published the abolitionist newspaper The North Star from an area church basement before the Civil War.
The Susan B. Anthony Preservation District is a tiny, historically important pocket off West Main Street, between Madison and King Streets. The area is named for the famous suffragist leader's house at 17 Madison Street, which is maintained as a museum. Other 19th-century homes and Madison Park add to the neighborhood's charm. House hunters will find some amazing deals here if they're willing to invest in a neighborhood that is just beginning its upswing.
Dutchtown is bordered by Lyell Avenue to the north, Mt. Read Boulevard to the west, Broad Street to the east, and West Avenue and Brown Street to the south. Once named for its German population, now the population is made up of many ethnic groups. Lyell Avenue, the dividing line of the Dutchtown, Brown Square, Lyell-Otis, and Edgerton neighborhoods, is a montage of businesses.
Brown Square was the early home of the city's flour mills, and later, Eastman Kodak. Now it is dominated by Frontier Field, home of the Red Wings and (for now) the Rhinos.
The Lyell-Otis area is a quiet, working-class neighborhood to the west of Edgerton, with a large selection of architecturally significant homes. Edgerton is centered on Jones Square, a beautiful little park that recalls the time of the village commons.
Stretching to the north is Maplewood, a neighborhood dotted with impressive homes, the lovely Maplewood Park (famous for its roses), and the gorges of the Genesee. Parts of the neighborhood, along Seneca Parkway, Lakeview Park, and Maplewood Park, are on the National Registry of Historic Places. Most of the homes date from the turn of the last century, during Eastman Kodak's initial expansion period --- both stately homes built for managers and modest homes built for workers.
Kodak Park's factories and the bustle of West Ridge Road still dominate the area's northern limits. The area boasts low crime rates and high community involvement in issues like education and preservation. Every June, people visit Maplewood for the popular Rose Festival.
Extending from Ridge Road to the lake is Charlotte (pronounced Cha-LOT). Charlotte's glory days were before World War I, when it was a beach resort ranked with Coney Island; the city is attempting to recapture that glory with an ambitious upgrade of the area for tourism, including a $75 million facelift of the lakefront, to spruce it up as a port for the fast ferry that will run between Charlotte and Toronto.
There are already draws to Charlotte, especially in summer: the beaches of Ontario Beach Park, the woods and trails of Turning Point Park along the Genesee River, and (if you have a boat) the Port of Rochester.
The Northeast has easily affordable housing, and is perhaps the most ethnically diverse section of Rochester. Ukrainians, Hispanics, Poles, Italians, African-Americans, Asians, and Germans all have a strong presence in this part of the city.
Marketview Heights, bordering North Goodman Street up to Clifford Avenue, is a blend of African-Americans, whites, and Hispanics. The Rochester Public Market, in the area's heart, attracts customers from all over town. It's best to get there early, but it's worth it.
To the west, just north of the Genesee Brewery on St. Paul Street, there's a large network of very diverse neighborhoods, nearly one-sixth the area of Rochester, often called by its zip code, which the neighborhood association has taken up: 14621. Its western side is predominantly African-American and Hispanic, with other ethnicities mixed in. Simple, wood-frame houses predominate, but there is also a strip of large, stately old homes on St. Paul Street, just north of the old Bausch and Lomb factory, many of them built by members of the Bausch family. The local zoo is in beautiful Seneca Park. The clothing factory Hickey Freeman has recently made a commitment, after eyeing suburban sites, to staying in the area.
The area to the east of Marketview Heights, defined by University Avenue and Norton Street to the city line, can be classified by its coalition of neighborhood associations, North East Area Development. The area contains large industries, small businesses, and residential sections all mixed together. During the past two years NEAD has been working on renovating single-family homes and selling them --- including finding financial help in the form of grants --- to first-time homebuyers.
The fiercely active community groups in this section of town work hard to combat crime and poverty. Take Group 14621, for example, on North Clinton Avenue, or NorthEast Neighborhood Alliance, a coalition of groups. They are responsible for rehabilitating housing, forming block clubs, publishing newsletters, and bringing services, like a technology center, to the area. NENA also operates GRUB (Greater Rochester Urban Bounty) resident-run vegetable gardens and a vineyard. The bounty is sold at the Public Market.
Soon to come: La Marketa, a Hispanic-themed shopping center along 1.5 acres along North Clinton Avenue. This is a neighborhood badly in need of an image upgrade. A committee of business and community leaders in charge of La Avenida revitalization project just found a developer, and will seek out retailers to fill the space once it is built.
Also in the NEAD area are the Beechwood and Browncroft neighborhoods, very pleasant and livable ones with groomed lawns, large, expensive homes, and proximity to downtown and to the suburbs.
The Culver-Winton-Main and North Winton Village neighborhoods sit just below Irondequoit --- they offer a rich balance between early 20th-century homes, easy access to the somewhat unknown Tyron Park, and the urban village setting of North Winton.
Rochester has an active network of neighborhood associations. You can find listings of these at the central branch of Monroe County's library system (111 South Avenue, www.rochester.lib.ny.us/neighborhoods/city.htm) or at www.rochestercityliving.com. The folks in your neighborhood groups will know the best and worst about your new neighborhood, and are actively working to better things all around.
The city is also is divided into 10 sectors for the Neighbors Building Neighborhoods city revitalization plan. Each NBN sector has its own citizen planning committee to identify problems, strengths, and goals for that area. Find information on their plans at www.rochesternbn.com or call 428-6885.
Six Neighborhood Empowerment Team (NET) Offices, serving the 10 NBN sectors, are strategically placed throughout the city. These are useful organizations to approach with questions and problems in your neighborhood.
Area A (sectors 1-2): 1494 Dewey Avenue, 428-7610
Area B (sector 3): 492 Lyell Avenue, 428-7620
Area C (sector 4-5): 998 Genesee Street, 428-7630
Area D (sector 6-7): 846 S. Clinton Avenue, 428-7640
Area E (sector 8): 212 Webster Avenue, 428-7650
Area F (sector 9-10): 500 Norton Street, 428-7660