Panel offers hard truths for Rochester


It’s not easy to hear an outsider’s appraisal of your faults. In Rochester’s case, the evaluation comes from members of the Rose Fellowship, which brings officials from different parts of the country together to essentially size up each other’s cities.

The fellows studied three areas of downtown Rochester: Main Street between Plymouth Avenue and Chestnut Street, the Genesee River corridor between Andrews Street and the Court Street dam, and the Broad Street aqueduct.

At a presentation on Friday, the fellows said that Rochester lets past failures get in the way of forward progress; that it has turned its back, literally and figuratively, on arguably its greatest asset, the river; that downtown suffers from a dearth of retail and walkable amenities; and that while attitudes are changing, Rochesterians on the whole have a negative perception of their city.

But the fellows balanced out the challenges with praise for the investment happening downtown, for the strength and activity of the city’s arts community, and for Rochester’s many cultural and educational institutions.

And contrary to some people’s perception, the fellows said, downtown Rochester does not have a parking problem. The parking exists, they said, though it may not be right in front of your destination.

The fellows offered many short- and long-term suggestions to enliven downtown, such as implementing ride and bike sharing; offering incentives for retail; creating a public space on the Main Street bridge overlooking the river; and developing an overall vision for downtown.

The Daniel Rose Fellowship is a program of the National League of Cities and the Urban Land Institute. Each year, the program selects cities to receive technical assistance to improve themselves. In addition to Rochester, this year’s cities are Birmingham, Denver, and Long Beach.