WHY ROC: Business Improvement District being planned for downtown Rochester

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – A Business Improvement District (BID) is in the works in the City of Rochester after the City Council voted to move forward with the planning process last month.

News 8’s Ally Peters spoke with Galin Brooks, President and CEO of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC), about the IDB and what drew them to Rochester.

What is a Business Improvement District?

Brooks said a BID is a new term and a word that a lot of people aren’t familiar with yet.

“Business improvement districts occur when the private sector comes together and leverages its resources to fund new services and programs for a given area, Brooks said. “There are at least 1,200 in the United States alone, thousands worldwide, over 100 in New York State, and a core tenant of BID’s work is support, retention and business attraction, but a big part of what BIDS do is build thriving, connected businesses, resilient and vibrant communities.

The first BID formed was in Toronto in the 1970s, according to Brooks. She said the urban core was experiencing “some disinvestment” as more people moved to the suburbs.

“So the people there got together and said, ‘What are they doing that we’re not doing? How can we better compete with the suburbs? They came up with this model to pool their resources to fund collective programs like marketing and events, and environmental services,” Brooks said.

What drew DRDC to Rochester?

“Rochester is at an incredible point in its growth and recovery. The city itself has such great bones and such great history, and the spirit of innovation and community here and the access to nature is truly unparalleled,” said Brooks.

“Downtown Rochester is so amazing right now. The past few years have been tough for cities around the world, but there are many positives here in downtown Rochester. Nearly 10,000 residents have moved here and made downtown Rochester their home.

Brooks adds that there are also several key “catalytic projects” that are poised to help further combat the divestment and vacancy that exists downtown.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the ROC the Riverway project, which is bringing wonderful new public spaces to our waterfront in the heart of Rochester,” Brooks said. “There’s also the 90,000 square foot expansion of the Strong Museum and the Constellation brands moving into the heart of Rochester.”

She adds that many state, county and city leaders have come together to help kick-start the development of the proposed BID plan.

“Groups like ROC 2025, Empire State Development, are really championing a potential business improvement district vision for the downtown core to help revitalize and reinvigorate the urban core,” Brooks said. “This idea actually came out of a study the city did to better identify a potential management entity for the ROC the Riverway spaces, and the idea was really conceived as a great opportunity to better connect downtown and waterfront spaces to open up more opportunities for all.

Where is the BID process now?

Brooks said creating a BID is a “long and layered process.” The RRDC is just beginning its work after the Rochester City Council voted last month to approve the planning phase.

“There are a number of different steps governed by New York State law that include multiple City Council votes that will need to occur to move the process forward and eventually result in the adoption of our proposed plan for the downtown business improvement district,” says Brooks.

There are a number of engagement opportunities in the coming months to learn more about developing a BID. On the third of every month there will be office hours for community members.

On Thursday, September 15, there are office hours from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Sibley Building Downtown.

You can learn more about the DRDC and the BID by clicking here.

Louisa R. Loomis