Friday, October 23, 2015


Without a doubt, downtown Rochester is the metro area's most glaring weakness.  The 1980s and 1990s were not kind to the center city, and those who were around to watch it fall continue to harbor a sense of loss which translates into ongoing pessimism.  Fortunately, those of us who are either younger or recent transplants have a remarkably positive outlook on the future of downtown.  Does this optimism simply represent naivete, or is it based in fact? Here is one set of statistics which suggests that Rochester is on its way to overcoming its greatest blemish.  (Note: some would argue that concentrated poverty and urban education are bigger problems, but I would counter by saying that repopulating the city will "solve" those problems statistically much faster than any idealistic model that claims it can rapidly reverse generations of undereducation and underachievement.)

  • From 2000 to 2014, downtown Rochester's population increased from 3,239 to 6,138 (i.e. almost doubled.)
  • By 2016, downtown's population is anticipated to be 7,873.
  • If this rate of growth of 143% every 16 years were to continue (a big if, I know), downtown Rochester would have almost 19,000 residents by 2032.  That number is remarkably close to the Brookings Institution's 2 percent solution for creating a healthy and vital city.


  1. I'm really excited to see if the city can approach 10,000 as quickly as it seems to be happening. There are many projects in the works right now that could help achieve this goal, everything needs to stay on track though. Things like Charlotte St, which had a proposal years ago that never materialized, are finally being built up now, and the inner loop redevelopment is going to be huge for the area.

    The one thing I've always been afraid of is if things start to stagnate, even for a year or two, downtown will lose a ton of momentum that would be hard to get back. I'm pretty optimistic on the area though.

  2. I agree as well. An urban core has been greatly missing from Rochester. For many this could be the difference between moving away and staying in the Rochester metro.

  3. The importance of a vibrant downtown cannot be overstated! As a suburbanite parent, I can say that the suburban life here is as good, if not better, than anywhere in the country. But what really defines a region is the urban core, and filling in downtown could dramatically change the feel and perception of the entire area. I think we're finally on the right track.