Why, then, is Portland viewed as remarkably desirable while Rochester gets the shaft? Appearance goes a long way, and downtown Portland's appearance essentially crushes that of Rochester. Which demands yet another question: WHY?
Many factors may be in play, but regional planning, or lack thereof, is quite possibly the key. Portland has a directly elected regional government (aptly called Metro) which takes a broad view on metropolitan development. Logically, the health of the core is prioritized over the health of the periphery. Unfortunately, Rochester has opted for persistent fragmentation. The result of Rochester's system is a wide array of geographically connected entities which are in economic competition. Perhaps someone more informed than myself can explain the following (and correct me if I'm wrong):
- Rochester's fastest growing suburb, Victor, is not in the same county as the city of Rochester. Victor, in Ontario County, has attracted many young families with its lower property taxes compared to Rochester's Monroe County. As such, Victor residents benefit from the economic and cultural assets of the region without having to contend to the same extent with supporting the urban core.
- Within Monroe County, Rochester's suburbs seem to compete with the city of Rochester. A new development in a suburb is not on the city's tax roll and vice versa.
- The city of Rochester and Monroe County enjoy bickering over who pays for what, apparently ignoring the fact that they may have a common interest or two.
Because of this fragmentation, Rochesterians have to point to data to sell the area, while better managed regions can allow aesthetics to do the talking.