By DREW HOWARD
Despite several financial setbacks, Rochester’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) isn’t giving up on its vision of developing a downtown city center that could host a farmers market, community events, green space and more.
DDA Chairman Mark Albrecht updated the Rochester City Council with plans for the center at its meeting on Monday, October 22. The DDA has momentarily hit pause on developing the center due to financial roadblocks, Albrecht said, but hopes to keep momentum behind the project strong going forward.
“When we looked at the numbers, we realized we were getting over the tips of our skis here,” Albrecht told council Monday. “I love to dream. I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist…I’m going to be standing here at some point in time asking for a motion to move forward on some sort of version of a city center.”
Plans for the center go back to April 2016 when the DDA hosted a “visioning session” with various community members and leaders. While details are in the very early stages, Albrecht tossed out the possibility of including park benches, an area to play chess, a covered farmers market, green space and more at the center.
The center could also host events that already impact downtown streets, Albrecht added, such as Dancing in the Streets, the Kris Kringle Market, farm-to-table dinners, Movies in the Moonlight and others.
City council has already approved for the DDA to set aside $500,000 as plans for the city center are explored. Since 2016, Albrecht said the DDA has spent $28,500 to cover site evaluation and design costs. The money will go back toward funding capital development if the DDA decides to scrap plans for the city center.
Several council members expressed excitement for the project, even though they were admittedly unsure of what to expect moving forward.
“Thank you for continuing to dream, and continuing to vision,” council member Nancy Salvia said. “I think your vision and where you want to go is right on track with where we want the community to be and what we’re looking for.”
“Everything you said tonight is true,” council member Ann Peterson added. “I look forward to it coming back…I think it’s going to be awesome whatever you choose. The highlights were great already.”
Council member Dean Bevacqua encouraged Albrecht to use the $500,000 set aside as wisely as possible. “Don’t forget that’s a lot of money,” he said. “There’s choices we’re making with these funds. We need to be responsible with them even though they’re there for us to spend.”
Albrecht hopes to come before the council with more detailed city center plans in March or April of next year, though no such date has been finalized.