Center of Rochester
Inner Loop plus Corn Hill, High Falls and Alexander Street
Neighborhood Association
[WWW]Rochester Downtown Development Corporation

    1. History
      1. Neighborhoods
      2. Historic Districts
      3. Parks and Other Attractions
      4. Routes
      5. See Also
      6. Links

Downtown Rochester, also known as Center City, or City Center, is the central and the most built-up section of the Greater Rochester Area.


The original settlement was Nathaniel Rochester's home at the current site of the Powers Building near the intersection of Main Street and State Street. Settlers in the early 1800's used the power of the High Falls of the Genesee River to grind flour. When the Erie Canal was built through downtown Rochester, the city's population exploded, and people settled in all directions outward. Downtown Rochester kept its role as the center of commerce and transportation as the city prospered and grew.

In the early 20th century, streetcars and a subway allowed citizens easy access to the shopping and workplaces in the Center City. Large department stores such as Sibley's, McCurdy's and B. Forman's capitalized on the economic success and brought cosmopolitan goods to the land-locked region. Corporations competed to build skyscrapers higher than the others.

After World War II, various forces dispersed the city's population into nearby rural towns to create suburbs. As the automobile became popular, strip malls and office parks diluted many of the functions of the Center City.

The Center City fought back by making itself car-friendly. The federal government created Interstate 490, which connected eastern and western suburbs with downtown Rochester. They also created the Inner Loop expressway, which allowed people to drive around downtown without dealing with city streets. Private developers built Midtown Plaza, the country's first indoor urban mall, to allow the large department stores to stay competitive with suburban malls. In areas surrounding the downtown core, many buildings were demolished to create parking lots and garages. These efforts were part of a fierce determination to bring suburbanites downtown, and the area became less urban and more convenient to daytime tourists. Downtown did remain the prime shopping destination for the Rochester community through the 1980's.

In the 1990's, the suburban malls and big-box stores won the battle over downtown retail. The May Company bought Sibley's and McCurdy's, closed the downtown department stores, converted the suburban Sibley's stores to Kaufmann's, and sold the suburban McCurdy's to Bon-Ton. All of Midtown Plaza's anchors pulled out with the exception of Peeble's, which occupied the space of B. Forman's. Without the popular anchors, the specialty retailers of the Center City have not fared very well. By the late 1990's, downtown's functions became limited to providing office space and entertainment venues.

Along with the 21st century came the realization that downtown could be a prime area to live, work, shop and play. Risk-taking developers have added hundreds of residential units with great success. According to [WWW], the vacancy rate for downtown apartments is well under the standard 5%. At this rate, in a few years, there will be enough residents downtown to draw the kind of retail anchors that will spur a great deal of specialty retail. Downtown may soon become the shopping destination it once was, but this time, it will be a 24/7 neighborhood.


See also: Neighborhood [WWW]map with a focus on downtown.
See also: Rochester Downtown Development Corporation's [WWW]map of downtown districts.

Historic Districts

Parks and Other Attractions


Streets located at least partially downtown.

See Also



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