The downtown district only encompasses a few blocks of real estate, but those few blocks have always been the focal point of Rochester as not only the seat of Fulton County, but its heart as well. And if local businesses are the lifeblood that keeps that heart beating, then metaphorically, the Rochester Downtown Partnership would be the devoted caregivers intent on keeping that heart healthy and thriving. The Rochester Downtown Partnership (RDP) is an alliance of community members who are committed to initiatives that maintain and stimulate the atmosphere of a town that the businesses and citizens recognize as a thriving community. Made up entirely of volunteers, the RDP is dedicated to spearheading projects that enhance the downtown corridor’s profile and helping businesses solve problems and raising awareness of resources available to them (FEDCO, the Chamber of Commerce, façade grants, etc.). One advantage of the RDP is that they increase the viability of the community as a recipient of federal funding opportunities, such as the Main Street Revitalization Program grant, over towns that lack similar organizations. Ultimately, the goal is to stimulate new market opportunities and to increase profitability by bringing in new and existing businesses and helping to fill downtown buildings by matching aspiring entrepreneurs to spaces best suited to their needs. Established stores and services are also addressed, with focus on retention and expansion via site visits and meetings with downtown business owners and the RDP. “We want to make sure we connect with them to make sure they are as successful as possible,” says Mason Heyde, chairman of the Economic Vitality Committee. “We’d hate to see a business fail for a reason that could have been addressed if the owner took advantage of one of the resources available to them.” The RDP is also responsible for conceiving, planning, and presenting community events that attract crowds and attention to the downtown area. Recent annual events like Halloween’s Boo Fest and the Christmastime Holiday Stroll have been tremendously popular, and the RDP continues to explore ways to add different events to appeal to the local population and beyond. As fun as these events can be, they are the result of hours of planning, fundraising, and networking to pull together all of the components that make things run smoothly and successfully.
“We have a lot of exciting plans for events in the future, including an arts and music festival at the end of the summer,” said Christine Walsh, head of the RDP Promotions Committee. “Rochester is home to a lot of visual artists and talented musicians, and we are looking forward to putting on events to give them the showcase they deserve.” As an all-volunteer operation, the RDP hones the focus of its different aspects via specific committees that address the range and scope of their efforts. These include: - The Organization Committee’s job is to oversee the overall program, managing the finances and logistics of a healthy non-profit as a sustainable organization. Its goal is to create and maintain momentum through achievable and visible programs and projects. - The Economic Vitality Committee is responsible for defining new market opportunities for the identified RDP district, finding new uses for historic commercial businesses, and developing programs and projects to retain existing businesses. - The Design Committee is a vital component of the RDP whose goal is to enhance the physical appearance of downtown to promote businesses and attract visitors. - The Promotions Committee is focused on marketing an appealing image of downtown Rochester to shoppers, retailers, investors, and visitors, and works on events and promotions that attract additional visitors to the community.