Event Aims to Re-Imagine Rochester's Main Street

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The buildings on Rochester’s Main Street are a window into the city’s past, a reminder of the bustling days for those who grew up in or around Rochester.

“When I was young we used to come here to see Santa Claus and go on the monorail,” Rochester resident Jesse Peers said. “We would go across the street and see the polar bear snowflake Christmas exhibit at Sibley’s.”

On Saturday, the Re:Main Social event looked to keep the conversation going on the past, present, and future of Main Street, with hopes of helping it come alive once again.

“Definitely more housing downtown,” Peers said. “The more people that live here the better, walkability, better transit, better cycling, that what we care about.”

Landmark Society Preservation Planner Caitlin Meives is focused on showcasing the buildings near East Main Street and North Clinton Avenue.

“This part of East Main was really the retail center up until the 1960’s, ‘70’s, so lots of retail, department stores, all sorts of stuff,” Meives said. “This is where people came to shop.”

Now she said she would really just like to see anything go in there.

“Just to see life in them is really the goal,” Meives said. “It would be great to see some first floor retail, some restaurants downtown for the people working downtown, the people that are starting to live here have a place to go and do stuff.”

Rochester resident Michael Maher said while he is passionate about revitalizing the downtown, he sees a few roadblocks.

“So many things happening in the city, making more bike lanes, pedestrian highways, and getting people to go back to public transportation, but then we don’t let street performers out, and we don’t let food vendors happen, and we regulate food trucks and we crush businesses with regulations,” Maher said.

Still, Meives believes the city is already moving in a positive direction and is thankful for the projects currently being worked on.

“Tower 280, everything happening at midtown is obviously huge, having the D&C and Windstream there is a huge deal, but for me, being a preservationist, seeing all these buildings being rehabbed, I mean that is really what is driving downtown’s revitalization,” Meives said. “You’ve got the Hilton Garden Inn right here, the Lincoln Alliance Building here is being rehabbed, Sibleys of course, that’s probably the hugest project that we’ve got going on.”

She isn’t giving up hope that Rochester’s downtown will boom once again in the future. 

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