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Downtown Rochester activity continues to be impacted by COVID-19

Rochester Downtown Convention Center
James Brown
Rochester Downtown Convention Center

The downtown hotel business in Rochester continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week we heard about the Hyatt Regency hotel owners deciding to close that facilityuntil sometime early next year since a lot of their larger events can’t happen due to COVID restrictions on big gatherings.

Now, there’s also word that the Holiday Inn on State Street will not open until early next year. That hotel closed earlier this year due to the pandemic, and a message on its answering machine says that they now hope to open shortly after the first of next year. Meantime, they’ve had to lay off sales and operations staff. 

Heidi Zimmer-Meyer is the president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation. She says the moves by these hotels and others in recent months are not surprising.

"Anything that requires face-to-face contact and travel, business meetings and conventions, and that kind of thing are the bread and butter of a lot of our facilities, and that’s dried up.” 

Zimmer-Meyer says certainly the restaurant industry continues to struggle, although some eateries have been able to make some money through outdoor dining during the summer.

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She says the downtown economy has also been hit by the fact that many office workers have still not returned to their buildings.

“We’ve got less than 25% of the downtown employees that have come back into the office this summer; and you see it with empty parking garages, with buildings that literally, they’re like ghost towns in some cases. A lot of people still preferring to work from home." 

Zimmer-Meyer says that one bright spot is housing, with more than 8,400 people who now live downtown. And she says new housing projects continue to get new tenants. Zimmer-Meyer is hopeful that once a vaccine is developed and more testing makes people feel safe again, there will be a lot of activity again in the downtown area.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.