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A draft plan for downtown Rochester BID not likely until May 2023 or later

A skyline view of Rochester
Max Schulte
Downtown Rochester skyline view.

The first draft of a downtown Business Improvement District plan could be ready as early as next May.

That’s according to a tentative — and admittedly optimistic — timeline set out by supporters.

"I think this is the shortest amount of time it could take. And it is likely that it will take longer," said Galin Brooks, executive director for the Rochester Downtown Partnership, which is spearheading the effort.

When City Council members voted last month to proceed with planning for a downtown Business Improvement District, or BID, they emphasized it would be a lengthy process. Under a BID, property owners agree to tax themselves to pay for additional or expanded services like beautification, security or special events.

The newly released timeline begins to put some detail to how that process will unfold, eying implementation in July 2024.

Most immediately, the focus will be on research.

An initial community survey will be released later this month. The first community meeting should be held in the coming weeks.

"And the thing we'll focus on initially is really, the sense of downtown and people's sense of downtown," Brooks said. "What is working and not working, where the room for improvement is, what the competitive advantages are."

Discussion of possible services, district boundaries and models is expected to begin in November.

There will be more study, more meetings, and another survey over the winter months. The legislative process could begin next fall, bringing the matter back before City Council multiple times for further approvals.

Critics have questioned the transparency and accountability of a BID, raising fears of privatizing services and further gentrification.

"I want to ensure that we have a process that's really rich and robust and exhaustive in terms of getting people's feedback," Brooks said.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.