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Chamber's move to smaller HQ highlights trend affecting downtown office space

Rochester skyline. (photo by Max Schulte)
Max Schulte
Rochester skyline. (photo by Max Schulte)

Staffers at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce are packing up and moving to the other side of downtown.

The move is prompted in large part by a workplace shift affecting businesses nationwide — and driving up office vacancy rates in the process.

“For a lot of reasons, people are making decisions not to come back to the office to work. So a lot of companies are downsizing their space,” said Chamber President and CEO Bob Duffy.

The Chamber is moving from offices it has occupied the past 20 years on State Street over to Clinton Square near the former Midtown block. Duffy said the organization’s lease was up, and it could not come to financial agreement on a smaller space.

The new offices are about three-fourths the size of the State Street office, he said. The Chamber employs 41 people.

When WXXI reported on commercial vacancies back in October, officials estimated nearly a third of downtown offices were empty. They attribute the glut to mergers and company downsizing and employees working from home.

“It's right in line with what we're all doing,” Duffy said of the Chamber’s move. “We're really trying to align ourselves economically and the new reality is if you force people to come back to work, back to the office, you're going to lose your talent.”

Duffy said the move will take until the end of the month, then it will be time to unpack and settle in.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.