Every year a series of lectures pops up in Rochester that brings in founders, innovators, and doers from cities across the US. These cities have faced similar challenges to ones we face here: downtown revitalization, creating walkable/bikeable neighborhoods, preserving the character of communities, and creating something great out of an "eyesore".
This series, Reshaping Rochester, is put on by the Community Design Center of Rochester.
The Community Design Center of Rochester (CDCR), located in the Hungerford Building, is "a non-profit organization of design professionals promoting healthy, sustainable communities by encouraging quality design of the built environment and thoughtful use of built and natural resources" (CDC Rochester website).
We've been inspired over the years as we've attended a few of the lectures and here are some important points that we've learned:
1. It takes TIME.
Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. During a recent lecture, Elizabeth Waldstein-Hart, Executive Director of Walkway Over the Hudson, shared just how long their project took. They assumed ownership of the bridge in 1995 and construction didn't start until May 2008, with a grand opening finally happening in October 2009. It may have taken 14 years, but in the end, they transformed an unusable railroad bridge into the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world at 1.28 miles long and 212 feet high that can be enjoyed by millions for years to come.
2. It takes PASSION.
At the lecture in March, Elizabeth also shared the passion behind the Walkway Over the Hudson, "No one did it for a paycheck, but for the love of saving something". We need passionate people who pursue projects for the love of what they're doing, not what they will get out of it.
3. It takes RISK.
While listening to Mayor Chris Coleman of Saint Paul, MN, at the most recent lecture, we were reminded that great change takes risk. We have to make choices and that may often mean doing something different than what's been done before.
He shared a project that at first received a lot of opposition, the Red Bull Crashed Ice.
Setting up an Ice Cross Downhill course in front of the state's (and maybe nation's) most beautiful Cathedral wasn't looked upon highly. But, in the end the project was approved and over 140,000 people came out in the dead of winter to enjoy the competition and the beauty of the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Now, it's an annual event.
4. It takes VISION.
We can't only consider our own generation, but what we leave for the future. A quick project or fix may improve OUR day to day life, but to really make an impact we need positive change that will benefit many, for years to come.
Something Mayor Coleman said is still resonating with us, "What are we doing to build the kind of communities our children want to come back to?" The topic of conversation was college students receiving an incredible education and not returning to their hometown to use it. We see this in Rochester too, we have incredible universities and whether the students are from here or not, we want to see them stay and invest their futures here.
5. It takes PLANNING.
It's easy (relatively speaking) to turn an empty building into apartments or office space. It takes a little more planning to turn it into a place for the community. Is there mixed-use space? Is there green space? Are there bike racks? "Give your development a higher purpose", said Mayor Coleman and we couldn't agree more.
Our city won't change overnight and we hope you're in it with us for the long haul.
Stefanie is co-Founder and Editor of the Rochesteriat. Even though the never ending winter eventually gets on her nerve she is excited to spend her life here and watch the city grow. Find her with a camera & phone in hand, taking photos for @theRochesteriat on Instagram. Follow her on Twitter.