Projects that ROC!

Downtown ROCs! harnesses the power of tactical urbanism to make high-impact improvements that bring vibrancy to our city core.

We call these initiatives "Projects that ROC!", and together they add up to real progress... creating a sense of place, and prosperity, and purpose.

All of which helps fulfill our vision of achieving Life on every street. Beauty in every space.

We invite you to participate in one of our projects by contributing your time, talents or treasure. Interested? Give us a shout!

Below is a brief overview of our core projects. It is important to note that in most cases these projects are ongoing, involving continued maintenance and enhancements. This takes a lot of extra effort, of course, but ensures that we truly build on each progressive success.

Experience the impact of these projects first-hand by checking out our "Before & After" pictures.

Project #1: "Creeping Beauty"
Cities often suffer from a phenomenon known as "creeping blight", which is the gradual and pernicious deterioration of neighborhoods due to neglect and apathy. From vacant lots to empty storefronts, litter strewn streets to weed-infested sidewalks, blight feeds on blight—smothering hope and suffocating opportunity. But this effect works both ways. Downtown ROCs! is flipping the script by replacing blight with beauty! More than just clearing trash, we are injecting art and color and activity into the streetscape, bringing a new energy to oft-forgotten pockets of downtown.

Downtown ROCs! Commissioned these banners

Project #2: Schiller Park Revitalization
This small park in the northeast corner of downtown Rochester was once a prominent city landmark. But after being sliced in half by the Inner Loop 50 years ago, it has been all but forgotten. Now, with the help of Downtown ROCs!, we are bringing Schiller Park back to life! In addition to spearheading two comprehensive Clean Sweep events in the park, we have successfully advocated for numerous improvements—such as removal of overgrown hedges, new park benches and receptacles, and the repair and reflowering of its two large raised planters. Proving that every detail counts, we even coordinated the repointing and repair of the brickwork surrounding the park. This initiative alone required more than 45 hours of combined labor by employees of nearby 5LINX.
Nick Gilbert fixing the brick entry to Schiller Park

Project #3: Yarn Art Installation (2018)
In the summer of 2018, Downtown ROCs! spearheaded one of the largest yarn art installations ever. A group of amazing artists (organized by Hinda Mandell) came together to adorn trees, fencing and street posts in and around Schiller Park, creating a dramatic effect that brought the entire neighborhood to life. And when the individual yarn art pieces were removed, they took on new lives elsewhere in the city! See the news coverage of this wonderful project by WXXI and Spectrum News.

Just one of the amazing works of yarn art

Project #4: Making Pleasant Street Pleasant
Pleasant Street runs quietly through downtown, serving as an east-west pathway from Chestnut to St. Paul. But there’s not much "there" there, so it’s rare to see any pedestrian activity. We’re reactivating this area by clearing weeds and litter, and creating small beautiful spaces. The ultimate goal is to transform Pleasant Street from a barren, car-centric cut-through into an interesting and inviting corridor that actually attracts bikes and pedestrians.

Project #5: St. Joseph’s Park Revitalization
The shell of the original St. Joseph’s Church is one of the most awe-inspiring locations in all of Rochester. Converted to a beautiful private park, and lovingly maintained by the Landmark Society of Western NY, it is surrounded by a large swath of greenspace that is not officially recognized as anything more than a right-of-way. Downtown ROCs! has taken this significant portion of land under its wings in an effort to unify the physical church with the outer grounds. The result is now a serene and gracefully integrated park that is enjoyed daily by lunchgoers, urban adventurers, and wedding parties.

The 2019 St. Joseph’s Park Clean Sweep team

Project #6: Liberty Pole "Way Cool"
Liberty Pole Way winds gracefully through the Northeast corner of downtown. We are collaborating with neighborhood stakeholders—including resident and Downtown ROCs! Board Member Margaret ‘Midge’ Thomas—to realize the tremendous potential of this quirky and lively street. After successfully advocating for a Pace bike station outside the Harro East, we cleared the entire length of sidewalk of litter and weeds, restoring a fresh, clean look. We then planted flowers in the barren tree wells, supplementing this splash of color with large stand-alone planters. Soon a public art project will adorn the lamp posts with color and style!

New tree, bikerack & flowers on Liberty Pole Way

Project #7: Main Street Makeover
While Main Street already receives a lot of attention from the City of Rochester, we are enhancing the experience even further with several "micro" projects, including planting flower wells in front of storefronts. We believe the little things DO matter, which is why we even help maintain the city’s own flower beds—such as removing cigarette butts and deadheading the marigolds (hey, it helps them grow fuller!).
Mitch Gilbert shows off his handiwork

Future Projects (coming soon)

"LOTS to Talk About"
Funny pun aside, our downtown suffers from a glut of surface parking that negatively affects the ability to create an active streetscape. This project will focus on partnering with lot owners to utilize these traditionally one-dimensional spaces for other creative purposes, such as picnics or mini-concerts. Simply put, if we allow barren parking lots to get in the way of the overall well-being of downtown, then it’s our own asphalt!

Downtown Pop-Up Project
Active and diverse street-level retail is a critical piece of any vibrant city center. In an Amazon world, however, it is challenging to profitably operate a traditional brick-and-mortar storefront. This is a challenge many downtowns are facing, as large anchor tenants fade, and local mom-and-pops struggle to survive. The retail landscape is changing dramatically, and Downtown ROCs! believes the future is micro-retail and pop-up shops, concepts that minimize risk by reducing costs and lowering the logistical barriers. The "Downtown Pop-Up Project" will match prospective merchants with available retail inventory in a way that uniquely benefits both parties—while simultaneously activating the streetscape in downtown Rochester.

"Inchvesting" in Rochester
Can’t live a second life as a millionaire real estate investor? No worries. Soon you can become an "Inchvestor", and help downtown Rochester thrive—one square inch at a time. Modeled after a similar initiative in Detroit, the "Inchvesting in ROC" program allows you to take part in the revitalization of the center city by micro-investing in projects that add vitality to downtown. It’s a unique take on crowdfunding that will make a measurable impact.

If you would like to participate in a Downtown ROCs! project, please connect with us today! You can also help support our mission with a 100% tax-deductible donation. Thank you for your support!!

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