With NextCorps’ location at the city’s epicenter, it should come as no surprise that one of our important partnerships is with the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation (RDDC). This non-profit is helping to drive economic vitality by marketing the assets that attract businesses and investment here, and catalyzing innovative ideas to make our downtown a more vibrant and inclusive community. One of these most recent ideas was launching and operating The Commissary, the region’s first and only food business incubator and shared kitchen.
We spoke with the new president and CEO of RDDC and Rochester Downtown Partnership Executive Director, Galin Brooks, about the organization’s new efforts, what she sees in Rochester, and entrepreneurial things she’s most excited about.
How has RDDC expanded its collaboration?
Last year, the RDDC, Finger Lakes Empire State Development, and the City of Rochester established a public-private partnership with ROC2025 called the Rochester Downtown Partnership (RDP). This non-profit initiative is jumpstarting a new, collaborative way of managing downtown and ROC the Riverway sites. Already, more than $3 million has been secured over five years, which will provide interim funding to help steward a process to potentially form a new downtown and riverfront Business Improvement District (BID) and to begin activating downtown and adjacent riverfront spaces.
What attracted you to the role of overseeing both organizations?
I am energized and inspired by cities — how they’re set up, what the built environment looks like, and what that can mean for the people who live, work, and visit there. Downtown Rochester is at a pivotal point in its evolution. It has an incredibly rich history and culture of innovation and of pushing the envelope. There is a lot of potential here, and a strong appetite for exploring more inclusive approaches to economic development. This is aligned with my passions and how I want to show up to my work.
Your experience is also very relevant to what Rochester is planning for its future. Tell us about that.
I’m originally from New York City, but I’ve spent the last 10 years in the District of Columbia where I worked for two different, pre-existing Business Improvement Districts. In both settings I focused on quality-of-life issues and economic development — working on parks projects, active transportation, and the public realm. In most of my projects, there was some element of community engagement.
One of the recent projects I worked on was a parks master plan for downtown DC. I pushed the community engagement to reach more broadly across the city, but there was less interest outside of the downtown area. But here in Rochester, there is a lot of interest in downtown, across the region. People have a real stake in it. That’s such a wonderful thing. There is a loyalty, commitment, and strong connection to it. I’m looking forward to working with the community here as we look to the future and possibilities for downtown Rochester and the adjacent riverway spaces.
What are some of the ways RDDC supports entrepreneurship?
Restaurants and food and beverage companies are essential to any thriving economy. The Commissary, which is also located at Sibley Square, is an engine for small businesses and entrepreneurs working in this space. It provides both an incubator and the infrastructure, such as commercial kitchen facilities, to help them be successful. We’re also happy to help make connections, so don’t hesitate to ask.
In June, we launched our free Downtown Definitely Events series. It’s been wonderful to see all the people enjoying the food, music, activities, movies in the park, shopping experiences, and more. This series is helping to bring the community together and offering great activities for those who live, work, and visit downtown.
We want to help entrepreneurs grow and flourish in the Downtown Innovation Zone. If you have suggestions or requests for space needs, policies, or would simply like to share more about your experience here, please let us know.
You’ve gotten to try some innovative foods being developed at The Commissary. What vendor are you most excited to tell others about?
Morgan’s Cereal Bar has awesome waffle creations that are just to die for! They put sugary cereal, icing, and other dessert items on waffles — it’s decadent and delicious.