City of Rochester
(Thursday, March 21, 2013) – Mayor Thomas S. Richards today released a detailed, interim progress report of the City’s Focused Investment Strategy (FIS). Launched four years ago, the FIS is one of many initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life in city neighborhoods. While other successful city-wide community development initiatives continue in infrastructure improvements, increased affordable housing, housing rehabilitation, homeownership programs—such as HOME Rochester—lead hazard control and demolitions, the FIS takes a new approach to investing resources in neighborhoods by allocating 20 percent of federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds directly to four neighborhoods identified as having substantial community development needs. In addition, the City allocates up to $1 million annually in Cash Capital for such things as street and sidewalk improvements and housing development.
“The Focused Investment Strategy has accomplished many of the goals that we originally set out to achieve—and its impact is becoming visible throughout the especially challenged neighborhoods selected for this needed investment. It has already resulted in 305 residential households benefitting from the program,” said Mayor Richards. “Due to the challenges in the neighborhoods when we started with FIS, the initial timeline of three to five years will likely take longer to be realized.”
Adopted by the City administration and City Council in 2008, the initial timeline of the FIS was to markedly improve neighborhoods in the city within three to five years. Prior to its implementation, residents and businesses came together in public forums to develop area-specific plans. The interim progress report released today identified many successes of the program:
• Since FIS was launched, stakeholder teams have been formed with community organizations. Residents and business representatives have worked together to identify priorities in each of the FIS neighborhoods.
• Approximately $14.7 million in City FIS resources have been allocated and/or invested in the four FIS areas and have leveraged approximately
$56.5 million from other sources.
Significant progress can be seen in each of the FIS areas. As outlined in the report, two large-scale affordable rental projects (the Voters Block Community and Holy Rosary Apartments) successfully gained millions of dollars in funding to develop 152 high-quality residential units. Additional projects also in the works include the Hardy Park Apartments and the Corpus Christi School Project, which will convert an old school to an affordable housing complex for seniors.
Numerous other accomplishments of the FIS are highlighted in the interim progress report and are listed below:
• 137 residential properties were rehabbed or are underway through the Exterior Security Rehabilitation Program;
• 18 commercial properties were, or are in the process of being rehabilitated with facade improvements;
• 18 blighted vacant structures were demolished in the FIS areas and an additional 26 are in the demolition process;
• 16 new construction and acquisition-rehabilitation home ownership projects were started;
• 959 households received rear yard utility upgrades through the Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation;
• Two street projects (Dewey Avenue and Jefferson Avenue) including FIS-driven enhancements were substantially completed; and
• FIS funds were used to help develop an attractive new parking lot across the street from the Public Market on N. Union Street.
The neighborhoods designated for the Focused Investment Strategy are: Marketview Heights in the city’s northeast; the Dewey-Driving Park neighborhood in the northwest; the Beechwood neighborhood in the southeast and the Jefferson Avenue area in the city’s southwest. As some of the most challenged neighborhoods in the city, these selected areas have unique attributes and great potential for growth.
The objectives of the Focused Investment Strategy include investing funds in a way that will improve local housing markets and neighborhood vitality, increasing property values and maximizing the impact of federal funds. Furthermore, the FIS seeks to empower neighborhood stakeholders by allocating the necessary resources to implement neighborhood-based plans. Maximizing the number of low and moderate-income residents who benefit from housing policy initiatives is another goal of the FIS.
The interim progress report noted the challenges at the beginning of the FIS, including: the distressed nature of neighborhoods, public safety concerns, problem-properties created by foreclosures, property tax default, property owners who are not locally based and large and poorly maintained or managed multi-family residential structures. Additionally, vacant and underutilized commercial properties, high rehabilitation costs and the need for more capacity for the City and community development partners to initiate and execute strategies such as community building are also underscored in the report.
Moving forward with FIS, the following will be considered as the next steps for the FIS initiative overall: Emphasizing the City’s commitment to FIS as a continued priority; working toward an equitable distribution of FIS funds across all four designated areas; focusing more on community engagement and community building so that residents can become more involved in strengthening the investments and improving the image of their neighborhoods; identifying and implementing ways to address concerns with public safety; and continuing to administer current rehabilitation programs and expanding them to include properties that are hard to serve.
“The Focused Investment Strategy is one of many strong programs geared towards neighborhood improvement—but we know that the desired outcomes cannot be achieved immediately,” said Mayor Richards. “There is much work to be done and I’m recommending that we continue this important initiative over the next two years, at a minimum.”
For more information and to view the full interim progress report, visit www.cityofrochester.gov/fis.
News Media: For more information, contact Bret Garwood, Director of Development Services at 428-6150.