Industrious by heritage and by nature, the festive “Flower City” continues to flourish in the bloom of renaissance and growth. As the archetype of the classic midsize convention destination, Rochester, N.Y., offers big-city feel with small-town attributes, including accessibility, convenience and welcoming hospitality. Plus, it hosts a year-long calendar of public festivals and events, including signatures such as the Rochester Lilac Festival and Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Following a productive 2017, Visit Rochester is further leveraging its diverse product line, supported by significant investment in new projects and redevelopments.  

Winning Streak

As Visit Rochester President & CEO Don Jeffries explained, the plan for 2018 advances the positive momentum created in 2017.

“Over the past year, Visit Rochester has maintained a strong focus on designing experiential site visits for meeting planners and association executives,” Jeffries said. “Our goal with these visits is to extend the site visit experience beyond traditional meeting facilities in order to provide a broader community-centric experience. These experiences can include a night at one of Rochester’s many museums, a visit to Finger Lakes Wine Country, brewery tours, local musical or theatrical performances, and teambuilding outings such as a ropes course, escape room or group painting experience.”

Key 2017 wins include upcoming conferences for the Museum Association of New York, American Council of the Blind, Church of God and Saints of Christ, and 2018 USA Track & Field National Youth Outdoor Championships. Significant meetings held in 2017, meanwhile, include Optifab, North America’s largest optical manufacturing show.

“In 2018, we will renew our focus on engaging local community contacts to attract new and diverse meetings and events to Rochester,” Jeffries continued. “In doing so, we are confident that our midsize market and affordable product will appeal to meeting planners and organizations of all types and sizes. We will also be elevating the service experience and enhancing visitor first impressions through increased wayfinding signs, a new airport ambassador program and continuing a robust frontline training program for tourism and hospitality professionals.”

Rochester is a city on the rise. According to November 2017 figures from the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation, some $922 million is being invested in the city’s downtown, reflecting planned, under construction and completed projects. These include a major overhaul of Rochester’s Main Street, which runs through the convention district, and a number of hotels, meeting venues and transportation improvements.

Developing Stories

Reinvestment highlights include the $18.5 million transformation of the Hyatt Regency Rochester, one of two hotels connected by skywalk to the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

Completed last October, the comprehensive upgrade saw nearly all 343 guest rooms refreshed with new technology and amenities; the hotel’s 20,100 square feet of meeting space redesigned, including a new window wall in the 640-capacity Grand Ballroom; and the addition of four dining concepts, including Morton’s The Steakhouse. The upscale hotel also features the Center City Terrace and Lounge for scenic outdoor events.

The other skywalk-connected property, the former Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside, has been reflagged as the Rochester Riverside Hotel. With 460 rooms and seven suites, the property offers 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including 12 meeting rooms and prefunction space. The hotel’s owners are also behind The Strathallan (locally, the “Strath”), Rochester’s premiere boutique hotel. Featuring 155 rooms, the Hilton by DoubleTree-flagged property offers 12,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor space, including Hattie’s rooftop restaurant and bar. Plus, the new full-service Strathallan Spa opened last year.

Geared to “creating a better passenger experience,” the Greater Rochester International Airport commenced a $79 million transformation last year. Targeting completion by this fall, renovation highlights include redesigned ergonomics for better passenger flow; new retail and dining options; upgraded security measures and “smart” technology integration, such as enhanced energy and lighting management systems; and passenger communication enhancements.

ARTISANworks, a renovated factory building housing multidisciplinary art pieces and event spaces, recently unveiled its new event-capable Casablanca Room. Themed after the film classic Casablanca, this upscale space offers customizable seating for dining and can accommodate 200 guests.

Opened in 2016, Arbor Loft offers 6,000-plus square feet of elegantly renovated, second-floor industrial space in the heart of the East End. Owned and operated by Agathi & Co., a full-service local event planning company, the space, featuring wooden floors, white walls and exposed beams, can comfortably accommodate 300 seated and over 500 for standing receptions.  

Venue Variety

When the Museum Association of New York convenes in Rochester this spring for its annual meeting, it will have many venue options at hand, including standouts from its own marketplace. These include the George Eastman Museum, which incorporates the Kodak founder’s group-capable Colonial Revival mansion and gardens; The Strong National Museum of Play; and Genesee Country Village & Museum.

Other wide-ranging assets for tours and events include the Memorial Art Gallery, Genesee Brewery’s Brew House and historic Rochester Public Market. Steps from the historic Erie Canal in nearby Pittsford, the 99-room Del Monte Lodge Renaissance Rochester Hotel & Spa offers three event spaces, including the 80-capacity indoor-outdoor Terrace Room.