Rochester’s State of the City returns

‘I believe the state of the city is excellent and the future of our city is exciting’

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 24, 2023

 Mayor Stuart Bikson shares a positive outlook for the city to a packed room of community members  gathered at The Community House May 10 to hear his address.

Mayor Stuart Bikson shares a positive outlook for the city to a packed room of community members gathered at The Community House May 10 to hear his address.

Photo provided


ROCHESTER — After a few year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rochester State of the City address returned this year, with Mayor Stuart Bikson sharing a positive outlook for the city.

A packed room of community members gathered at The Community House May 10 to hear his address.

Before introducing Bikson, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Salvia shared a bit of history about The Community House, noting that it will be celebrating its 50th year anniversary next year.

“The Community House started as a cabin in the park. That cabin in the park was built with federal funds that were part of the WPA Public Works programs. Then, there was a group of women in the community that said, ‘We need a place to meet,’ so they approached the city, and in September of 1974 — so that will be 50 years next year — Rochester City Council authorized the funds to establish this building, to establish Rochester’s Community House,” she said. “With that milestone coming up, we are working on getting some grant money for federal or state authorities to take the Community House to its next steps — to renovate it, to modernize it — so while we love our history, we want to keep Rochester moving forward.”

Bikson said this past year has brought “great economic growth” to the city.

“We’ve had some difficult days in our city and our country, but I believe we are doing great things in our city, and our best days are yet to come,” he said.

Over the past year, Bikson said, the community has “come together in very impressive ways. The downtown is booming, neighborhoods are thriving, and the city’s government is strong.”

“I believe the state of the city is excellent, and the future of our city is exciting,” he said.

Rochester excels at working together with other communities for the benefit of its residents, Bikson said, noting the assets of the Older Persons’ Commission, the Rochester-Avon Recreation Authority and the Rochester Hills Public Library.

Rochester, he said, is also constantly working to improve the city’s quality of life, city infrastructure and strong city services.

“With all of us working together we will have a great year of progress and success.”

A recent study rated Rochester as the second-safest city in Michigan, Bikson said.

“Our crime rate is virtually nonexistent, and we are working hard to keep it that way, and our percentage of police to the number of residents is one of the highest in the state,” he explained.  “Strong policing leads to a safe city.”

Bikson announced that George Rouhib Jr., the former chief in Eastpointe, will be taking over as the new chief of the Rochester Police Department, replacing retiring Chief Steve Schettenhelm in late June.

The Rochester Fire Department, which Bikson said has state-of-the-art advanced life support services, gives the city “world-class emergency services.”

“Our response times are some of the shortest in Michigan,” he said. “If somebody needs emergency help, our Fire Department is there for you.”

Downtown Rochester is “booming and has never been busier,” according to Bikson, who noted its 97% occupancy rate. Rochester has been consistently voted one of the top downtowns in America and has received its 18th consecutive accreditation from Main Street Oakland County for its Main Street programs.

“The city has experienced strong and exciting growth in both our downtown and our neighborhoods. I believe the state of our city is strong and we are in the process of achieving dynamic economic growth,” he said.

The Downtown Development Authority is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“The DDA, in partnership with the city, has been working for 40 years to make our downtown vibrant, family-oriented and successful,” Bikson said. “Our downtown is a regional destination and, I believe, is the center of the greater Rochester area.”

The DDA is in the initial planning stages of a new addition to the downtown and hopes to transform the farmers market parking lot into a town square city center.

“This improvement to our downtown shows our commitment to improving our downtown experience for everyone,” Bikson said.

The city, he shared, has received a grant from the federal government to make two new interactive playgrounds for children and has plans to add more art to the downtown to give more opportunities to local artists.

“The talent of these local artists is impressive, and I think everybody wants more art in our town,” Bikson said.

Over the past few years, the city has committed to expanding its pollinator gardens — which help save the monarch butterflies and other pollinators by encouraging the use of native plants — thanks to Rochester City Councilwoman Marilyn Trent and the Rochester Pollinators group. Their efforts led to Rochester’s recent designation as a Monarch Champion City by the National Wildlife Federation, a title held by only four cities in the country.

Bikson also touted the city’s financial strength — noting that the city has had a balanced budget every year he has been on council, maintains an “excellent” fund balance, has “well-funded” its retirement investments, maintained its AAA bond rating through some difficult economic years and has “a balanced and strong” three-year budget.

“We have continued to improve our infrastructure, without raising taxes,” he said. “Our essential service as a millage rate puts us as the fourth-lowest tax rate in Oakland County. … I believe our combination of low taxes and excellent city services is unique to Rochester and shows the efficiency of our city operations.”

There is also incredible growth and new investment in the town, Bikson shared, with new apartment and condo complexes coming to the city, as well as many new investments in single family houses and existing business properties.

He said residential real estate is booming, with record high sales prices. Many new houses are being built and many more are being renovated. The recent average median sales price of a home in Rochester is almost $600,000, according to Bikson, who also said next year the city’s taxable value for all its real estate will be over $1 billion. This year, he said, the city already has almost $30 million in renovations of homes and businesses.

Rochester, he said, will spend millions to continue to improve its infrastructure — including $6 million to improve the city’s drinking water and millions more to maintain the city’s roads.

“Improving and maintaining our infrastructure remains a core goal of our City Council,” he said.

He also highlighted a few “exciting” upcoming projects and new businesses — including the upcoming opening of The Roxy, a live entertainment venue in downtown Rochester; the opening of The Spice & Tea Exchange of Rochester; PAR Pharmaceutical’s plan to build a new, 91,000-square-foot warehouse and renovate a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing unit; and others.

“The real strength of Rochester are the citizens of Rochester, who are warm, friendly, outgoing and open to all people,” he said. “I believe this year will be a great year for the great city of Rochester.”