For over 50 years, the Rochester Community House has opened its doors to the public, serving as a hub for classes, events and celebrations of all types.

For over 50 years, the Rochester Community House has opened its doors to the public, serving as a hub for classes, events and celebrations of all types.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Community House director works to ‘polish the gem’

Renovations would make venue more popular for weddings

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 29, 2019


ROCHESTER — New Director Alan Smith has big plans for the Rochester Community House in 2019.

Smith has spent his last seven months at the reins of the Community House, “polishing the gem.”

“I have not been doing it alone,” he said. “I mean it when I say we are collectively polishing the gem. All the decisions involve a lot of people.”

Smith recently appeared before the Rochester City Council to share his progress and plans for “the house.”

“The last six or seven months has really been a building process. I call it getting the house to an operational level,” Smith said. “We’re trying to put everything in place to make it a good, efficient, operating business.”

In just a few months, Smith has made a variety of changes at “the house” that he anticipates will save a total of approximately $13,700 per year.

The largest cost savings is a projected $6,000 cut in the electricity bill through reducing the running time of the facility’s many fridges, freezers and ice machines, and by making the switch to LED lights — donated by Michigan Chandelier — in the entire building. Smith projects to save approximately $1,500 in insurance costs by moving to Rochester-based Whims Insurance; $2,000 in advertising costs by utilizing more social media outlets; $1,500 in linen costs by hiring a new, more efficient company; $1,500 in cable TV fees by switching from AT&T to Comcast; and $1,200 by hiring the city to handle the elevator contract.

Smith hopes that the addition of high-speed internet, which was recently installed thanks to a donation through the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester, will attract more business clients in the new year.

Another goal is to increase weddings at the venue, which he said would increase revenue by $2,000 more than if he rented out three of the big rooms for parties.   

But to increase wedding bookings, Smith said, many updates need to be made to the facility’s two main rooms.

“They are the main rooms for weddings, and they happen to be the oldest. A lot of the windows are original. It’s very dark. They have very low ceilings, and there are five furnaces in those rooms. We also need to spend money replacing carpet, towels, painting the walls and adding new light fixtures, and we’re already on fundraising for that,” he said.

In order to inject new life and revenue into the Rochester Community House, Smith asked the Rochester City Council to extend its current agreement and the utility payment deadline by one year each, which he said would allow the house to use those funds to make some upgrades in an effort to help bring in new bookings.

The city of Rochester, which owns the nonprofit’s building, and the Rochester Community House board previously agreed to a two-year amendment to their service agreement. Under the agreement, the city and the Community House were to appoint a joint committee in June 2019 to negotiate a revision of the agreement to provide terms that will allow capital improvements to the Community House building and some monetary contributions by the Community House to the city. The extension, which the council approved 6-1, will push that date to June 2020 and also allows the Community House to take over payment of its own gas and electric bills from the city starting in June 2020 — instead of June 2019.

Smith also asked the council if he could get quotes for computer-generated concept drawings detailing alterations, repairs and upgrades to the building, with a not-to-exceed budget of up to $6,000. He hopes the drawings will create “a buzz” around the building and attract even more potential bookings.

Mayor Rob Ray said he thinks Smith has demonstrated enough work over the past seven months for Ray to feel comfortable moving forward with his requests.

“The amount you’re saving on electricity alone is about what you’re asking to go get this,” he said.

Councilwoman Ann Peterson, the lone vote against the motion, was opposed to earmarking any money for conceptual drawings when she said “urgent repairs” to the building’s leaky roof, windows and siding are still needed.

“I don’t want to have us make promises when we don’t know how much we need,” Peterson said.

Smith said an increase in bookings would bring in more revenue for repairs.

The Community House has served as a hub for classes, events and celebrations of all types for 50 years. For more information, contact the Rochester Community House, 816 Ludlow Ave., at (248) 651-0622 or visit