The Rochester Downtown Development Authority is hoping to transform the farmers market parking lot into a new community gathering and event space dubbed “the front porch project.”

The Rochester Downtown Development Authority is hoping to transform the farmers market parking lot into a new community gathering and event space dubbed “the front porch project.”

Design rendering provided by the Rochester Downtown Development Authority

Town square project in the works for downtown Rochester

Upcoming visioning sessions to be held

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


ROCHESTER — A new community gathering and event space is in the works in downtown Rochester, and there are two opportunities for the public to share their input.

Rochester Downtown Development Authority Director Kristi Trevarrow said the concept, dubbed “the front porch project,” was developed from input given during community visioning sessions held by the DDA in 2016 and 2021.

Participants of both sessions, Trevarrow said, expressed their desires to have the DDA enhance the town’s farmers market and create additional spaces to gather downtown.

“That’s how the town square project originally started … and a town square still rose to the top of things people were looking for (in 2021), so that’s what put us on our path where we are,” she said.

The DDA is proposing to transform the existing 1-acre farmers market lot — which currently houses about 75 parking spaces — at the corner of Third and Water streets into a town square.

The community can learn more about the project and offer input during community input sessions planned for 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, and Monday, June 5, at the Rochester Community House, 816 Ludlow St.

“We want to make sure everyone feels involved and every voice is heard and everything moves along,” said Ben Giovanelli, the chairman of the DDA.

Officials said the primary anchor of the re-imagined space will be a building called “the Front Porch,” which will house an office dedicated to farmers market activities and will include a 1,500-square-foot covered porch for speeches, musical entertainment and more.

Scott Reynolds, of Auger Klein Aller Architects, who is working on the concept design, described it as a “classically inspired vernacular that would fit within the context of the city” for events, concerts and activities. “(It would) give us something downtown that we don’t already have,” he said.

To the left of the Front Porch building, designers envision a community mural with shaded areas, and tables and chairs for dining al fresco.

The center of the property features a circular turf area that could house lawn games in the summer, with the option to potentially transform into an ice rink in the winter. Other amenities could include restrooms, a set of swings, bicycle racks, a separate building for storage, natural landscaping, a grand staircase, three additional entrance/exit points — including ADA-accessible options — and more.

The reimagined space could accommodate around 75 10-by-10-foot tents for vendors.

“Even with all those programmed elements, there will be space to activate this site for, not only the farmers market, but for others. We have a lot of flexibility,” said Reynolds. “There is a huge opportunity for public engagement, a space to anchor a lot of our downtown events, and then also still make some of those existing events continue to thrive.”

The DDA, Giovanelli said, has set aside funds from its tax capture over the past few years to help fund the project, to the tune of nearly $1.8 million. Those funds, along with potential grants and sponsorship dollars, would fund the project — although total cost estimates are still in the works and are expected to be presented to the Rochester City Council in July.

If the overall concept is approved by council and “all goes well,” Giovanelli said a groundbreaking could be held this October.

“The idea is, the first part of spring construction would commence, and then we would be done in time for a town square dedication by the mayor and Santa for Lagniappe 2024,” he explained. “From beginning to end, it’s … almost two years. These things do take time.”

To learn more and to register for the community input sessions, visit or call the Rochester DDA at (248) 656-0060.