When Store Manager Frank Tallarico brings new students and their families through his Barnes & Noble at University of Rochester bookstore for orientation, he’s not only showcasing his exceptional store, he’s introducing them to College Town. “We have a great relationship with the University’s orientation and admissions departments,” he explains, “so we make sure that all new students and their parents not only see our beautiful new store, but they also see College Town.”
Set on 14 acres owned by the University of Rochester, College Town is a 500,000 square-foot mixed-use development that serves as a gateway to the University of Rochester’s River Campus and Medical Center. The project involved years of planning and coordination with officials from the University, the City of Rochester, and local organizations including the Mount Hope Avenue Task Force, the Mt. Hope Business Association, the Southeast Area Coalition, and Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Anchored by the Barnes & Noble at University of Rochester bookstore on the corner of Elmwood and Mt. Hope Avenues, it also features a newly opened Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, Constantino’s grocery store, restaurants, coffee shops, Insomnia Cookies, a yoga studio, parking garage and 152 apartments.
In building the development, the University is following a trend of universities looking to help improve and shape their surrounding environment and to work in partnership with their local community to help create spaces for everyone to enjoy. “There’s a trend to create developments of this sort for purposes of economic development, neighborhood stabilization, and neighborhood enhancement,” says Ronald Paprocki BS ’69, MBA ’86, senior vice president for administration and finance for the University of Rochester, in a recent issue of the University of Rochester’s College Town magazine. “Vibrant neighborhoods are important for universities, especially those in urban areas. What we wanted to do was add vibrancy to our surrounding neighborhoods, and I think College Town will do that.”
The development not only serves as a gateway to the University, giving the institution a greater visibility than it has had in the adjoining neighborhood, but also serves as a showcase for the city and local area.
And with the creation of College Town, students from the River Campus, as well as medical and nursing students, and hospital visitors from the adjacent medical center, will now have a greater presence on Mt. Hope Avenue. “I was really excited for it as an undergrad,” says Leah Dauphin ’13, who completed her second year in the School of Medicine and Dentistry this year. “As a medical student, I’m even closer than most of the undergrads.” Dauphin notes that she would also like to live in one of the complex’s new apartments, adding that several members of her class have already moved in.
Initially, River Campus students worried the relocation of the campus bookstore from the Frederick Douglass Building, beside Wilson Commons, to College Town, would be an issue. “In general, students were confused and worried it would be inconvenient, but now that it’s set up and looks so great, they feel like they have something they were missing,” says Antoinette Esce ’15, who was last year’s president of the Students’ Association in the College. The University provides an easy shuttle to College Town, while the bookstore offers a convenient textbook delivery service directly to campus.
But College Town is about more than just commerce. One immediate effect, Paprocki says, will be seen in recruitment and retention of students and faculty. With a vibrant downtown business development, College Town is now attracting prospective students and faculty who are drawn to the array of new businesses, restaurants and apartments that line Mt. Hope Avenue.
Richard Rowe, owner of Rowe Photo, Audio, and Video and founder of the Mt. Hope Business Association, credits the University’s vision of looking beyond the boundaries of the campus and seeing the connection to the larger community. “They understand that whatever happens in the community directly affects their facilities, their employees, their patients, their students, their educators, and the value of their property,” he says. “I’ve been here 45 years—and why I’m so excited and encouraged after 45 years is I see that we’ve only really scratched the potential of what the businesses, the University, and the residents can do together.”
Store Manager Tallarico agrees. “We’ve been here since mid-October and I’ve seen nothing but steady growth,” he says. “As more and more stores and restaurants continue to open, College Town’s success and popularity will only increase. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the new school year.”