Rochester: New York's Third-Largest City Offers Respite from Heat -- and High Home Prices
by Courtney Ronan
As the merciless summer heat continues its assault in many regions of the United States, there's no time like the present to explore a city where the average summertime temperature sits in the lower 70s, thanks in large part to its geographic location on Lake Ontario in the heart of the American Northeast.
The Genesee Valley surrounds the city, offering scenic views of gently rolling hills. The nearby Genesee River contains beautiful waterfalls ; and the presence of Irondequoit Bay, the Finger Lakes and numerous ponds and streams have created a natural wonderland sure to be the envy of any landlocked, scenery-deprived American.
Where is this utopia, this place to which you're going to book yourself a one-way airline ticket? It's Rochester, New York, the state's third-largest metropolitan an area, and a city of approximately 230,000 "cool" residents. Situated uniquely at a centralized location with access to the major cities of the Northeast, Rochester provides a relatively painless commute to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Detroit, Washington, Montreal and Toronto, to name just a sampling of "power cities." In fact, Rochester provides access within a 400-mile radius to 12 Northeastern states and two of Canada's largest cities. That commute may sometimes be hindered by weather, of course; Rochester receives an average of 95 inches of snowfall annually. Daytime temperatures during the winter months dip into the 20s and remain there, helping to ensure a continuous coverage of snow.
Of its 230,000 residents (Greater Rochester's population exceeds 1 million), about 3,000 live in downtown Rochester, a region of the city with particular historic significance. Among downtown's Rochester's most famous residents are Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass and George Eastman. Established as a city in the early 1800s, Rochester has maintained many of its older buildings. Developers have constructed modern high-rises and skyscrapers within walking distance, providing an interesting contrast of old and new. Rochester's economy is supported in large part by the services, manufacturing and retail industries.
A significant percentage of Rochester's corporate residents are in the imaging technology sector; in fact, Rochester has been dubbed the "World's Image Center." That title, awarded the city during the 1990s, comes from Rochester's history in photography,xerography and optics in addition to its manufacturing and research achievements and educational opportunities in imaging sciences. Rochester continues to live up to that title not only due to its current corporate residents -- which include Eastman Kodak Company, Bausch & Lomb and Xerox Corporation -- but also from the presence of the University of Rochester's Institute of Optics and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics
These two institutions are the only research facilities of their kind in the United States. Rochester is also recognized as a cultural center. The Eastman Theatre and School of Music are based here and attract aspiring professional musicians from around the globe. Also within city limits are the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, GeVa Theatre, Strong Museum, Memorial Art Gallery, Strasenburgh Planetarium and the unique International Museum of Photography, situated in the George Eastman House.
The value of residential real estate sold in greater Rochester through August 1999 increased 31.5 percent from 1998 figures, according to the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors. Although prices and the number of transactions have increased, housing is extremely affordable in Rochester. The city's median home price stood at $88,500 last year, lower than 80 percent of the United States' metropolitan centers.
The city's mix of old and new has carried over into its residential real estate inventory. Within Rochester, you'll find everything from Cape Cod-style single family homes and loft-style residences to modern high-rise condominiums and brick town homes. As mentioned above, home prices are very reasonable and cover a broad range, depending upon the amount of square footage and luxury amenities you desire.
In addition to its homes offered at prices between the upper $80s and $150,000, Rochester has plenty of inventory to satisfy homeowners with higher income brackets. New construction continues in Rochester, and you'll find a sizeable inventory of homes priced at $500,000 and up. One of the best selling points of buying a home in Rochester is its architectural diversity. Because you're just as likely to find a home built in 1900 as you are in 1990, homes in Rochester seem to include every imaginable style.
Rochester sits in the middle of it all: picturesque scenery, a seemingly strategic location in the middle of the Northeast, with access to leading educational institutions, an active yet reasonably priced real estate market, and a vital and diverse local economy. In contrast to other Northeastern cities, where residents often face high home prices in exchange for the privilege of experiencing all four seasons, Rochester offers an affordable alternative for relocating families -- not to mention a blissful reprieve from blistering summer temperatures.