Zoning & Center City Design Standards

Rochester, NY

Applied Expertise

  • Zoning
  • Public Involvement
  • Design Standards
  • Urban Design
  • Economic Development
  • Downtown Development


Rochester is a city of more than 200,000 located on the Genesee River and the Erie Canal in Monroe County, NY. The goal of the city’s new zoning code and Center City Design Standards was to preserve neighborhood and commercial area character while encouraging economic vitality and job growth. In addition to public meetings, we reached out to a number of interest groups including the downtown development community, architects and real estate developers and neighborhood preservationists.

Our approach to the zoning is innovative because it takes a design approach rather than a use approach, creating more flexibility in the ways that development can occur. The Center City Design Standards include a development checklist that facilitates project approval. This allows staff-level approval of most projects and can cut project approval time from six months to less than six weeks. A comprehensive evaluation of our 2003 zoning was completed in 2009. Overall, it found that our hybrid approach to zoning pioneered for the City of Rochester was effective and recognized in particular that the City Center zoning was effective in helping the city to move in the right direction toward better urban design and economic revitalization.


2003 Honor Award, NY Upstate Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for the Center City Design Standards

2002 Planning Excellence Award – Planning Tool, NY Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association for the Center City Design Standards

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