Rochester, N.Y. --- In 1968 RIT opened its Henrietta campus, and more than forty years later the school plans to return to Downtown Rochester.
On Monday the Rochester Institute of Technology announced that a new Center for Urban Entrepreneurship is going to call Franklin Street near the Liberty Pole in Downtown Rochester home in 2013.
The building at 40 Franklin Street is known by many as the old Rochester Savings Bank building and it was acquired last year by a group of families that formed Rochester Historic Ventures. Traditional office space use for the unique historic building presented a challenge, yet the concept of a downtown campus has the signs of a perfect fit.
"We're going to build a kind of RIT center down here which will be a hanging out place for our faculty, staff, and students who have downtown business," RIT President Bill Destler said. "We're going to have courses and seminars here which would be of interest to the local community, but most importantly we're going to build a Center for Urban Entrepreneurship here to try to help grow the city's economy by encouraging people to start new businesses. Everything from retail to major technology firms, we're going to be working on right here in this building."
The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship is meant to include much more than coursework for current RIT students.
The concept, according to the Business School's Dean, is to also offer training for existing business owners, help for displaced workers who want to start their own business, and possibly youth programs for local students. Working with the city on economic development issues is another initiative RIT hopes to continue.
"RIT had its birth downtown, we care very deeply about the development of the City of Rochester and this is going to be part, I think, of a real urban revitalization," Destler said. "If you just look around this building you'll see many other examples of that. Renovating buildings, building new apartments, I think we're going to have an urban renaissance here and I'm so proud to be a part of it."
Heidi Zimmer-Meyer of Rochester Downtown Development Corporation tells 13WHAM News that RIT's presence is going to be "huge" for the area because it will serve as a sort of "incubator" for other businesses nearby. In addition to faculty, staff, students, and spin-off businesses Zimmer-Meyer believes RIT's presence drives up the value of nearby buildings, such as the Sibley Building, that was recently purchased and has long been the focus of downtown development planners.
An RIT spokesman said it is too early to speculate as to an exact job count for that campus. The Citizens bank will remain a tenant in the building and RIT will convert the remaining space for its own use.