Senator Led Push to Secure $1.5 Million EDA Grant to Renovate Building To House RIT’s New Biz Incubator

Standing at Rochester Institute of Technology’s brand new Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE) business incubator at the redeveloped historic former Rochester Savings Bank building in Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today participated in a historic ribbon cutting, which symbolized the official opening of Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) brand new Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE) business incubator at the redeveloped historic former Rochester Savings Bank building. Schumer said the creation of the CUE marks the return of RIT to the City of Rochester, and will be transformative for the entire area and regional economy. Schumer has long fought to make this center a reality, and helped secure the federal funding needed to make this renovation possible. Schumer helped secure the initial $1.5 million in federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) funds that enabled the renovation and rehab of the historic Rochester Savings Bank building that made this project possible.

“The grand opening of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship finally marks the return of RIT back to Rochester for the first time in over two decades, and with it, the return of RIT’s economic might to inject a host of new jobs and businesses into the lifeblood of downtown. When RIT first asked me to lead the charge to secure a $1.5 million federal grant needed to transform this historic building for CUE, I made it top priority. With new entrepreneurs, employees, RIT staff, and student co-ops together working under the same roof, CUE is not only an anchor for Rochester’s Downtown Innovation Zone but will be a springboard for new urban entrepreneurs, that once successful, can expand to existing downtown storefronts and push Rochester’s economic development to new heights,” said Schumer.

Schumer explained that RIT had moved its main campus from downtown Rochester to its current suburban location in the Town of Henrietta roughly 44 years ago, and sold its last remaining downtown building over two decades ago. However, the establishment of the CUE is a new RIT beachhead from which it will be able to direct its economic development might to re-energize downtown Rochester. Schumer said the center will serve as a key anchor for economic development in downtown Rochester, along with the High Tech of Rochester’s new business incubator planned for the Sibley Building – for which Schumer secured $42.5 million in federal New Market Tax Credits – and the planned AIM Photonics facilities at the Legacy Tower and Sibley building for the new Downtown Innovation Zone.

The Downtown Innovation Zone is aimed at turning around Main Street and Downtown Rochester into a hub for new high tech, photonics, and entrepreneurial activities. The City of Rochester, in conjunction with the University of Rochester, RIT and other area leaders have designated this section of downtown as a “Downtown Innovation Zone” and are focusing on investing into this area to transform Main Street into a destination for high tech and innovative companies with mixed-use areas with places to live, shop, eat, do business and more. The goal is to have some of the businesses that get their start in the RIT CUE incubator to grow big enough to “graduate” and move to a permanent larger space in this downtown Innovation Zone area.

The CUE – which is situated across the street from the soon-to-be revitalized Sibley Building, and located a block from the revitalized Midtown Rising site – will now help prospective entrepreneurs develop business plans, launch new enterprises, hire new workers and, ultimately, grow new businesses within the City of Rochester. The project – for which Schumer helped secure $1.5 million in federal funding to make possible – included the renovation of the unoccupied portion of the building, spread over the first and third stories of the building, as well as updates to the historic structure’s mechanical, elevator and utility systems. Approximately one third of the cost to redevelop the first floor to house the CUE was provided by the $1.5 million federal grant, with the balance of the grant used to renovate the third floor and utility systems. 

The renovations will enable CUE to conduct various programs, including Future Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, Capacity Building, Lemonade Day and a variety of targeted workshops. CUE’s offices also include meeting rooms for clients, shared workspace and a multipurpose classroom and will allow RIT to leverage its recognized strengths of technological innovation and entrepreneurship in support of the downtown economy. 

Schumer was joined by RIT President Bill Destler, Amy and Bob Tait, Rep. Louise Slaughter, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren.

Schumer noted that the Center, now that it has been completed, will contribute to the revitalization of the greater Rochester and Finger Lakes Region, which has seen an uptick in small, high-tech startups. RIT is uniquely positioned to offer the requisite training and support to create the next generation of small business owners. Schumer has long fought to support RIT’s plan and shepherded the University’s pursuit of a federal grant from the EDA’s Public Works Program, which was needed to renovate the historic, but largely then-vacant, Rochester Savings Bank building into the home of RIT’s new CUE business incubator and make it ready for the new workers, start-up businesses, and entrepreneurs who will set up shop at in the building. The EDA Public Works Program provides funding for distressed communities to revitalize and upgrade physical infrastructure to attract new industry, encourage business expansion, and diversify local economies.

  • In Spring 2012, RIT President Destler personally sought Schumer’s support to secure financial assistance for this project when RIT was still evaluating the possibility to accepting the gift of this historic structure. Schumer pledged to give RIT his full support to seek funding from the EDA
  • In October 2012, Schumer joined RIT President Destler to announce the proposed project in October 2012 and reiterated his pledge.
  • In Fall 2012, Schumer wrote to the EDA in support of RIT’s initial grant application.
  • In December 2012, when RIT’s application was not selected for funding based in it’s initial application, Schumer then arranged for the EDA Philadelphia Regional Director Willie Taylor to come to Rochester in December 2012 and personally tour the facility in Rochester and help RIT revise its application to better compete for this grant program.
  • In the Winter and Spring of 2013, Schumer’s staff organized and facilitated several follow-up calls with RIT and the EDA to assist RIT prepare its revised application.
  • In March 2013, RIT resubmitted its application and Schumer again wrote to the EDA in support RIT’s initial application and personally called the head of the EDA, Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Erskine, to reiterate his support of the project and secure this commitment for funding.
  • In July 2013, Schumer announced that the EDA would commit to a $1.5 million grant for the project.
  • In September 2013, Schumer announced the EDA finalized the $1.5 million award and construction/renovation commenced in 2014.
  • Today, RIT finally cut its ribbon on the new business incubator in downtown Rochester.


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