Rochester in tip-top shape, mayor says

Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson

Though some may see the upcoming reconstruction of Main Street through downtown Rochester as a headache, Rochester Mayor Stuart Bikson said the project will prove to be one more indicator that the city is operating in top form.

“Confidence in our city is extremely high, even when our road construction is coming up,” he said March 29 during the sixth annual State of the City Address. “Rochester is making a huge investment in this project and we are completely committed to it.” He said the city “looks good now, and it’s even going to look better when we’ve done the reconstruction.”

Speaking before an audience of 150 people at Rochester Community House, Bikson highlighted the city’s successes of the past few years and said the economy is showing signs of turning around. Residential property values are up for the first time in four years, retail vacancies are less than 5 percent, and building permits are up 62 percent over 2009.

“I am very optimistic that we are really starting to see our economy turn around, and I believe that Rochester is positioned to begin to really prosper,” he said.

The mayor said the city has managed to weather tough times, even while lowering the tax rate, without using its fund balance and without incurring debt.

“We have virtually no city debt, a very unusual and excellent situation to be in. We are well positioned as a city to move forward in upcoming years,” he said. “Other cities in southeastern Michigan have had interesting spending habits, while Rochester has made the difficult decisions and maintained conservative, responsible budget decisions.”

The city has positioned itself for the future in part by reducing legacy costs and keeping health-care costs from rising, Bikson said.

“Our health-care costs are less than they were five years ago, and we have virtually the same number of employees,” he said. “Not many cities or businesses can make that claim. All in all, our financial house is in order and we plan on keeping it that way.”

The Main Street Makeover, as it’s being called, “is going to be the full Monty of reconstruction projects,” Bikson said. “But don’t worry about it. We’ve done this before; we are experts at this.”

During the speech, Bikson introduced business owners who are investing in downtown despite the summer’s likely interruptions. He invited everyone to come downtown during the project.

“The city of Rochester has done everything we can possibly do to prepare for this project,” he said. “All of our events we normally have, we are going to have them. … We are open for business.”

Courtney Labbe, manager of Hibachi House, which opened recently on Main Street, said she is anticipating some impact on the business and planning some promotions, including the use of social media, for the duration of construction.

“Rochester is a very supportive community,” she said. “Already the business has grown very well and it’s already established a strong clientele.”

The proprietor of Hibachi House, Byung Kim of Oakland Township, also owns Sumo Sushi across Main Street. “Sumo Sushi has such a strong following,” Labbe said. “The partnership between the two restaurants is how we plan on getting through.”

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