Rochester Institute of Technology
Center for Urban Entrepreneurship

Rochester, New York

Winner of 2016 Reshaping Rochester - Robert Macon Award for Urban Innovation - Honorable Mention

Winner of 2019 AIA Rochester Design Excellence Award

Built in 1928 as the Rochester Savings Bank, this National Historic Landmark located at 40 Franklin Street was designed by McKim, Mead & White in the Byzantine architectural style. The building was recently acquired by the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to establish an urban satellite campus in Downtown Rochester.

RIT’s Saunders College of Business envisioned this building as the ideal location for the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship (CUE). The CUE’s mission is to help reshape the regional economy and build wealth within the urban community by being a central resource for entrepreneurial programs and research.   

Our design team was charged with renovating vacant space for CUE on the first floor. CUE’s leadership wanted the new space to have a ‘start-up feel’ that was edgy and urban, but also warm and welcoming.

The design strategy was to respect the historic building shell by carefully inserting a contemporary space that is differentiated, yet compatible with its context. Drawing from the spirit of resourcefulness, building materials that were once covered up are reused as features. The concrete ceiling structure is revealed to express volume. Exposed ductwork and conduit run above suspended wood and metal lath acoustical clouds. Structural clay ‘speed tile’ is reintroduced as a decorative element. The reception desk is composed of structural steel members and glass storefront allows natural light to permeate the interior spaces visually connecting inhabitants with their adjacent urban environment.