Five Questions with Holly Masek, Rochester Downtown Alliance Executive Director

Holly Masek joined the Rochester Downtown Alliance (RDA) in June of 2019 as the organization’s executive director. The mission of the Rochester Downtown Alliance is to be “a unique, vibrant, urban experience—a central gathering place—for the community that is attractive, inviting, fun, and livable.”

Through a series of special events, activities, and initiatives, the RDA creates energy, excitement, and a unique character to Downtown Rochester, Minnesota, with the belief that a strong core positively impacts the greater city of Rochester.

Rochester Downtown Alliance is a special service district (SSD), which means it is funded by a portion of property taxes paid by commercial property owners located in the downtown service district. The special service district is comprised of 44 blocks.

The RDA is currently working on bringing “Clean and Safe Ambassadors” to downtown Rochester in spring 2020. These teams of ambassadors will bring a new level of service to the downtown core and will focus on cleanliness, safety, hospitality, livability/homelessness outreach, and horticulture.

DMC: What path brought you to your current position with the Rochester Downtown Alliance?

Masek: I’ve had a pretty varied career so far, but the common thread is that I love creating experiences for people. I’ve worked in ecotourism in Belize, city government in Boston, public space consulting for projects all over the US, and for a real estate investment firm that owned properties with major public space components. My last three jobs touched on business improvement district (another term for SSD) work. Because I’ve been in the public sector, private sector, and consulting, I believe I’m well-positioned to bring different groups to the table to accomplish complex goals.

DMC: What are some of the top priorities for the organization in the coming year?

Masek: Kicking off our Clean and Safe Ambassador program, working with the City of Rochester’s Parks & Recreation to make improvements to Central Park and other public spaces around downtown, and bringing fresh elements to our well-established events. We want Rochester’s residents and visitors to enjoy a clean, safe, well-maintained, interesting, and welcoming downtown.

DMC: What do you feel sets Rochester apart from other cities?

Masek: There are so many great assets concentrated within walking distance of the downtown core. Within a half mile radius from my office, I can walk to historic neighborhoods, great parks and trails, live music and theater, restaurants and bars, a major employer, world-renowned healthcare, universities, shopping, an independent movie theater, and a riverfront. That’s not too shabby!

DMC: Why is the Destination Medical Center initiative so important to the future of Rochester?

Masek: Destination Medical Center initiative is working to attract new interest and ambitious projects to the city. DMC’s spirit of collaboration and their willingness to take risks on new and untested approaches will help keep downtown Rochester innovative, both now and in the future.

DMC: What advice would you give to someone thinking about building a life, starting a career, and/or raising a family in America’s City for Health?

Masek: People work very hard and very long hours, so sometimes it can feel difficult to plug into the community. Be patient and get involved in activities and groups that resonate with you. The great thing about a city with lots of transplants is that most people are always open to making new friends.