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Ferrari made his mark on Rochester

Ferrari made his mark on Rochester

Architect and urban design guru Adam Ferrari is leaving Rochester after a 12-year span, in which he became a leading grassroots figure in the city's economic and cultural transformation.

Ferrari, founder of 9.SQUARE Community Design, has accepted a job in the Philadelphia area that will allow him and his wife, Starr, to raise their two boys in close proximity to extended family.

"My family has been extremely supportive of me during the five years of running 9.SQUARE full-time, and I am excited I can give something back to them," Ferrari told me this week.

A reluctant entrepreneur, Ferrari made a name for himself by taking on adaptive reuse projects involving historic buildings. As I wrote when he was profiled for our 2017 Rochester Innovators series, "the Rochester architect is the brains behind some of the city’s most creative and original spaces."

"His innovation, adaptability and time management helped us open on time and without many hiccups," said Annie Henderson, co-owner of Forager Brewing Company. "I had the pleasure of working with Adam on other downtown projects and committees and his commitment to urban design and innovation is hard to come by. He will be dearly missed."

Frustrated by the status quo, Ferrari began his advocacy in Rochester writing opinion letters to the Post-Bulletin. He would later go on to form a community advocacy organization, Design Rochester, that facilitated charette-style workshops on hot-button issues related to urban design. 

"Adam is more than just an architect," said Heidi Mestad, former head of the Rochester Downtown Alliance and current director of the Minnesota Children's Museum Rochester. "He is an individual who understands the human-centered design process and how people play a role in the built environment." 

Never afraid to speak his mind, and always persistent, Ferrari's ideas slowly penetrated through the walls of City Hall. In 2016, after years of making waves outside the system, he was selected to be part of a design team for DMC's Heart of the City sub-district. 

"Adam's influence in Rochester is profound," said Patrick Seeb, DMC's director of economic development and placemaking. "But for all the cool stuff he has designed, like Forager, Grand Rounds, and Conley-Maass, his real legacy will be the great urban design throughout Rochester that is yet to unfold."

Reflecting on his time here, Ferrari said he has noticed a shift in recent years — with more and more people willing to speak out and demand greater accountability and transparency. To continue to be successful, he said, the community will need to get out of its comfort zone and embrace new ideas.

Already, he believes Rochester is on the right track.

"Twelve years ago, there was a sense that people were coming to Rochester in spite of Rochester," said Ferrari. "But I think that's starting to turn, and there are more reasons to live here."

He described the decision to move as bittersweet.

"We love this place," he added. "We raised our kids here. We bought our first house here. We've invested so much of our lives here. Our memories are so tied here — we're definitely sad to leave friends and connections and the tight-knit fabric of the community."

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Cover photo by William Forsman

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