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Surrounded by Rochester Hills to the north, west, and south, and by Shelby Township to the east, the City of Rochester, Michigan is a northern suburb of the Metro Detroit Region.

The Clinton River, Paint Creek, and Stony Creek flow through the city, each of which also flow through neighboring Rochester Hills.

The chief route through the city is M-150, also known as Rochester Road. Within Rochester, M-150 becomes Main Street. Other routes include 24 Mile Road (Parkdale Road) and 25 Mile Road (Runyon Road). Dequindre Road forms the city's eastern boundary, and Washington Road forms a small portion of the city's boundary in the northeast.

Besides Rochester Hills, other incorporated cities and villages within twenty miles of Rochester include Auburn Hills, Utica, Troy, Lake Orion, Pontiac, Clawson, Sterling Heights, Bloomfield Hills, Lake Angelus, Oxford, Madison Heights, Birmingham, Sylvan Lake, Leonard, Romeo, Keego Harbor, Royal Oak, Berkley, Hazel Park, Pleasant Ridge, Fraser, Beverly Hills, Mt. Clemens, Ferndale, Orchard Lake, Clarkston, Bingham Farms, Roseville, Huntington Woods, Oak Park, Lathrup Village, Franklin, Dryden, and New Haven.

Today, there is very little vacant land remaining in Rochester. However, the city offers a mixture of residential land uses, including single-family residential on small, medium, and large lots, two-family residential homes, and multiple-family apartment communities. Residential properties in the east and west portions of the city are primarily single-family, although several single-family homes have been divided into flats, particularly in older parts of the city. Multiple-family dwellings are found primarily on the west side of the city, including some large apartment complexes.

Most commercial properties in Rochester are small businesses, found largely in the city's traditional downtown district.

Industrial properties are concentrated within the southeastern portion of the city, along Second, Elizabeth, South, and Diversion streets, although some light industries can be found in the northwestern part of the city, primarily off of Woodward.

Properties set aside for recreational uses are primarily on the west side of the city, and include the Paint Creek Trailway, River Walk, Elizabeth Park, Municipal Park, Halbach Field, Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, Community Garden, Jaycee Field, Rotary Park, and Howlett Park, while the Clinton River Trail passes through the entire southern portion of the city.

The Rochester Police Department provides law enforcement services to the city, while fire suppression and emergency medical services are provided by the Rochester Fire Department.

Public K-12 students in Rochester are served by Rochester Community Schools, which operates campuses in Rochester and Rochester Hills. Two parochial schools, St. John's Elementary School and Holy Family Elementary School, are also located within the city.

There are three cemeteries in Rochester, although only the Mount Avon Cemetery is owned by the city, as Stony Creek Cemetery and Van Hoosen Cemetery are owned by Rochester Hills.

Rochester was the first European-American settlement in Oakland County when it was settled by James Graham and his family, who came from Mount Clemens in 1817. The first official land acquisition was by John Hersey in 1818. As the majority of its early settlers had come from New York, the community was named for Rochester, New York.

Governor Lewis Cass, with Austin E. Wing and Charles Larned, surveyed the area and laid out the first plat of the village in 1826, and a post office was established on January 12, 1827, with Morris Jackson, Jr. as postmaster. Rochester was incorporated as a village, within Avon Township, on April 12, 1869.

In 1967, Rochester separated from the township, incorporating as a city, and immediately began an attempt to annex the township, and was successful in annexing 2.2 square miles, following a long court battle, more than doubling the size of the city, and prompting the remainder of the township to incorporate as the City of Rochester Hills in 1984.

Once an industrial center, with water power from the Clinton River and Paint Creek, the waterways are no longer used for industry, but for fishing and other recreational uses.

Rochester was once served by the Michigan Central Railroad, the Grand Trunk Western Railway, and the Detroit United Railway, the latter of which was an interurban line connecting to Royal Oak and Detroit.

First appearing on a census roll in 1880 with a population of 996, its population in 2020 was 13,035. The only periods of decline were 1910 and 1990, where there were population losses of 1.2% and 1.0% respectively.

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