By Staff –
The governor and Rochester mayor Lovely A. Warren celebrated the first phase of the project at a ground-breaking ceremony to start renovations at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochestre Riverside Convention Center.
The convention center renovation is the first of 13 total projects aimed at transforming the Genesee River corridor.
“Thanks to the vision of Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose initial $50 million investment through Empire State Development’s Finger Lakes Forward initiative set the ROC the Riverway project in motion, our city will finally realize the full job-creating, community-building potential of the Genesee River,” said Mayor Warren.
Organizers say the convention center project will create a dynamic and modernized new public river front space that will interplay with the Main Street streetscape and the many events within the Convention Center. The renovated terrace will feature handicap accessibility improvements, a new granite-clad planter, code-compliant river railings and upgraded amenities. New exterior LED lighting will be installed to illuminate the entire facility as a vital nighttime element within the urban City skyline.
“I also want to thank the ROC the Riverway Advisory Board and the hundreds of engaged citizens who participated in our community input process for all their great work to produce this Vision Plan,” Mayor Warren said. “This is an exciting time for Rochester, as we are about to witness an unprecedented level of investment and activity along our riverfront, which will help us transform our city and create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”
The renovation project also includes replacement of the Convention Center escalators and partitions for the ballroom. The entire project will cost $9.8 million and includes a $3.3 million grant from Empire State Development.
The ROC the Riverway initiative features more than two dozen development projects along the Genesee River under a single concept to achieve synergy and leverage the value of Rochester’s riverfront.
The first set of projects includes:
Aqueduct Re-Imagined and Riverfront Promenade
The re-imagined aqueduct will be the centerpiece of Downtown transformation – a place for public gatherings and community events, an opportunity for informal and formal programming, and the vital component in achieving the overall goal of the ROC the Riverway campaign – bringing people to the water. Removal of the vehicular deck of the Broad Street Bridge will open up the former aqueduct and subway bed to create a dynamic public space while enabling the completion of the Genesee Riverway Trail through Downtown – a critical north-south connection on both sides of the river. Phase 1 funding will pay for design of the new aqueduct and the connecting trail segments.
Rundel Library North Terrace
Work on the North Terrace in conjunction with the Aqueduct Re-Imagined project creates the opportunity for inclusion of outdoor library rooms, cafe spaces, and enhanced programming opportunities. It will be designed to seamlessly integrate with any design solution for the Aqueduct Terrace while connecting to the new riverfront promenade spaces. The design will open up dramatic new views of the river and rapids south of Court Street.
Pont de Rennes Bridge
In addition to City and State investment in the structural repairs, ROC the Riverway funds will be used to create a more dynamic public space along the bridge with creative lighting, public art, plantings, and trail connections to enhance the visitor experience. The project will build off of proposed investments to High Falls Terrace Park, the Brewery Line Trail, and the continued expansion of North American Breweries (Genesee Brewery).
Riverside Convention Center
Funding will expand the southwest face of the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center along the river to create a large dynamic venue space that directly engages with the downtown waterfront. The current terrace, which is closed to the public at its Main Street entrance and has minimal design features, would be opened to the public as part of a larger riverfront promenade system, eventually becoming part of the Genesee Riverway Trail. The project would also include widening the south end of the terrace and creating a cantilevered viewing and gathering space for use by the Convention Center and residents alike. Public spaces would be energized by new opportunities for public art, creative lighting, and even pop-up retail.
Blue Cross Arena
This project will build off of past City and State investment to enhance the riverfront promenade, improve facility access, and set the stage for the establishment of a riverside restaurant or bar to provide a unique waterfront dining experience for residents and visitors alike.
The expansion will also include enlarged concession areas on the second level to showcase the incredible river view, providing an enhanced fan experience. The river terrace will be redefined and enhanced to create an open and dynamic riverfront interface with activities in and around the arena and adjacent Broad and Court Street connections. In conjunction with the Aqueduct Re-Imagined and Riverfront Promenade project, it will dramatically open up views and public spaces that will complement activity at the arena. This includes providing a more visible public presence to the War Memorial Flame at the river level of the building.
Riverway Main to Andrews
The Charles Carroll Plaza renovation, the western riverfront link between Main Street and Andrews Street, will reinvigorate the public spaces by improving access, safety, connectivity and programming opportunities. Improvements will include improved lighting, greenspaces, and views of the river. It will create ADA accessible connections between Main, Andrews, State, and St. Paul Streets as well as the Sister Cities Bridge. Numerous walls that block views and create the perception of unsafe spaces will be removed. The riverfront experience on the east side, while narrower, will also be enhanced. Collectively, these improvements will create a key site for various programming activities put on by the proposed Downtown/Riverfront Management Entity (see below), as well as an every-day riverfront park for downtown residents, especially those in the adjacent Andrews Terrace.
Genesee Gateway Park
The re-imagined park will create a space which visually and physically connects the river to the surrounding neighborhoods. Areas for respite, flexible uses, and everyday play will ensure this is a riverfront park that offers something for all age ranges. The redeveloped park will also provide critical access to the river for non-motorized watercraft, as the next closest location to put in paddle boats is 2.2 miles upriver at the Genesee Waterways Center. The enhanced park will continue to host the South Wedge Farmers Market and will help entice river-oriented mixed-use development at the City-owned site to the north.
Corn Hill Navigation
Corn Hill Navigation is currently engaged in a capital campaign to fund the purchase and operations of a downtown boat. ROC the Riverway funding would go directly to that campaign, recognizing the critical value of this educational and tourism asset in the South River corridor. The boat is of particular value to the Rochester City School District and other nearby schools, as an education curriculum has been developed to introduce students to the river’s history, ecology, and opportunities for environmental stewardship.
Front Street Promenade
Public investments along the water’s edge, including a formal pedestrian promenade, will allow future development to take advantage of this unique position along the Genesee, with direct connections to the Genesee Riverway Trail to the south. An attractive pedestrian connection along the water will extend west along the north end of the site, connecting to the Mill Street tunnel under the Inner Loop. Signage, plantings, and surface improvements along these edges of the site will be designed to attract private development.
High Falls Terrace Park
Building upon the 2015 High Falls Pedestrian Access Improvement Study and the efforts of Greentopia in the area, this ROC the Riverway project is designed to address multiple needs in and near the park. For starters, the trail along the gorge is narrow and fenced off, limiting access. A wider trail, known as the Brewery Line Trail South and part of the Genesee Riverway Trail system, will be relocated along a recently acquired railroad right-of-way that traverses the park, removing the need for the fence. Selective vegetation clearing will open up better views of the falls. A more welcoming connection to downtown will be established through better signage, lighting, and cosmetic improvements to the St. Paul Street underpass of the CSX railroad bridge. Various park amenities such as picnic tables and grills will be installed. Lastly, a study will be conducted to examine the feasibility of creating public access to the roof of the former RG&E Hydrostation #4 at the eastern edge of the falls.
Running Track Bridge
The Running Track Bridge is a former rail bridge that once exemplified Rochester’s industrial prowess. Today, the bridge sits abandoned but continues to highlight the importance of connections across the Genesee River, linking neighborhoods like El Camino, Edgerton, and High Falls as well as destinations on either side. Rehabilitating the bridge as a pedestrian amenity will highlight the historic value of the structure, and reuse of this resource will allow the City to meet today’s needs and ensure complementary and cohesive connections to other ROC the Riverway projects. Phase 1 funding will secure the structure of the bridge to enable pedestrian access in future phases.
ROC City Skate Park
The skate park will boast multiple features such as a main skate promenade, mini-ramps and ledges, and competition bowls. It will also have opportunities for public art, music performances, and spectator seating. Located alongside the existing Genesee Riverway Trail and with easy access from South Avenue, the skate park will attract droves of wheeled enthusiasts and spectators. It will capitalize on land that is otherwise unbuildable, situated under an interstate bridge and associated off ramps. This benefits skate park users as there will be elements that enjoy shade and shelter while other elements will be open air.
The skate park will provide a much needed boost of activity on the edge of Downtown and in the South River Corridor. As was pointed out repeatedly during the ROC the Riverway public process, skateboarding has an emerging reputation of breaking down racial and socio-economic barriers in a way unlike any other sport.
Downtown / Riverfront Management Entity
In order to achieve a more vibrant, dynamic riverfront experience, a Downtown / Riverfront Management Entity will be created that will program and maintain the existing and newly created public spaces.
The City of Rochester and ROC the Riverway Advisory Board have explored management entity models across the nation, including Buffalo, Chattanooga, Baltimore, and Grand Rapids. While the sustainable funding model, scope, and other details of Rochester’s management entity are still to be determined, there has been strong community support for pursuing additional programming and management opportunities for these spaces. Management entities around the country have a variety of responsibilities, including but not limited to: community visioning and engagement; coordinating private development activities; overseeing public infrastructure investments; receiving state and philanthropic funding; developing and implementing programs and events; engaging in marketing and branding efforts; maintenance and upkeep of public spaces; proliferating public art; and recruiting businesses. Such an entity will be critical to connecting people to the water and activating the great public spaces being created through ROC the Riverway while continuing the momentum of Downtown’s resurgence.
To view the Vision Plan, visit www.CityofRochester.Gov/RocTheRiverway