ROC the Riverway (really – that’s what they’re calling it)

Ugh. Somehow, we seem incapable of naming any important planning or design initiative anything other than ROC. ROC is the airport code for Rochester.

roc_the_riverway

Must we really persist in this ROC title for our restaurants, bars, carpet cleaners, dry cleaners, home inspectors, car repair shops, bagel shops, theaters, barber shops, moving companies?… And urban design plans?

Anyway, the Governor of New York has threatened to provide our city with tens of millions of dollars ($50 million) to transform the Genesee River, which runs through our city, into the asset that it should be, and could be. The City’s ‘plan’ for the money involves spending most of it on maintenance that should be undertaken anyway, like repairing and redesigning very bad riverside plazas (with parking underneath: let’s get rid of all parking along the river – all of it) created during “urban renewal”, fixing terraces and paving at public facilities alongside the river, or repairing the now pedestrian-only Pont de Rennes bridge, which crosses the river at High Falls and offers sensational views of the city’s greatest natural asset (it needs to be fixed – it’s rusting!).

Pont de Rennes bridge

Oh, and there is a plan to re-water the aqueduct that once carried the Erie Canal through our downtown. Really expensive ($35 million?!?). This is, for me, way down the list of things we need to do right away.

The place to begin, it seems to me, is to create a real plan. This would include tasks and costs, as in the city’s shopping list, and then move on to priorities, phases, and methods of implementation. Our river runs through downtown, and the return on investment there could be quite substantial. But our river runs through the rest of the city as well, past University and neighborhoods, parks and other waterfalls, wetlands and marshes, marinas and boat clubs, all the way out to Lake Ontario.

What we really need to do is just three really important things. If it takes $50 million, fine. If not, call me: I could go on…. Here’s my list:

  • Connect both sides of the river continuously for public use, from Lake Ontario some 8 miles to the north, to as far south as money and jurisdictional power will take us. (I am told that the only way to do this is to redo the aqueduct. I say Nuts to that).
  • Invest in the waterfall and its High Falls District, which lies at the heart of our city, and our city’s history, and support programs which educate, celebrate and redevelop this central stage of our community. (Full disclosure: I am on the board of Greentopia, and we are proposing that this place, and our first-in-New-York-State Eco-District, get some help in this ROC thing).

IMG_20180403_101614189_HDR

  • Make the river in our downtown the magnet for citizens, businesses and adjacent redevelopment that other cities – Chicago, Milwaukee, Denver, Grand Rapids, others – have succeeded in achieving. This would mean $100s of millions in increased value, jobs, and tax revenues if done properly. Downtown river development has worked real wonders in other cities, like Columbus, Ohio, or Greenville, South Carolina.

High Falls aerialPhoto from Greentopia.

That’s it. Three tasks. If we did these three, perhaps we could go from ROC to Rochester. Wouldn’t that be nice?

4 thoughts on “ROC the Riverway (really – that’s what they’re calling it)

  1. Agree wholeheartedly with your main premise: make the river THE focal point, all the way from Charlotte through downtown and as far south as possible. (You also coined a brilliant phrase: “The Governor or New York has threatened to provide our city with tens of millions of dollars”. Brilliant!

    As for the growing use of “ROC”, well, I kind of like it. After all, it is not just our airport code, but also our well-established Twitter hashtag šŸ˜‰ Plus, the play on words with “rock” is often fun (or pun). Of course, at Downtown ROCs we’re a little biased.

  2. Well, Mike, I know it is your project name, and I would rather you use it than many others. Somehow for an undertaking like yours, it seems appropriate. But I am feeling it makes us a little provincial to name EVERYTHING ROC. Live long and flourish. Oh, and trademark your initiative, please.

  3. By ” parking along the river” do you mean parking garages? Otherwise not sure what you mean…

  4. Yes. Parking garages. In the five blocks of river frontage in downtown Rochester, most abuts parking garages. Get rid of the parking, surface or in garages, along the river’s edge. Parking and river frontage are not compatible.

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