Cuomo announces ROC the Riverway initiative to revive Genesee River corridor

Courtesy of the city of Rochester

In an effort to revive the Genesee River corridor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an initiative that would reshape much of the heart of Downtown Rochester.

Speaking from the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 7, Cuomo announced $50 million in initial state funding for a plan designed to revive the Genesee River corridor.

The initiative, which has been dubbed “ROC the Riverway,” calls for a series of infrastructure upgrades, new development and enhancement to existing venues along the Genesee River as it cuts through the city. The expansive project will be overseen by an advisory board comprised of various government and business leaders in the region, including Rochester Gas & Electric, the Rochester Downtown Development Corp. and Pegula Sports & Entertainment. The board will be helmed by Rochester Chamber of Commerce President Robert Duffy and Monroe Community College President Anne Kress

“It is an investment. I believe it is going to reap dividends,” Cuomo said during the announcement.

The plan calls for a series of 30 potential projects, which will be grouped together by the city to help create a seamless and cohesive transformation of the region, stretching primarily from Broad Street to High Falls with a potential for expansion.

A number of the projects, including rewatering the Broad Street Aqueduct and renovations to the convention center and the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, have been discussed and researched in the past.

Other proposals currently on the table include expanding the Genesee River trail through the city, revamping Charles Carroll Plaza and Genesee Crossroads park and upgrades to the Rundel Memorial Library. While the governor has proposed a thirty-day pledge on unveiling concrete plans, the advisory board is set to release plans later this spring.

Outside of the initial $50 million, which will be drawn from a previously announced $500 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative Award, no total budget has been set for the project. Prior estimates for upgrades to several venues, including the arena and convention center, total upwards of $140 million.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren praised the governor’s proposed plan in a statement released Thursday.

“In many places, we turned our backs to the river – and Rochester evolved almost as if it were two separate cities on either side of the Genesee,” Warren said. “ROC the Riverway gives us a chance to change that perspective. We’re going to turn back to the river and reengage the Genesee.”

During his announcement, Cuomo outlined his desire to see Rochester’s riverfront transform for a new generation, much like the success of other regional cities that have relied on waterways for redevelopment. In particular, the governor referenced the success of Buffalo, which recently underwent a multi-stage revamp of its waterfront property that has become known as ‘Canalside’.

In 2016 alone, Buffalo’s waterfront saw an estimated 1.5 million visitors to its waterfront district – a figure the governor and other public officials hope to see mirrored in Rochester after all is said and done.

The first public open house regarding the project is set from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 8 at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus. Dates for future hearings and open houses are currently under review.