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When Broad St. was a canal

Bringing the Erie Canal back to downtown Rochester has long been a dream for preservationists and urban planners. Mayor Robert Duffy loved the idea and his administration produced a master plan for the Broad St. corridor that would rewater the aqueduct.

The thinking goes like this: Waterfront property is more desirable, so investors will line up to build along the newly-watered canal. Restoring the Broad St. aqueduct would pay homage to city and state history. Recreation along the new canal, including boating and ice skating, would bring in tourists. Western downtown would come alive with development that goes from the Central Library all the way to the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood.

Many people think it’s straight up insane, especially at $23 million. The city has pushed off the project to at least the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Buffalo is well along in rewatering its old canal system downtown. The restoration of the Commercial Slip is now a focal point of the waterfront. Construction recently started on a system of downtown canals. The price tag is $23 million. Go figure.

Rendering of Buffalo Development

The Buffalo News reports:

The canals will start at Washington Street and empty out at the foot of the pylons supporting the Skyway, going along Marine Drive and mirroring the historic path of the old Erie Canal. The water won’t connect to the Commercial Slip.

Officials were especially excited about the prospect of turning the canals into a giant outdoor skating rink during the winter.

“It’s going to be three-and-a-half times the size of Rockefeller Center,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, a longtime supporter of Buffalo waterfront development. “That will draw people to the waterfront in December, January, February and March.”

Construction is expected to be completed in the spring of 2013.

The harbor development corporation hopes eventually to attract a mix of development, from boutiques and restaurants with patio seating to offices and possibly even lofts and apartments around the canal system.

Ice Skating on Exchange St. c. 1870-1880

6 Responses to Canal Comes Back to Downtown…Buffalo

  1. Seriously? Buffalo was able to get waterfront development going but Rochester can’t? Very depressing…

  2. May 21, 2012 at 8:49 am James Simons responds:

    The canal idea never made sense to me. We already have a river downtown we are under-utilizing. Why build a canal? Rochester needs to capitalize on the resources it has first before we squander money trying to re-create new ones. I’d much rather see a light rail line downtown that connects to the universities, but that’s just me.

  3. May 21, 2012 at 9:04 am Kevin responds:

    I love this idea for downtown. I think it would look good alongside a midtown green space like the National Mall.

  4. We have a River and a WATERFALL that cannot be capitalized on. Instead of wasting money on water features, when we are already drowning in them, how about we spend some money on some modern telecommunications infrastructure.

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