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This morning, a group of people passionate about restoring the Erie Canal in downtown Rochester will meet on the 19th floor of the First Federal Building. Their goal is to bring the World Canals Conference to Rochester for a third time in 2020.

The effort is being led by Tom Grasso, president of the Canal Society of New York State. There’s a major obstacle to getting the conference to come back, however. There must be progress on restoration efforts. Specifically, the city would have to rewater the Broad St. aqueduct.

A lot of people think the notion of flooding Broad St. to create a canal is insane. Supporters say it would return the canal to its former glory and spark waterfront development and attract recreation.

Buffalo is much farther along in bringing its canal back to life. Rochester has continued to put the plan on the back burner. The issue is money, of course. The aqueduct alone would cost $23 million.

Grasso’s group, called the World Canals Conference 2020 Planning Committee, has crafted a mission statement:

We believe a restored downtown Erie Canal will be transformational, make Rochester unique among upstate cities, and dynamically create a vast number of temporary and permanent jobs. Water, animated by boats and people on adjacent walkways, sparks vibrant development, is a proven powerful engine of economic revitalization, and yields good return on investment. Rochester’s robust canal history and its unique 19th century canal structures, such as the 1842 aqueduct and original Erie Canal bed, deserve preservation through restoration – for navigation and year round recreation united with today’s canal system. A restored old Erie Canal enhances Rochester’s image on the world stage as a tourist destination and helps pave the way for us to host the World Canals Conference in 2020 for an unprecedented third time.

Links of the Day:

– Syracuse’s mayor sent a Post-Standard columnist a copy of “Vagina Monologues” after he suggested she give up her salary since her husband makes a lot of money.

– Teens accused of stabbing another teen and setting him on fire were arraigned in Buffalo. The picture of them is sad and chilling.

Can you afford health insurance under the new law? 

– “This is the best fireworks show ever!” The best video yet of the San Diego fireworks mishap has surfaced.

18 Responses to Not Giving Up

  1. July 12, 2012 at 9:16 am lynn e responds:

    Well if downtown continues to lose businesses ….

  2. “Spark waterfront development and recreation” There’s a river right there. Also, we have a waterfall, an impressive one, that hasn’t led to any real development. At 23 Million, we should be investing it in infrastructure for the whole of the city that will attract residents and businesses. That infrastructure is fiber to the premises.

  3. I can’t tell ya how much I would look forward to viewing and smelling a ditch filled with brown water in Downtown Rochester while noshing on a take-out Dinasaur ribs plate.

    Bring Deet.

  4. July 12, 2012 at 10:37 am James Simons responds:

    I am not a fan of bringing the canal back downtown. While I applaud the motive I don’t believe it is necessary. As someone else mentioned, Rochester already possesses the water assets necessary for economic development. The proposed park/housing development along South Ave that Rachel highlighted is a good example of that potential growth. Rochester needs to capitalize on the assets it has.

    Furthermore, this project focuses too much on the past. There are projects that can transform this city and make it forward thinking. As Pat said, Fiber access would be huge. Also, LIGHT RAIL!!! If you want to increase transit ridership, reduce our dependence on cars, reduce toxic emissions and help spark development, rail can accomplish that! If a city the size of Kenosha, Wisconsin can do it why can’t we?

  5. There are many other concerns beside the initial cost if the project. How about it’s annual cost to clean, police, maintain. Repair, Plant, water to name a few of the obvious. The city currently does have enough income to run and maintain the previous projects it created. Manhattan square park, the fountain that once ran in the middle of the river, the water feature park on east broadway. As I would like to see this projects occure I believe it’s not a sound idea giving the track record cheers

  6. July 12, 2012 at 11:18 am Brian M. responds:

    Indeed, what Rochester needs is less parking lots/spaces and cars. It definitely needs light rail. I know that the young people of Rochester (including me) are itching for some light rail development. We’re sick of all the cars sucking away at our wallets, time, and sanity.

  7. July 12, 2012 at 11:42 am Kevin Yost responds:

    It is a nice idea, however, it will cause traffic problems, with Broad and Main being the only continuous east-west downtown streets with bridges over the river. A better idea would be to do what they are doing with Erie Boulevard in Syracuse, the street on their Erie Canal bed, by painting it a canal theme and also having something in the subway tunnel between Exchange and West Main like the Atlanta Undergroud, and also having a pedestrian corridor in the tunnel between the War Memorial Arena, the Rundel Library, and the Riverside Convention Center.

  8. I recently attended a conference in Providence, Rhode Island and was very impressed with the manner in which the redeveloped waterfront is integral to the city’s downtown configuration. I paid attention to the traffic flow and parking availability, in addition to the assorted businesses, coffee shops, restaurants and entertainment venues that are easily accessible to college students at Brown University, residents and tourists. The centerpiece of all this is the waterfront. Rochester has the capability to bring back the past in such a way that provides a prosperous future as well.

  9. Um, Pat, the reason you can’t use the River downtown much is because of the waterfalls and dam.

  10. These people are dreamers. This project isn’t going to bring visitors to Rochester, and it will only serve to annoy those of us who work downtown and would be greatly affected by this project. The only recreation I can foresee is a bum using it as a toilet.

  11. July 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm Orielly responds:

    The BIG World canals conference is going to hold us Hostage …. pay up and put in the re-water canal or they won’t come back here. Hey Grasso … take a hike. What a scammer. I mean really.

    He got more publicity for bringing in 300 or people for the conference last year. I mean come on there are lots of bigger weddings here every year that bring in more people. What a joke.

    The concept makes no sense and no financial sense. I would be against it if Grsso paid for it himself. Over time it will cost a lot of money, will limit traffic and will never ever pay back… never.

    This is one mans pipe dream who gets way way to much publicity. Last year the paper ran a week long publicity on this conference. Meanwhile the International Drum and Bugle corps brought in 3000 or more people to Rochester for the 4 day weekend. 10 times more than the canals event and they never got any coverage.

    Grosso needs to go away.

  12. Jill: In Baltimore they argued immensley whether to put a railing around their spectacular Harbor development. They bit the bullet and didn’t put on up, accepting the potential liabilities for so doing.

    Think a downtown ditch full of brown water could go without a railing?

    Baltimore Harbor pics

  13. July 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm Douglas A. Fisher responds:

    The easiest “solution” is to say that downtown Rochester is doing just fine on its present trajectory.

    Does anyone really believe this? Do the official downtown boosters really believe this?

    When Providence and Oklahoma City enhance their cities by developing their water attraction, following the lead of San Antonio, and Buffalo is spending $23 million on new canals this year, we must ask why Rochester wants to repress this revitalization solution that demonstrably works well elsewhere.

    Official boosterism here can hide the need for creative approaches. There is a general tendency to rely on limiting the vision to be applied, which has led us to our present downtown quandary.

    The project cost cited is deceptive, as most of that cost will be incurred REGARDLESS of the scenario chosen. The Broad Street Bridge superstructure was originally placed atop the Erie Canal aqueduct in the 1920s. It lasted only 50 years, until 1975, when it was completely demolished and replaced.

    We are now nearing the end of the economic life of the current superstructure, and will soon have to demolish this 37-year-old structure. If we rebuild it, then we will be faced with paying many tens of millions of dollars to construct a replacement, which will do no more to revitalize downtown Rochester than the status quo provides.

    Rather than adding on those multiple tens of millions of dollars to replace the present decaying superstructure, it would benefit downtown’s attractiveness more NOT to pay for that expensive replacement atop the aqueduct once the decayed superstructure is removed.

    Rather, Rochester would benefit more by following the lead of the other cities cited who have learned that downtown water attractions actually do revitalize their cities, creating many new jobs in the process.

    By adopting an historic water-centered approach, Rochester would not be promoting an ersatz project. Rochester is actually quite fortunate to have the authentic Erie Canal heritage in its downtown, which could be a centerpiece magnet of historical water attractions in downtown.

    Current downtown boosters seek to put the best face on downtown today, which glosses over the current deficiencies. Tom Grasso’s creative approach is very much needed if we hope to break out of the conventional wisdom that has brought downtown to the sad condition that we see today.

  14. July 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm Douglas A. Fisher responds:

    From the May 20, 2012 issue of The Rochesterian:

    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.

    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.

  15. July 16, 2012 at 1:07 pm Will Condo responds:

    What seems to be missing in this conversation is the fact that private investment and redevelopment is ALREADY occuring in the proposed Canal District.The area today is significantly underutilized and with a wealth of historic buildings and excess of large surface parking lots for new,mixed-use development,would be key to creating a new urban neighborhood with a projected 800 residential units, retail and office space, all within and linked by a unique Erie Canal-themed public environment. More people, more tax revenue , more activity-but the City has avoided in moving forward with adoption of planning, zoning and economic development guidelines to support this goal.Nothnagle, the historic Academy Building, 44 Exchange Blvd., and even the Josh Lofton Building renovation and re-use are all presently happening . But there is no City vision or plan to create a positive and attractive or unified new destination in downtown, as well as attract tourism to this area. This refelects the “silver bullet” mentality that seems to be the approach for downtown development rather than “best practices” in urban planning.And Yes, Rochester lost the opportunity and initiative( and state and federal Dollars) to market and brand itself to Buffaloi, and recognize itself as THE Erie Canal City in a contemporary way, to Buffalo! People, and the media, should be asking City Hall why they failed to act!

  16. July 16, 2012 at 7:45 pm Will Condo responds:

    Let’s accept the fact that Buffalo SHOULD BE the site of the next World Canals Conference. However, Buffalo officials surely know that The Canal Society prefers Rochester, so they should turn down the offer to host the event since they are being used as Patsy’s. With regards to the Canal Society, they , like many other Rochester groups, are great at organizing events, but where is the sustained economic development, urban planning or investment expertise? We all WANT things, but having the talent and political connections to get projects implimented is the real measurement of success.

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