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Would you want to cross this street? (Google Street View)

Would you want to cross this street? (Google Street View)


The Democrat and Chronicle asks if High Falls could be bolstered if and when Monroe Community College moves into Kodak’s State St. complex:

A real estate boon could follow.

“The idea that you would be able to park your car where you live and walk across the street to take a class and come back, we think it would probably influence the demand for housing,” said Carolyn Vitale, vice president of the Urban League of Rochester Economic Development.


(Warren) Sackler says that the neighborhood’s virtual invisibility from State Street has always been an issue. When he was a partner at the Triphammer, he’d occasionally get Kodak employees who worked a block away, calling him to ask him where the restaurant was.

“Even to this day, people don’t know what’s back there,” said Sackler. “It’s difficult because today, there’s no bar or eatery on the corner (along State Street). If that were still a restaurant, at least people would come over to that corner.”

I agree with Sackler.

There are other issues preventing MCC students and staff from venturing to High Falls. State St. is not pedestrian-friendly or easy to cross. MCC would be surrounded by parking lots, which serve as a physical and psychological barrier. Drive in and drive out.

Perhaps the best evidence MCC won’t do much for High Falls is Frontier Field. The ballpark is a failure in terms of spurring development downtown.


Links of the Day:


– Henrietta residents don’t want RIT students living in their neighborhood, even if they’ll be in a gated apartment complex.

– Rochester’s police chief wrote an editorial about four babies dying last month in unsafe sleep conditions, such as cosleeping. I did a story on these silent deaths back in 2007. Nothing has changed, and little public money is devoted to prevention.

Gabrielle Giffords wrote a powerful editorial about the gun control bill’s failure.

– Rochester still ranks 5th in the country in per capita patents.

The cupcake fad is waning!

A Brookings study looked at job sprawl. Nearly one-third of Rochester jobs are near the central business district:

Job Sprawl chart

Center at High Falls

The Center at High Falls will close on June 30. The visitors center opened opened 20 years ago and wells books and local history souvenirs. There’s also a gallery featuring the work of local artists.

The closing is sad, as the gift shop and gallery are lovely. The loss of the gift shop combined with the previous loss of the laser light shows marks the end of an era.

The city should answer the following questions: Where will visitors go now to learn more about High Falls? Will the bathrooms still be available?  What will the city do with the publicly-owned building? Does the city even want High Falls to be a destination?

The city spends about $226,000 a year to keep the Center at High Falls building open, and only takes in $40,000 in rent. The building also houses a restaurant and event space. It would not surprise me if the city wants to sell it off and get it in the hands of a private developer and on the tax rolls.

High Falls is a beautiful resource. How many other cities have a waterfall in the heart of a downtown historic district? The Garden Aerial project promises to make High Falls a destination, but it’s a long way from reality. The Genesee Brew House is a nice addition on the other side of the river, but that offers nothing to classrooms of school children on a tour.

Whatever happens, it’s important to note High Falls is not a failure. The city spent about $40 million to save the historic district. While it never found its footing as an entertainment district – and tax dollars were wasted in the process – it’s thriving now with offices and residences.

We need watch what the city is doing with High Falls closely. The public has a stake in the Center at High Falls building and the natural resource it overlooks.

Links of the Day:

– Did you order a gun that never arrived? Guns stolen during shipments don’t have to be reported to authorities.

– New York’s new restrictions on sales tax breaks for retail projects are ridiculously easy to get around. Just call a Costco a tourism project.

– Rohrbach’s beer sales have grown 20 percent in each of the last five years.

– An Erie County man sued a developer – and won – when water runoff brought tons of frogs to his front door.

Five million U.S. homes don’t have television.

An Albany Civil War soldier’s dog tag was found.

I attended a press conference announcing this year’s Greentopia Festival, an event focused on sustainability. It was so popular last year, it has expanded and will include music, movies, innovation workshops, displays and food.

Don’t be afraid of tree-hugging hipsters. Aside from genuinely cool offerings, the festival, which runs from September 10-16, is a ridiculously brilliant excuse to visit High Falls.

I love High Falls. I love its history, its beauty, its potential. I might be a little in love with the Garden Aerial project. Garden Aerial is akin to New York City’s High Line, a raised pedestrian walkway lined with greenery. I could see a similar effort on the sterile Pont de Rennes.

I remain frustrated this gem of a district is underutilized and under-appreciated.

I was struck today by the absence of 13 Cataract St. I thought it was a majestic building and I was very sorry to see it go, though I understand the reasons for the demolition. I would love to see Genesee Brewery put up something other than a parking lot in that space. The brewery has talked about putting up a stage. Other ideas include a wintergarden.

Here are before an after pictures. Notice how Genesee has painted its buildings and improved the property. There could be hope yet for High Falls…

2001 (Wikipedia Commons)


Links of the Day:

– A lawsuit filed against the Marion Central School District over bullying has been settled. But the district won’t release the details.

– Kodak’s patent auction appears troubled. Kodak may keep it’s patents after all, signaling “there’s no bonanza.”

Mitt Romney promises to end subsidies for Amtrak.

– Reading about downtown Austin’s success makes me jealous.

– You that expression “First World Problems?” I never liked it. Now I know why.

Buffalo has a beekeeping priest.

How many cities have a waterfall right in the middle of their downtowns?

Not many.

That’s why Michael Philipson, who owns a marketing firm in High Falls, helped found Garden Aerial. The nonprofit is dedicated to radically transforming the High Falls district.

“The ultimate goal is to turn attention to High Falls, the original start of Rochester, make it a world class destination,” Philipson said.

Garden Aerial just got a big boost from city government. City Council will vote this month on approving a state grant application for the group’s project. The project is still in the design stages and there is a lot of uncertainty about its future. But the nod from City Hall gives Garden Aerial, which many people don’t know about, more legitimacy.

So what is Garden Aerial’s vision?

1. Build a “floating garden” on the Pont de Rennes Bridge.

2. Build another bridge that gets up close to the falls. It would loop around the gorge.

3. Create a wintergarden on the brewery side of the falls.

Below is a video of the possibilities, but Philipson warns a lot could change.


Links of the Day:

– The Buffalo Bills have thumbed their noses at the public and declined to ease blackout rules. But they’ll have no problem accepting tax dollars for stadium renovations.

– An audit has found major problems with Rochester’s parking bureau. WHEC reports there are issues with collections and letting workers park for free.

– A Syracuse area animal shelter finds that few people want to adopt black cats.

Be very afraid of Asian carp. Very afraid.

Cool (and sad) pictures of the demolition of 13 Cataract St.

The mayor’s proposed 2012-13 budget lays out how much taxpayers subsidize public facilities. The total comes to slightly more than $2 million, relatively flat compared to this fiscal year. Is that too much money for the quality of life we get in return? Which places you think are most worthwhile?

Riverside Convention Center – $642,800

This amount includes the operation of Pier 45 at the port. The county’s subsidy of the convention center, through the hotel/motel tax is $795,000.

Pier 45 – $178,384

Otherwise known as “Convention Center North,” Pier 45 is run by the convention center as a restaurant and event space. Mayor Bob Duffy wasn’t comfortable leasing out the facility to a private entity, a costly decision. On the other hand, it’s not clear if anyone could have made it work without a subsidy.

Port of Rochester (Terminal Building) – $341,600

The city only collects $99,000 in rent from the tenants, not enough to pay for upkeep. It’s a beautiful facility and I love the clean bathrooms. Perhaps the city will be able to up the retail offerings and rental income when the area is further developed.

War Memorial – $491,300

I hope the budget includes money for new brass letters on the outside of the building. Since I took the picture to the right, more letters have disappeared. I suspect they were sold for scrap.

Soccer Stadium – $416,800

The hope is to have the Rhinos pick up more of the tab as years go by. Should we be holding our breath?

High Falls Center – $186,800

This includes a restaurant, museum and event space. At one point the city explored selling the facility, but that’s not mentioned anywhere in the budget.

(In case you’re wondering, Frontier Field is a county-owned facility not subsidized by the city.)

Links of the Day:

– New York City is releasing the evaluations of its teachers today. Several news organizations are going to publish the results. The New York Times is asking teachers if they want to add an explanation to their ratings.

The same will happen in Rochester and districts across the state, once the evaluation system is in full swing.

The courts have ruled this information is public and I don’t disagree. However, we are constantly told the records of other public employees , such as police officers, are under seal. I’m guessing that’s because of civil service law.

The Times knows this data is deeply flawed:

The ratings are imperfect, according to independent experts, school administrators and teachers alike. There are large margins of error, because they are generally based on small amounts of data. And there are many other documented problems, like teachers being rated even when they are on maternity leave.

But the data figured in high-stakes decisions about public employees, and the debate about value-added ratings is continuing as the city and state overhaul the evaluation process.

The Times says it can report the ratings in proper context. Bill Gates, who is obsessed with teacher performance, says shaming teachers isn’t the answer. He also said using test data to rank teachers is very troubling.

It may be in the public interest to share this information. It remains to be seen the fallout hurts the profession or helps the “reformers” realize the error of their ways.

– High Falls is losing its iconic smokestack, the one that says “High Falls.” Rochester Subway reports RG&E is removing the structure. This makes me sad, as it’s such a recognizable feature of the district. Update: RG&E tells 13WHAM News it hasn’t made a final decision on the smokestack, but it’s in very bad shape.

City of Rochester

– Bob Lonsberry suggests renaming the Freddie Sue Bridge after Bill Johnson. I always thought giving the bridge a ridiculously long name was foolish. Who the heck calls it the Frederick Douglass Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge? No one! It’s never caught on with the public.

– The Port of Rochester is line for some gentrification. Rochester City Newspaper has a good write-up of what’s in store at the beach with the parking lots.

– We may not call it Kodak Theatre anymore, but Kodak will have a presence at the Oscars. Seven of the nine Best Picture nominees were made on Kodak film.

– Everyone likes a good love story. This one does not disappoint.

There are people who think High Falls is underutilized.

Not High Falls the neighborhood. High Falls, the actual falls. By properly showcasing High Falls, it would naturally help the neighborhood.

High Falls, the natural resource, is stunning. The falls, the gorge walls, and the downtown skyline make for some breathtaking views.

When you think about it, no one really enjoys the scenery. The city ended the only thing that made the Pont du Rennes Bridge a destination – the laser light shows. High Falls has become a nice office and residential district, but there’s no real critical mass of people. You don’t see throngs of people on a hot summer day strolling the bridge. There are only a couple eateries with views of the gorge.

I didn’t realize this is an issue until Genesee Brewery announced it wants to tear down 13 Cataract St. The brewery plans to build a deck at its new visitors center that will have the best vantage point of High Falls.

Genesee Brewery wants to make the visitors center an attractive, inviting place. Few people walk all the way across the Pont du Rennes Bridge to the brewery side. CEO Rich Lozyniak would like to create more open space with better sight lines, making it safer and more attractive to come to his side of High Falls. He believes High Falls is underutilized.

Enter Garden Aerial. This is a small non-profit few people know exists. Led by two men who work at a marketing firm in High Falls, the group aims to turn the Pont du Rennes into a floating garden. Garden Aerial would love to turn the Cataract building into a wintergarden. It even wants to build a second bridge across the falls. Garden Aerial thinks High Falls is seriously underutilized.

Garden Aerial has no money. The project strikes me as the stuff of dreams. But you’ve got people on both sides of High Falls saying, “Look what we have here. This is awesome. We need to do more.”

Below is a video of Garden Aerial’s vision.