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Overcoming a polluted past 

An ambitious and unique development plan has been created by neighbors and organizations for the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood in the City of Rochester's southwest quadrant.

The city is at the very beginning of a long process to clean up and redevelop the abandoned 45-acre Vacuum Oil industrial campus. But the neighborhood, not content with standing by while that process plays out, has come up with the PLEX Community and Multiversity Project for Urban Sustainability. The project includes a portion of the Vacuum Oil site and ventures out into the surrounding neighborhood by incorporating some of PLEX's vacant lots.

The project would build on the strengths of the Gandhi Institute, which is viewed by neighborhood leaders as an anchor for future development. The institute has a garden that is used by students from the nearby School 19 for summer projects, says John Curran, of the PLEX neighborhood association.

The C.A.M.P.U.S. plan looks at expanding on that concept by developing an aquaponics project to provide jobs in the neighborhood and skills training for young people, Curran says.

PLEX would also like to take fuller advantage of the neighborhood's proximity to the University of Rochester — a pedestrian bridge connecting the neighborhood to the university opened last year. Curran says it's too early to talk specifics, but the idea is to have the university become more involved in School 19. UR students already do remedial reading programs at the school, he says.

There are opportunities for other colleges to get involved in the neighborhood, too, Curran says.

"We have bicycle trail access to the major universities in Rochester," he says.

Mark Gregor, manager of the city's division of environmental quality, says work at the Vacuum Oil site is progressing, but slowly due to complicating factors such as ownership of the involved properties.

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