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City of Rochester seeks public input on Broad St. aqueduct plans 

click to enlarge The Broad Street bridge and aqueduct, as seen from a window inside of the Aqueduct building. The city plans to remove the bridge to expose the historic Erie Canal aqueduct beneath and potentially rewater it.

PHOTO BY MAX SCHULTE

The Broad Street bridge and aqueduct, as seen from a window inside of the Aqueduct building. The city plans to remove the bridge to expose the historic Erie Canal aqueduct beneath and potentially rewater it.

Mayor Malik Evans on Tuesday announced the start of the “Aqueduct Reimagined” project, a development which stands to turn the Broad Street bridge into a public gathering space.

He also stated that the city will be holding public input sessions on the project, with the first scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 30. The session will be held at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center and will include tours of the project site.

“About 100 days ago when I was sworn into office, I said that we have a past to remember, a present to live, and a future to build, this is part of the future we’re building,” Evans said, at a news conference Tuesday morning. “It should be known that (the aqueduct) is an important part of our past, and it is an important part of our future.”

Plans to redo the aqueduct are over a decade in the making, and they were included as part of the ROC the Riverway riverfront revitalization initiative, which took off in 2018 when the state committed $50 million to it.

The end goal is to remove the drivable surface of the bridge and build a mixed-use green space in the center of downtown. The removal is slated to begin in 2025. Just what the aqueduct will look like is still up in the air.

The aqueduct project has an estimated cost of $60 million and would occur in phases, with the city placing a $6 million price tag on the first phase. To date, the city has secured $9.5 million in state funding to use toward the aqueduct initiative.

Talks surrounding the renovation of the aqueduct were rekindled last year when wine distribution giant Constellation Brands announced it would be moving its headquarters to the Aqueduct Building. To facilitate that move, the state put up $4 million in tax incentives and committed $5 million toward the aqueduct project — that award is part of the $9.5 million the city received from the state toward the aqueduct project.

The city’s 2011 master plan for the project called for removing the Broad Street Bridge, rewatering the aqueduct underneath, and broadening pedestrian walkways to create an artificial waterway. Current plans are similar, but are focused on creating an area open to pedestrians and cyclists, but closed to automobiles.

The project has been described as the “centerpiece” of the ROC the Riverway initiatives.

“We’re helping to create a brand new Rochester,” said Vinnie Espositio, the Finger Lakes regional director of Empire State Development. “We’re talking about the aqueduct project right here, we’re talking about Main and Clinton, the Inner Loop is getting filled in, and we’re creating a state park at High Falls.”

Last week, City Hall representatives kicked off work on the High Falls Terrace Park and Brewery Line Trail, both adjacent to the Genesee Brew House. Like the aqueduct project, that work is part of ROC the Riverway.

Evans said his administration is pushing to get more ROC the Riverway projects off the ground.

“You have to understand that you have a mayor that’s very impatient, I don’t like to wait,” Evans said.

Within the interior of the aqueduct are wall-to-wall works of street art. Some amount to sloppy graffiti tags, but others are intricate murals. The old tunnel has become something of a haven for urban explorers and people who populate their Instagram page with shots of graffiti and murals in recent years.

When asked if there are plans to preserve the art in the tunnels, Evans called on artist Shawn Dunwoody to provide an answer. Dunwoody has led several public mural projects for the city.

“What we’re doing is, we’re coming to you, we want to reach out to our writers, our graf artists, we’re coming to you to get your input on how you want things designed,” Dunwoody said. “What pieces do we keep? What pieces can we store at other parts of the city? Let’s work together to create this network, from young to old, 8 to 80, to design this space for all of Rochester to enjoy.”

This article has been updated to correct the location of an upcoming hearing. CITY was initially told the wrong location.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.
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