New pedestrian bridge uses “3Re strategy” to connect historic Erie Canal in $300 million regional economic revitalization initiative

On January 29, 2021, SHoP Architects as the lead designer of the Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge over the Erie Canal. In a greeat example of the revitalizing 3Re strategy (repurpose, renew, reconnect) at work, this bridge will repurpose and renew a historic canal structure in order to reconnect the trail system at a crucial point.

This new pedestrian bridge in the Village of Brockport, New York represents the first large-scale infrastructure project to begin under the state’s Reimagine the Canals initiative, an economic revitalization and historic restoration effort whose progress we’ve documented several times over the years here in REVITALIZATION.

The Erie Canal has been a tremendous resource for New York for more than 200 years and this project will utilize long-standing infrastructure to provide recreational amenities and greater connectivity for the Village of Brockport,” New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said.

The Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge builds upon the Canal’s iconic infrastructure and provides new opportunities for New Yorkers to get outdoors and take advantage of the beauty and countless activities along the Canal and the Empire State Trail. This project is only one aspect of our efforts to Reimagine the Canals – a visionary plan to transform the historic waterway that will help grow tourism, spur economic activity for decades to come,” he added.

The Board of Trustees for the New York Power Authority, which owns and operates the New York Canal Corporation as a subsidiary, selected SHoP Architects and chose Ove Arup & Partners as engineer of record on the project.

The Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge project will connect the SUNY Brockport community to the Empire State Trail, encouraging students and staff, residents and visitors alike to get outside and get active along the Canal,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The existing Canal guard gate location is the ideal spot to locate this new crossing as it highlights historic infrastructure for new, creative uses.

Constructed adjacent to an existing Erie Canal guard gate, the new Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge will connect the SUNY Brockport campus to the Empire State Trail, a multi-use trail envisioned by the Governor that connects New York City to Canada, and Albany to Buffalo. The trail, which parallels the Erie Canal, provides an important centrally located recreational amenity for New Yorkers who want to experience the outdoors.

SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson said, “SUNY Brockport is so pleased that progress is continuing on the Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge. As a College engaged with our community, we know that connecting the campus to the Empire State Trail will benefit both the campus and the Village, so I thank Governor Cuomo, NYPA, and the Canal Corporation for their vision.

Once built, the bridge will also complement the Village of Brockport’s recent installation of a kayak dock and plans for a nearby boathouse by serving as a viewing platform for anticipated rowing competitions on the canal. Most importantly, the Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge represents a new future for the Erie Canal by adaptively reusing historic infrastructure for community benefit today.

Brian U. Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation said, “In a time when New Yorkers are increasingly looking toward the outdoors, and in particular toward the Canal and the Empire State Trail, for opportunities to enjoy the best of our state while remaining socially distanced, this project represents a tremendous step forward toward showcasing the innumerable ways we can enjoy local, outdoor recreation along the state’s iconic canals.

The Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge is one of the many economic development projects along the Erie Canal announced by Governor Cuomo in his 2020 State of the State Reimagine the Canals initiative, a plan to invest in canalside communities and encourage economic activity and outdoor recreation throughout the state. The New York Power Authority has committed $300 million to the Reimagine the Canals program.

Village of Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman said, “The Village of Brockport is excited about the Brockport Loop and the pedestrian bridge that is the anchor to the entire project. The state-of-the-art pedestrian bridge not only underscores the strong partnership between SUNY Brockport and the Village, but literally links the college directly to the village via the Erie Canal. The bridge itself will provide a platform for viewing future regattas, and a place to safely sit and experience activity on the canal. As the architectural anchor for a much larger project (the Loop), the pedestrian bridge represents an economic stimulus to completing a literal loop connecting the college and the village to the Empire State Trail.

Funding for this bridge project will come from NYPA and a $2 million grant by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, which will be administered by the Rochester Area Community Foundation. To complete the Brockport Loop, additional funds will be secured to create a new trail along the SUNY campus side of the Canal leading from the new pedestrian bridge to the nearby Smith Street bridge, which also will see future improvements.

NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, “The Reimagine the Canals initiative is about adaptive reuse and re-activation of Canal infrastructure, offering New Yorkers new ways to engage with canalside communities and we are thrilled to take this next step forward in the implementation of Governor Cuomo’s vision for the future of the Erie Canal. SHoP’s submission employs contemporary design to highlight and complement the historic infrastructure of the Canal and we are pleased to see the design phase of this exciting project move ahead.

NYPA selected SHoP Architects, a New York City-based New York State Small Business Enterprise firm, to leverage its experience with revitalizing aging urban infrastructure and further develop a context-sensitive conceptual design for the project. Ove Arup & Partners, a global firm with an office in New York City, has extensive experience with pedestrian bridge design and engineering, both in New York State and around the world.

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation President and CEO David Egner said, “The Reimagine the Canals initiative is a great example of how the historic Erie Canal can be redeveloped across the State to become a more vital force for boosting local economies, inspiring new forms of recreation and tourism, and strengthening environmental resiliency. The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is pleased to partner with the New York Power Authority, Village of Brockport, College of Brockport (SUNY) and the Rochester Area Community Foundation to support the Brockport Loop, allowing for connections to the many recreational, cultural and economic assets in the Brockport community along the Empire State Trail.

Construction of the Brockport Loop Pedestrian Bridge will begin in 2023.

Rendering courtesy of SHoP Architects.

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