On February 8, 2018, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $50 million for the ROC The Riverway initiative to transform the Genesee River and revitalize Rochester’s waterfront.
The Genesee River has long served as an economic engine, but for decades has been underutilized. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, and in partnership with the City of Rochester, the waterfront is poised for rebirth as a vibrant attraction for commerce, recreation and tourism. This transformation builds off the demonstrated success of Buffalo‘s waterfront and will reestablish the Genesee River as the centerpiece of downtown Rochester.
“Downtown Rochester has experienced a major renaissance in recent years, and with this investment to transform the Genesee River waterfront, we help unlock the untapped potential in this region,” Governor Cuomo said. “Just as we’ve done at Buffalo’s inner and outer harbors, investing in the revitalization of Rochester’s waterfront will drive tourism, spur economic growth and encourage investment, helping Rochester to grow and thrive for generations to come.”
To accelerate the rapid revitalization of the waterfront, the state will establish a ROC the River advisory board comprised of local stakeholders and chaired by Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chairs Anne Kress and Bob Duffy to engage the community and prioritize project recommendation to the State. Nearly 30 potential projects have been identified by the City of Rochester and local community groups along the Genesee River. Empire State Development will support this ambitious project with up to $50 million.
The sweeping investment will leverage public dollars to encourage private investment, boost the economy and create jobs—complementing the region’s comprehensive economic development strategy Finger Lakes Forward. Potential Projects include reimagining Charles Carroll Park Plaza to maximize views of the river, breathing new life into Genesee Gateway Park, transforming the Rochester Riverside Convention Center as a premier public venue, revitalizing the Broad Street aqueduct to serve as a downtown destination and more.
This initiative will also support the city’s newly updated Local Waterfront Revitalization Program plan and will be developed in partnership with the city and stakeholders across the Genesee River to attract millennials, enhance recreational opportunities and drive growth along the waterfront.
Overall, the “ROC the Riverway initiative is intended to:
- Re-establish the Genesee River as the “centerpiece” of Downtown Rochester capitalizing on the natural assets of the region;
- Leverage public and private dollars to encourage investment, boost the economy and create jobs;
- Create recreational programming throughout the riverway; and
- Generate a four season, 24-hour waterfront with world-class public spaces and amenities serving to attract more visitors to downtown destinations.
“The ROC The Riverway initiative will be a game changer for Rochester’s waterfront,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “As someone who lives on a beautiful Western New York waterway, I know that this is the right approach – engaging the community and local leadership and focusing on smart growth development. Downtown Rochester is a destination that will continue to bring tourism, jobs, and revenue for the area. The Finger Lakes is moving forward.”
Finger Lakes REDC Co-Chairs, Monroe Community College President Anne Kress and Rochester Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Bob Duffy, said, “Through our work as the Co-Chairs of the Regional Council we have truly seen the difference that the Finger Lakes Forward plan is making. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s vision, the regionally designed plan will now work to spur economic development along the magnificent Genesee River, one of the City of Rochester’s greatest assets. “ROC The Riverway” will continue to build on the magnificent transformation that is already underway in Rochester’s new Downtown Innovation Zone, helping to create an exciting environment where people, young and old will want to live, work and play.”
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said, “The ROC the Riverway Program will bring an unprecedented level of targeted investment along the Genesee River and open our riverfront to new possibilities and opportunities for growth. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s support, Rochester will once again unleash the power of the mighty Genesee to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities for our citizens.”
Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State has made unprecedented investments in the City of Rochester, New York’s third largest city. The state has made major investments to strengthen the downtown community, including more than $100 million committed to projects in and around the city center. That commitment has leveraged more than $800 million in private investment and has led to the creation of the new Rochester Downtown Innovation Zone. A key component in the transformation of the city’s center will be leveraging public and private investment to improve the Genesee River waterfront.
Virtually every public and private leader in the area is excited about this revitalization initiative, as evidence by the following quotes:
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “Transforming Rochester’s Genesee River waterfront will attract more businesses, families and visitors to the city and serve as a scenic example of the kinds of placemaking investments that are fueling growth in the Finger Lakes economy and around the state.”
Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle commented, “The exciting Roc the Riverway project will transform our waterfront while continuing to revitalize our urban core and strengthen our economy. I am grateful to Governor Cuomo for his investment in Rochester’s future and I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor, Mayor Warren, and the entire Rochester delegation to advance this long-term plan.”
Senator Joe Robach said, “I am happy to support the efforts of Mayor Warren and the City Council to highlight the beauty of the Genesee River through “ROC The Riverway.” This $50 million investment by New York State will go a long way to revitalizing the Downtown-Genesee River corridor and will make critical infrastructure improvements.”
Assemblyman Harry Bronson said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment of this major initiative project to develop and transform the Genesee River waterfront. This is great news for Rochester. The Genesee River has historic and economic significance to our region and investing in a waterfront revitalization project would boost our local economy. This project would establish the Genesee River as the focal point of our downtown community and support the city’s updated Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, allowing local government and businesses to work together to draw more visitors downtown throughout the year by hosting a variety of recreational and educational activities. Most importantly, the project will help boost our economy by creating more jobs and easing water access on both sides of the river. ‘ROC the Riverway’ is an opportunity to combine small-town accessibility with big city services, and put Rochester on track to thrive in the 21st century.”
County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said, “So much of our County’s great history has flowed from and alongside the Genesee River. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to the Roc the Riverway project, which will help untap our riverfront’s bubbling potential and support our existing efforts to attract more jobs, visitors, and investment to Monroe County.”
Finger Lakes Forward is the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The state has already invested more than $5.2 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan – investing in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production, and advanced manufacturing. Today, unemployment is down to the lowest levels since before the Great Recession; personal and corporate income taxes are down; and businesses are choosing places like Rochester, Batavia and Canandaigua as a destination to grow and invest in.
Now, the region is accelerating Finger Lakes Forward with a $500 million state investment through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, announced by Governor Cuomo in December 2015, the activities of which have been reported numerous times here in REVITALIZATION over the years. The State’s $500 million investment is intended to incentivize private business to invest well over $2.5 billion – and the region’s plan, as submitted, projects up to 8,200 new jobs.