Down By The River

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Rochester’s Genesee Riverway Trail saw the completion of a transformative upgrade last week. As part of the city’s ambitious RocTheRiverway campaign, a portion of the trail to the south of Rochester’s downtown re-opened after a lengthy closure for construction.

RocTheRiverway aims to reconnect the city to the Genesee River, as well as improve pedestrian, cycling and public space facilities along its banks. Make no mistake, this is not just a trail redesign, but rather the expansion of public space which compliments the trail and allows users to access the river like never before. You can even dip your feet in the new section, something that simply wasn’t possible a short time ago due to the presence of a decaying river wall standing between trail-goers and the water.

What used to be a trail disconnected from the river by a decaying wall now feels like a public park that compliments the mighty Genesee.

A bit further north on the trail approach to the city opens up to the brand new addition of the North Star Commons.

As I’ve talked about so many times before, the old model of wooing a potential employer with incentives is over. Every city, county and state offers a financial package to potential employers in an attempt to create jobs, which is the keystone of electability in local and state government. The City Of Rochester obviously understands that, along with incentives, potential private investment is elicited by the commitment to social infrastructure. We’ve seen this dynamic in cities of all sizes, from New York City to Columbus, OH and as small as Utica, NY. Investing in social capital shows that a city isn’t simply committed to financial gain, it is also committed to creating an environment for happy, healthy residents… which is also attractive to potential employers.

Rochester’s $500 million RocTheRiverway campaign is an ambitious bet… but when cities strategically bet on people activating public space, the usual response is one of positive social and economic value. The upgrades mentioned here are but a small parcel of a grand plan that reconnects the city and creates a public space initiative that highlights Rochester’s commitment to a vital social infrastructure.