New Riverfront Coming to Corn Hill—at Last!

~ By Henry McCartney

A ground-breaking ceremony on August 11 announced that work is about to begin on the revitalized Corn Hill riverfront. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, CHNA President Jeff Rodgers, and other officials from the city and the state participated in this much-anticipated event.

Known as the West River Wall Project, the highlight of this effort will be the dramatic lowering, and in one portion, removal, of the wall that has marred the Corn Hill riverfront since the rerouting of the Erie Canal onto the Genesee River in 1918.

Highlights of this 2200-foot project include:

  • A naturalized shoreline, almost 500 feet long, starting just north of the Ford Street Bridge. CHNA’s Beautification Committee is hoping to turn portions of this area into a butterfly garden.
  • A plaza built across from Fitzhugh Place, with an expansive public area to include plantings, bike racks, benches, and the relocated Griffin Monument.
  • A rebuilt Exchange Boulevard and Fitzhugh Place intersection with traffic calming features, including a “road diet” (a narrowing of the roadway) and a raised intersection to facilitate safe pedestrian crossing to the river. A separate NYS project is expected to redo the Exchange–Plymouth intersection.
  • Lowered walls and earthen berms on both sides of the Fitzhugh Place plaza.
  • A new kayak/canoe launch.
  • A bike/pedestrian trail throughout the project area, with decorative lighting, bike racks, and other public amenities.

Not insignificantly, the project provides needed flood control for low-lying portions of Corn Hill. The contractor is Ramsey Constructors of Lakeville, NY, with significant experience with highway, bridge, and site development projects. Completion of the project will be the culmination of years of efforts by city, state and canal officials and Corn Hill neighbors.

The 2012 Corn Hill charrette called for riverfront improvements, and the city then initiated the West River Wall Master Plan, completed in 2014. CHNA’s Vision Committee (and later the Development Committee) surveyed river users, circulated recommendations, and placed Adirondack chairs and
tables on the river.

In July 2015, as part of Governor Cuomo’s “Capital Day” in Rochester, a delegation from CHNA met with the director of the Canal Corporation to stress the importance of the West River Wall Project. Soon thereafter, the governor and the Canal Corporation announced significant funding for Corn Hill flood control. The city administration and city council earmarked additional funds for staffing, design and amenities and secured a grant from the NY Department of State. With $7.6 million in funding, final design
work started in 2018.

As expected, the project budget could not accommodate every suggested improvement, such as art work, additional tables and chairs, shade features, an “exercise nest,” and more. The project does not include the “concrete pad” that is owned by Mark IV. Nor is there a redevelopment plan for the parking loop to the south of the pad. However, as Corn Hill neighbors and the city continue to focus on this vital effort, the goal is now within reach to transform the Corn Hill riverfront into one of the most dynamic walks, bike trail, basking place, and assembly areas in Rochester and Western NY.

The work should already be underway by the time this Gazette arrives at your home. The project is expected to be completed in 2021.

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