Rochester's Broad Street Aqueduct

Re-watering Rochester's Erie Canal

The Rochester Business Journal recently urged the city to reconsider the project.
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The Canal Society was the main sponsor of the early work of an organization formed to raise awareness and promote action on a major revitalization plan in Rochester, centered on the re-watering of the historic downtown route of the Erie Canal.

Advocates for the Development of Rochester’s Canal, or ADROC, launched with the goal of seeing the opening of a new Rochester Erie Canal by 2012. According to the group, downtown canal development has changed the fortunes of many cities facing similar challenges to those faced by Rochester—with virtually a 100% success rate—and Rochester has the unique advantage of a world-famous, historically-significant canal already in its back yard.

The plan proposed taking advantage of the still-existing canal bed that runs along Broad Street, roughly from the Rundel Library to the site of the new Paetec Park. The original canal flowed through the city until 1920, and was converted to the downtown subway system which ran until 1956. Much of the original structure, including the iconic Broad Street Aqueduct that carried the canal over the Genesee River, remains in place in some form. ADROC felt that recreating the original downtown canal—connected to the world via the river and Barge Canal system—would link nearly all of the current and proposed downtown attractions and make Rochester a true international destination.

The idea of resurrecting the canal downtown originated with Thomas X. Grasso, president of the Canal Society of New York State. He presented his idea — which Rory Zimmer, an intern architect at SWBR Architects, added to — around the time in 2005 when the city announced plans to fill in the tunnel. Opponents succeeded in stalling that plan.

The Plan proposed by ADROC was to remove Broad Street through downtown from South Avenue northwest to Brown Street to expose the canal bed and aqueduct, which is located in a tunnel beneath the street. It included both an oval basin and a round lock near the old 1821 Stone Warehouse on South Ave. The Canal would continue North in its original bed adjacent to South Avenue beneath Rundel Librabry, then turn West over the restored 1842 Aqueduct then northwest to terminate at Jay Street just north of the old 1828 Warham Whitney’s canal stone warehouse. The preliminary engineering survey revealed no “show stoppers”-it could be done! The downtown restored canal would become an inner harbor because it unites with the existing canal system in Genesee Valley Park through the Erie Canal’s Genesee River Arm.

Not only was the work of ADROC part of stopping the original plan to fill in the tunnel, there is now a master plan on the table created by the City of Rochester. This plan proposes rewatering a small section of the canal, incorporating some of the ADROC proposal.