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Residents will get a temporary park and a preview of the Inner Loop fill-in at 'Live on the Loop'

The north section of the Inner Loop looking south from the Marketview Heights neighborhood.
Max Schulte
The north section of the Inner Loop looking south from the Marketview Heights neighborhood.

For a few hours next month residents will be able to experience what is possible when what remains of Rochester’s Inner Loop is gone.

The actual removal of this 1.5-mile length of highway remains some time off. A preferred concept was released in December. Work isn’t likely to start until late 2024.

But on June 5, barricades will go up on Scio Street where it crosses the sunken highway, and the bridge will be remade into a parklike expanse.

“We’re putting trees on there. We’re gonna have grass on a bridge,” organizer and local artist Shawn Dunwoody said.

The highway cuts through neighborhoods on the northern edge of downtown. Tearing it out, and putting back the streets and parks it consumed, is a massive and transformational endeavor.

The upcoming event, billed as Live on the Loop, “is sort of a visioning exercise,” Dunwoody explained, “to help us understand what this could feel like if we have a complete neighborhood.”

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There also will be food trucks, and stations to get information about the project and neighborhood agencies.

In cities across the nation, and across New York, there is a growing push to rethink freeways built in the 1950s and 60s, during the Urban Renewal era. Gov. Kathy Hochul committed $100 million to the Inner Loop North project back in March, also pledging money to similarly remove and replace a stretch of Interstate 81 in Syracuse, and to study options for Kensington Expressway in Buffalo and the Cross-Bronx Expressway downstate.

Here in Rochester, Dunwoody is the co-founder of Hinge Neighbors, working to ensure residents on either side of the highway have a voice in what comes next. That should include investing in the people, the houses and the neighborhood that is there today, he said.

This remaining Inner Loop stretch was dug out of a predominantly immigrant and Black neighborhood already segregated by redlining to ease suburbanites travel to jobs and shopping downtown.

“It's not going to be perfect,” he said of the removal and replacement project. “But this is a way to create something new, to help restore something that was lost … So now we have to think of how do we restore that? How do we connect that? How do we remember those stories?

“And how do we move forward creating new ones with a connected community?”

The city already replaced the smaller, east leg of the Inner Loop, spending $22 million and completing that project in 2017.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's investigations and enterprise editor. He also reports on business and development in the area. He has been covering Rochester since 2005. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.