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Rochester to release preferred design for remaking downtown aqueduct in early to mid-2023

Aqueduct 1.jpg
Max Schulte
Work continues on the historic Aqueduct Building along the Genesee River and Broad Street Bridge in downtown Rochester for the new Constellation Brands headquarters.

Amid the myriad projects underway or being planned in downtown Rochester, none carries more potential for the Center City than the Broad Street bridge and aqueduct.

The city still is figuring out what to do there, but a design should come into focus by next summer.

The goal is to remake the former Erie Canal aqueduct and one-time subway tunnel — and the roadway bridge above it — into a vibrant public space reflecting the city’s history and culture.

The public has been weighing in on various design concepts either online or through community workshops, the next of which is likely to be scheduled in February.

"Throughout the design process," said City Engineer Kamal Crues, "we've been able to unpack the possibilities of the site and allow for the community to see what the true potential is of the site and expose the history."

The slate of design options show the upper deck of the bridge — the current roadway — fully or partially removed. Concepts for partial removal create a two-level pedestrian plaza. It would have openings on the edges, along or in the center of the upper deck.

None is likely to be selected.

Instead, the final design will be a hybrid that reflects the feedback received. And that weighs factors like historical preservation, versatility, accessibility and ease of maintenance.

Connections to trails and venues are another consideration. And that brings in discussion of how the newly configured structure would connect to area venues and allow movement not just east to west but also north to south across the structure.

Concepts show an expanded riverfront terrace behind Blue Cross Area, which is getting added onto, and building promenades over the water along the northeast and northwest riverbanks, linking to Aqueduct Park and the convention center. That leaves the southeast end of the bridge, where the library sits.

"One thing that we have begun to receive support of is the idea of actually having some sort of a connection that goes under the Rundel Library that would begin to showcase the layers of cultural histories of the site," Crues said.

In January, the city will sit down with state historic preservation officials who have deemed the entirety of the bridge and aqueduct to be an historical asset, triggering an extensive review and public vetting.

"And our meetings that we have early next year will really be our first opportunity to work with them and hear some of their feedback on some of the schemes that we have put together thus far," Crues said.

Residents still have time to weigh in on what they would like to see by going to and taking the survey.

Brian Sharp is WXXI's business and development reporter. He has been covering Rochester since 2005, working most of that time as an investigative reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle. His journalism career spans nearly three decades.