June 2024

New Updates on the High Falls State Park!

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the creation of High Falls State Park in 2022, with the State’s commitment to funding the planning and design, calling it Phase II of Roc the Riverway. The project was stalled briefly until New York State could be sure of an environmental cleanup in the gorge. That cleanup is happening now (west side of the river) and the planning and design service Request for Proposal (RFP) was reissued. As of this writing, the design consultant team has been selected and will be announced soon.

Initial conceptual plans by NYS’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and Empire State Development (ESD), as well as Genesee Land Trust and the River Alliance, include proposals for a viewing deck overlooking the Falls, installments that highlight the history of the area, bike and pedestrian trails, a children’s play area, an ecology center, and an entertainment and events space. 

Lisa Baron and her colleagues at Greentopia have been longtime advocates for the High Falls and Genesee River Gorge as an Eco-District and State Park. Greentopia, along with the Genesee Land Trust, developed a survey to engage residents by identifying desired features for the park and any concerns. The results of that survey will be used to help develop the overall park program of uses and activities.

Additionally, Greentopia and the CDC Rochester collaborated on two initial community engagement events to kick off the state park planning and design effort: a Leadership Breakfast and Design Workshop.

The leadership breakfast hosted a panel discussion that included:

Dr. Calvin Gantt of MCC

Chris Widmaier of Rochester Ecology Partners

Tammy Mayberry from the City of Rochester

Don Jeffries of Visit Rochester

Art Briley of NYS Parks

Vinnie Esposito of Empire State Development

Joe Stefko of ROC2025

This discussion offered initial thoughts on public access, ecology and sustainability, education and workforce development and the opportunities the park can provide to the immediate neighborhoods, Rochester and Upstate NY.


Key Takeaways from Panel Discussion

With an anticipated activation of late 2026 to 2027, the most essential tasks for the near term for this multi-year, multi-phase park project include environmental remediation and assembling all parcels under NYS ownership. RG&E and Bausch and Lomb will be responsible for cleanup of their respective parcels, and the State will invest to support the City’s additional cleanup efforts. Long-term operations and management will be the State’s responsibility, and will require substantial collaboration with the City, other government agencies and local partners.

Urban state parks are far and few; this project was inspired by iconic parks including the Highline in New York City and the Buffalo Harbor. This is truly a unique placemaking investment. High Falls and the river are fundamental to Rochester’s economic and industrial history: Our Story. The park will help connect disconnected parts of the city and bring investment where we have seen disinvestment. High Falls State Park could become the beacon of downtown and foster connectivity and community in an underdeveloped area of Rochester. As the park is developed, it is critical to convey to residents and visitors the deliberate effort and thought given to make this an inclusive and welcoming environment for people of all abilities and ages. 

Several key concerns and considerations were identified. Safety within the park and in the surrounding neighborhoods will be a big priority. The Rochester 2034 Comprehensive Plan speaks directly to placemaking and how to create the activities that make people feel safe. Multiple panelists spoke about incorporating park rangers in the robust programming and staffing of the park, versus police presence or access control barriers which may not be as welcoming. Additional accessibility measures and safety near the riverbank will be included in the final plan.

More connectivity was also discussed as a way to remove transportation and traffic barriers, and facilitate easier access for pedestrians and bicyclists into the park. The rim of the gorge and the entryways into the park are just as vital as the lower gorge itself. Traffic calming measures, safe pathways, and even connectivity all the way to Lake Ontario are all considered within the Rochester 2034 Plan, Roc the Riverway, and the Inner Loop North projects.

This park should be designed with programming for 365-day, year-round use. What good is a park that is only accessible in the summer months? Recreation and entertainment ideas for colder months include enclosed gathering areas, ski or snowshoe trails, and possibility for ice skating. School groups could also visit for environmental education or visitor’s tours to see the snowy Falls up close.

School students and visitors alike are drawn to the Genesee River gorge for education of natural ecology, history and recreational activities (salmon fishing). Understanding our natural environment, the built environment and social environment help us to answer the question “who are we designing the park for?" There is demand in both the city school district and higher education programs for a practical application for what they are learning in the classroom.  

This park can be an economic engine for the community, offering a great venue to promote and attract visitors for art, cultural, sporting events and festivals. Rochester attracts 225 events per year (meeting and conventions) and High Falls will be an exciting, fun destination. Visit Rochester would like to continue discussions with our cultural institutions about events in High Falls State Park, and entertain the possibility of forming a cultural committee.

As discussion around the planning, design, and development of the park continues, community engagement and publicity will be more important than ever in creating a park that the community will recognize and use as their own. Efforts should continue in collecting public opinions and concerns, particularly in the adjacent neighborhoods of the park as they will be the most affected. Several panelists brought up the fact that while the design and planning may be “perfect”, public perception and knowledge of the park itself is just as important. As this is a multi-phase, multi-year project, engagement should be ongoing and reflect public needs and wants overtime.


Participants in the Leadership Breakfast and the Design Workshop were asked to answer three questions based on their personal experience and/or ideas generated by the panel discussion.

         1) How is everyone included as we move the programming and design process forward?

         2) What features would you like to see in the park?

         3) What challenges need to be addressed during the design process?

The themes of all responses are presented below under the headings of Engagement, Features & Challenges.


      Continuous surveys and polls

      Focus cohorts, arts, culture

      Host education summit (K-12 and

higher ED)

      Remember who to work with not for

      Continually update the community

on progress

      Engage schools in design process

      Meet with small local neighborhood


      Employ media partners


      Natural habitat restoration for

learning ( native plants)

      Trails, bridges and overlooks


      Classroom / meeting space

      Make sustainable

      Low impact recreation (kayak,


      Accessibility for all abilities (Physical,

hearing, language)

      Restrooms, concession

      Concert / Festival Venue

      Children’s Play Area

      Pavilions and shade structures

      Sledding and ice-rink


      Engagement with Inner Loop North and ROC the Riverway project

      Prevent displacement adjacent to the park

      Avoid “hostile architecture” and over-policing.

      Access to residents of all abilities and ages

      Physical space / location for public engagement.

      Create an “in charge” entity to coordinate park services/programs

      Public safety (Year round programs – Rangers vs. Police?)

The leadership breakfasts and the design workshop in May were just the beginning of the High Falls State Park planning and public engagement. Stay tuned with Greentopia.org and CDCRochester.org on upcoming events and progress of the park design.


A special thank you to our Facilitators and Presenters:

Passero Associates

Costich Engineering


CJS Architects

Hunt EAS


John Osowski, P.E. 

Kamal Crues, P.E., City of Rochester

This Event was presented by:


Upcoming Workshops

The CDCR will be working with the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum to host a design workshop for their facilities on Rt. 251 in the Town of Rush. The Design Workshop will be held Friday, July 12th, 2024 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. All are welcome. Invited stakeholders will include RGVRRM members and Board of Directors, VisitRochester, The Landmark Society of Western NY and local museums along with the professional design facilitators.


El Camino Revitalization Area Vision Plan Update

The Ibero American Development Corporation and CDC Rochester will be hosting a Design Workshop the summer of 2024 to update the El Camino Vision Plan. This neighborhood completed the original vision plan in 2016. Many of the recommendations have been successfully completed within the past eight years. Please follow ibero.org and CDCRochester.org for updates and the Design Workshop date.

First Friday’s Community Conversation


Join us in our Design Gallery

THIS FRIDAY, June 7 from 4:30 to 7pm

Hungerford Building, 1115 E Main St, Door 3B.

May Topic: College & University Collaboration in Community Design

Since 2005, the Community Design Center of Rochester has promoted healthy communities and quality of life by encouraging excellence in community-centered design, featuring the award-winning Reshaping Rochester speaker series and awards. Join the CDCR to discuss ways in which faculty, staff, and students from the area colleges can get involved in the work of supporting outstanding design principles and practices at the neighborhood level.

Light refreshments provided.


Growing Family

Our family continues to grow. We are excited to announce the arrival of Evelyn Hope Richards, born May 13 to Angela and Brad Richards. Congratulations!

Dawn Noto

The CDCR welcomes Dawn Noto as our Office and Communications Manager. Dawn actually joined us in February, but has avoided the publicity. Dawn has been (and remains) the President of the Susan B Anthony Neighborhood Association. In 2007, Dawn and her neighborhood collaborated with the CDC on a Design Workshop (then Charrette). Many of those recommendations have been completed due to Dawn’s leadership and advocacy.

Cassidy Kress

Hello and Happy June! My name is Cassidy Kress and I'm from Webster, New York. Currently I am a Fourth year New Media Design Major at RIT and love working with accessible technologies and interfaces. Besides school and interning at the design center this summer I also love crafting and working on projects with my own small design business. I am beyond excited to be working with the team this summer because I appreciate and understand the impact of design and how the Community Design Centers work will continue to lift up our beautiful city!

Troa Vihami

Troa is an intern at the CDCR, and a rising senior student pursuing interior design at RIT with a minor in construction management. His university projects spanning mixed-use neighborhood development, evidence-based spatial design, and collaborations with the Rochester Public Library and the Syracuse-Hancock International Airport have inspired him to delve into the world of public planning projects. After studying abroad in Milan, Italy, Troa hopes to advocate for the potential of all cities and their communities. In his free time, Troa improvises piano and rollerblades near his home in Canadice, New York.

Casey Sheils

Hi all! My name is Casey Sheils, I am a Rochester native currently living in Pittsford, and I’m excited to be a partner with the CDC and Greentopia to support the planning and design of High Falls State Park! I have a degree in Biological Anthropology and Immigration from Binghamton University and have an interest in the intersection of health, climate, and community. I am honored to be a part of this project to strengthen neighborhood resilience and bring nature back to the High Falls area. Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, exploring new restaurants, and staying active outside.

Peer Organization Spotlight:


Our Impact


Downtown Rochester is a pretty cool place. But its potential is limitless!

Where some see blight, we see an opportunity to create beauty.

Where others see decay, we see the potential to do something spectacular.

Whether it's a worn-out bench, an empty tree well, or just a nondescript street pole, every space represents a blank slate.

A canvas on which to create...

...And a chance to do something great!

As you'll see below, we document the impact of these projects, whether small and large, with before-and-after pictures.

We share these results proudly in the hopes that they will inspire others.

And as our way of letting folks know that...

Downtown ROCs was here!

Bench Before and After:

Garden Before and After:

Out & About

Check out what our friends are up to!

Rochester Real Beer Expo

at Innovative Field June 8, 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM

The 12th annual Rochester Real Beer Expo will be bigger and better than ever before! The event will be held on Saturday June 8th on the concourse at Innovative Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings! This year’s edition will feature 75+ breweries, cideries, kombucha producers, and other craft beverage makers. There will be an increased focus on local breweries, as well as non-alcoholic offerings. Live music will be provided by local musicians.

Learn More + Register

Color Your Community Green

Color Brighton Green's Annual Eco-Fair

6/23, 9:00am-1:00pm, on Brighton High School front lawn

Come enjoy Nonprofits, Green Vendors, Student Projects, and Children’s Activities. Learn about recycling, green energy, water conservation, green products, and more!


Color Irondequoit Green's First Eco-Fair 

6/27, 4:00-8:00pm, on Columbus Way

This summer Irondequoit's Farmers' Market will host CIG's very first Eco-Fair, a gathering of organizations devoted to sustainability and green activities.


Bridging Commmunities

at Maplewood Rose Garden July 27, from 11-4 pm

Genesee Land Trust and the City of Rochester have partnered to host Bridging Communities, a summer celebration. This public event will help to unite the Edgerton and El Camino neighborhoods by shutting down the Driving Park Avenue Bridge and Maplewood Park.

Learn More + Register

CDCR is supported, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.