High Falls overlook: Feasibility study approved by City Council

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The owner of the property - Greentopia - discussed how they want the property used

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The feasibility study to investigate whether or not the old RG&E hydrostation at High Falls could become a scenic overlook was approved in a City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The owner of building since 2013 is a non-for-profit called Greentopia, which owns not just own the station, but three-quarters of the property under the falls as well.

Their mission is to create, promote, and protect green space in downtown Rochester, with the goal of “lifting city, community, and neighborhoods economically.”

According to Lisa Baron, the executive board president for Greentopia, the building itself is part off a series of three buildings that were built from the late 1800’s to 1905.

Baron explained that a hydrostation is a hollow building with canals that channel water from the Genesee River into the building. The water would fall down the building until it hit a turbine, which would generate electricity — with Baron says was the first electricity in the city — that powered the electric lights and street cars.

All of their development around this High Falls is within the ROC the Riverway initiative. Greentopia fits in because they help engage the public. Two public forums will be hosted after the results come in from the study to gauge what should happen with the property.

View from the proposed overlook. Provided by Greentopia.

“All public projects should work this way,” Baron said. “It’s not the city alone, it’s not the state alone, it’s all of us contributing, all of us putting some skin in the game to create really impactful, meaningful, wonderful things to change the way we view our city.

“For 100 years or more, the public has been sealed off from really enjoying the falls, and the river, and the gorge,” Baron said. “So the development of this hydrostation and the development of the rim of the gorge, the Falls Terrace park — those are just the first steps in bringing the public access to this water, and to celebrate the fact that was have such a great natural asset.”

She says the goal is to gain access from Terrace Park, through the brewery line trail, continue the trail, and to come on top of the building, and to create a venue and a viewing platform where people can enjoy the falls in all four seasons.

Greentopia currently hosts cocktail events at the hydrostation if you donate to the company.

What cocktails at the hydrostation will look like. Provided by Greentopia.

That plan isn’t definite, as one of the goals of the study is to show how much weight the building can support.

“We want to change the way we view downtown Rochester,” Baron said.

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