Accepting Obstacles and Rising to the Challenge With Green Visions

Green Visions Social Distance Graduation at our Smith Street Gardens

Green Visions successfully completed its 8th year of delivering quality job training and hand-on, work experience to at risk-youth in our city. A late start, drought-like conditions, and a health crisis working against us, couldn’t stop us from pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and getting to work. We navigated the complicated year that was 2020, once again transforming over two acres of once vacant, city land into bountiful, flourishing gardens in the JOSANA and Joseph Avenue neighborhoods.

We also were able to add Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Introduction to Landscape Technicians training to this year’s roster of classes and Bank of America Financial Literacy class.

Of our 7 graduates, two have been re-enrolled, full time, back into RCSD high schools; one has enrolled in and currently attends SUNY Brockport, full-time as a journalism major; and 4 have secured full-time or part-time employment. Additionally, we were able to hire back 3 Green Visions graduates as site managers to help mentor, teach, and lead our team. Congratulations to our 2020 cohort! And thank you to all of the partners who helped make our program happen this year!

Lastly, with this year’s team successfully completing our program, Green Visions crossed the landmark threshold of having graduated over 100 City of Rochester youth from our transformative program. We could not be prouder of each and every single member of our Green Visions family as we continue to support them and bear witness to their inspiring growth.

Our HydroStation and ROC the Riverway Initiative

With funding and guidance from the City of Rochester and ROC the Riverway, Hunt Engineering is close to completing the study of the Hydro Station’s structural integrity.  Drones were used to glimpse inside. Repellers jumped off the edge to look at the outside. A boat was launched to look underneath. 

Sensors were placed to measure vibration on top. Data is being compiled, and will be presented to the newly formed High Falls Overlook Advisory Committee that will meet before the end of the year. Community members on the Advisory Committee will be helping to inform next steps to take in the development of the building. 

Representatives on the committee include the Genesee Brewery, Greentopia, Genesee River Alliance, Pike Company, RG&E, Visit Rochester, Ibero American Development Corporation, and the High Falls Business Improvement District.

Please take a moment to read this update and support our Annual Campaign.  Every dollar counts towards helping Greentopia continue its exciting work and brings us closer to a more vibrant, sustainable and equitable community.

A Visit From Joe Morelle

On September 4th Congressman Joe Morelle came to visit our High Falls viewing dock and take a tour of Hydro Station 4, the first hydroelectric station in Rochester now owned by Greentopia! Congressman Morrell received the full tour of our facilities from Greentopia’s Executive Board Chair Lisa Baron. Erik Frisch from the City updated Congressman Morelle on the ROC the Riverway project in HIgh Falls and Ben Gustafson from Hunt Engineering shared the latest findings of the structural study being done on Hydro Station 4.

The Roc the Riverway initiative seeks to capitalize on the riverfront property and adjacent natural space of the city of Rochester, places such as the High Falls and the beautiful gorge. By investing in these places such as the High Falls and the beautiful gorge, Rochester will be able to generate space for economic development, family recreation, environmental protection, and education about the natural assets of the city of Rochester. These green spaces are a part of Rochester that so far has been an untapped resource.

We were so happy to share the High Falls and our vision with Representative Morelli, Thank you for the visit Congressman!

Click here to donate to the Ecodistrict!

Green Visions Program 2020 Updates!

Green Visions Program 2020 Updates!

Our Green Visions program is adapting, like us all, to the COVID-19 pandemic. Planting has begun at both our Joseph Ave. and Smith St. gardens! A late but great start! A special thank you to the Nature Conservancy for their continued support of our Joeseph Ave. location and another huge thank you to Harris Seeds for their seed donation and Lucas Green Houses for the space to start these lovely plants. Check out our partners’ Facebook pages here! , ,

You can find more updates on the Green Visions’ program Instagram page (@green.visions) or on Green Visions’ or Greentopia’s Facebook!,

Check out some great pics of the work our Green Visions Team has been doing so far!

Again a special thank you to Harris Gardens Lucas Greenhouse and the Nature Conservancy for their amazing help!

5 Greentopia developments coming in 2016

It’s going to be an exciting year for Greentopia, as we move further into creating some of the physical projects that have been a goal since our inception. Here’s a look at what’s coming:

  • Any day now: the FlourGarden will be finished. Final details, such as wood bannisters on metal rails, are being put in this week. The project is the first of several steps to build the GardenAerial, a series of public amenities, infratructure and gardens surrounding the High Falls. Perennial native plants are in, but dormant now. You can also check out our new handrails and water channel. Fountains are there but not visible at the moment. This new amenity will really come alive in the spring, so watch out for our Grand Opening events!
  • March through May: Greentopia offers tours of the High Falls area on the first and third Thursdays of each month, weather permitting. You will need to sign-up online and arrive at 81 Browns Race a few minutes before noon to be included in a 30-minute walking tour of the waterfall in a canyon in the middle of downtown Rochester.
    Did we mention these are free?
  • In April: Green Visions will embark on its fourth year. This is the community program that provides job training and work in the horticultural field for urban youth, at the same time that it beautifies the JOSANA neighborhood in Northeast Rochester. In 2015, this program sold flowers to Wegmans, Hart’s Grocery and customers of the Rochester City Public Market. In 2016, Green Visions hopes to develop a larger commercial customer base and become more self-sustaining. You’ll soon be able to directly sponsor one of our Urban Flower Farmers – a youth from JOSANA neighborhood doing rewarding and meaningful work. The price is affordable even for small businesses.
  • May 15: A Garden Party, a brand new fundraiser to celebrate the opening of the Flour Garden. This will be an affordable event seeking to attract a broad range of people to see the newest development at High Falls. Check back here soon to find out more and buy tickets.
  • Throughout 2016: Development of the Pont du Rennes. New community interest and opportunities have arisen to make the pedestrian bridge a more important corridor connecting Genesee Brewery and St. Paul Quarter on the east bank and MCC and the Rochester Red Wings games on the west side of the river. As a result, Greentopia will turn its capital development focus on Granite Mills Square and this bridge. Some may recall that when Greentopia held its first GreentopiaFest, creating a park in the sky out of the bridge was one of the bold ideas shared then. Now, with the completion of the FlourGarden, it’s time to get moving on that!

And here’s something you won’t see in 2016 – Greentopia festivals, like the ones offered free for four years. The original festival and the film festival that grew out of it both took lots of time, effort and money, but they were worth it to bring awareness to Rochester’s biggest hidden asset — High Falls. Our founders and board of directors have decided that the time has come to devote those resources to making the GardenAerial at High Falls a reality. The festivals aren’t truly gone, though. Many of their elements (free and low-cost events) will be spread throughout the year, but in a more sustainable way that supports the goal of attaining a vibrant, publicly-accessible realm around the falls. To become a part of that, consider becoming a member.

And look out 2016!

Greentopia Premieres New GardenAerial Promotional Short Film

If you missed us at the Futures Summit at Monroe Community College, you missed:

  • a. a great event
  • b. the premiere of our new short film featuring the GardenAerial! Not to worry, you can check out this new film now.

This film gives a 5-minute overview of the entire GardenAerial project. It features stunning new footage of the High Falls and Gorge and testimonials by some of our citiy’s most influential leaders in government, education, innovation and business. Please take a minute (well, 5 minutes, actually) and feel free to share with your networks. We really want to get the word out about this transformational project and we think this film does a great job doing that.

Once you’ve seen the film, if you are inspired by the message and if you ‘believe in the GardenAerial’, please consider giving a donation so we can continue the work of Greentopia.

Many thanks to Don Caspar at Epic 10 Films and also to J.R. Kraus and crew at 57th Street Productions and WXXI for providing a stunning clip of the falls seen from the base of the gorge! We’d also like to thank: Maggie Brooks, Lovely Warren, Bob Duffy, Jim Senall, Heidi Zimmer-Meyer, Ram Shrivastava, Kayla Jenkins and Lisa Roy Baron for appearing in the film.

Again, enjoy the film, share it with your friends and colleagues. We’d also love to hear your feedback!

GardenAerial is a capital project of Greentopia

See our FlourGarden grow!

See our FlourGarden grow!

This will be an exciting summer for Greentopia: construction starts soon on the FlourGarden, the first section of the GardenAerial to become a reality.

The $800,000 project, designed by NYC’s Landgarden landscape architecture firm, will be completed in the fall.  Greentopia co-founder Michael Philipson calls the FlourGarden the “proof of concept” that will provide a window into what the larger GardenAerial will be like.

This 300-foot-long garden or running water and native plants will feature actual millstones that used to grind flour along the Genesee River in the city once nicknamed the Flour City.  Native plants will grow alongside a water channel in the historic Brown’s Race. At night, glass stones on the bottom of the water channel will glow with light. And nearly 500 acrylic rods, also illuminated, will wave like cattails. In all, six sections of the Genesee River will be represented in the FlourGarden.

Pedestrians on Brown’s Race will be able to walk along, over and into the FlourGarden. Stone bleacher seating at the north end, outfitted with outlets, will allow people to sit or work on laptops while they enjoy the sound and sites of the FlourGarden.  And a deck over the mid-section of the garden will provide an intimate gathering space or stage for future events.

If you’re in the area checking out the view of the High Falls from the Pont de Rennes Bridge, stop by and see our progress!

(Note: this post was originally published earlier this summer.)


GardenAerial 2014 Annual Funding Campaign Underway

It’s that time of the year when we gather with friends and family to celebrate the joys of life – and begin looking forward to the New Year. It is also the season of giving. Now is an important time for the Friends of the GardenAerial to reach out to our donors and friends.

Just as we’ve depended on you in the past, we will continue to depend on you in the years to come.

Only you can make the impossible, possible. We all have special roles and obligations in transforming our community and creating a legacy for future generations to enjoy. During this holiday season, we are challenging the community to help us match a recent $100,000 gift by an anonymous donor whose support was provided because of the organization’s visionary leadership and its goals for the community.

Whether you choose to donate $5, $25 or $100, by making a tax-deductible donation by December 31,2014, your gift will help meet this community challenge and go twice as far towards making 2014 extraordinary.

There are ambitious plans for the year ahead. As we work to complete the first phase of the GardenAerial project, the FlourGarden, in the early summer of 2015, we will also advance our Green Visions youth workforce development program in the JOSANA neighborhood, and undertake the planning of the first EcoDistrict in the State of New York.

We want to make sure that the Friends of the GardenAerial has the operating support it needs to thrive in 2015. You can help us do just that, by making your most generous tax-deductible gift right now.

The past year has truly been an incredible journey for the Friends of the GardenAerial; a year filled with recognition and immeasurable rewards. This would not have been possible without the support from you – and our diverse community of friends and neighbors. We hope that you will be part of this continuous journey.

With best wishes for a wonderful holiday season,

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ROC Transit Day!

ROC Transit Day!

ROC Transit Day is Thursday, June 19


If you’ve ever thought about trying public transportation, ROC Transit Day is for you. Take the leap with thousands of other Rochesterians as we go car­free in support of a greener, healthier community. Organized by Reconnect Rochester, the campaign challenges Rochesterians to leave their cars at home and use public transit for the entire day. But in addition to riding the bus, ROC Transit Day promises a bevy of fun activities.


For one thing, you’ll be able to use your RTS fare card to redeem exclusive deals at participating shops and restaurants around town. Volunteers will also be giving away free prizes on random bus routes all day. Rochester’s lovable soccer mascot, Rex the Rhino will lead families on bus tours to Sahlen’s Stadium. And new this year, a city­wide treasure hunt will send teams on a wild series of bus rides in an effort to claim a hefty cash prize. There’s just one catch… no cars allowed. To claim this jackpot you’ll need to use the bus system, walk or bike.


The day will come to a close with a HUGE swing dance event on the steps of the Rundel Memorial Library building between 4:30­6:30pm. Bring your friends & family and witness 40+ energetic Groove Juice Swing dancers as they twist, twirl, flip, and triple­step to the classic sounds of Smugtown Stompers on the sidewalks around the Rundel Memorial Building. The Friends & Foundation of Rochester Public Library will host a used book sale and games for the kids, and Le Petit Poutine and Stingray Sushi food trucks will be there too! For complete event details and to find out how your organization can get free ROC Transit Day fare cards, visit

FlourGarden Breaks Ground!

FlourGarden Breaks Ground!

groundgreakingWe are so proud to announce that FlourGarden has broken ground! Today, almost 100 people braved the cold first day of Spring to attend the ceremony at 81 Browns Race. We even welcomed a class from the Enrico Fermi School #17. Thank you Dr. Spezio and third graders and their wonderful teacher for introducing a new generation to High Falls!

The very first phase of the larger GardenAerial project is now underway. It took a lot of man (and woman) hours to finally get to this point. Really, it did take a village – dedicated and passionate staff and volunteers; donors and sponsors who believe in the vision of GardenAerial; support from State and Local government entities; and a dedicated Board of Directors who lead the way.

There were many challenges along the way, to be sure, but slowly, surely, the ideas and the efforts expended by a dedicated group of people and organizations are beginning to take hold. We are moving towards a re-invented city and we are proud to be among the people making that change.

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