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!

Lucas Green House Cocktail Party!

This past week Greentopia hosted a cocktail party to thank our Green Visions program partner Lucas Green House. The event took place on our viewing platform with a beautiful view of the high falls gorge.

In attendance was the Lucas Green House staff and recently former-owner Susan Palomaki. The party was to celebrate Susan, a huge partner of the program, and her retirement after 15 years of owning and working the Lucas Green House. Lucas Green House has partnered with our Green Visions program for the past 5 years. They have helped us by providing a space to start our flowers and giving the program extra flowers as well, in order to make our gardens more beautiful. Our Green Visions Program is always looking for partners with local businesses such as Lucas Green House. If interested reach out to morgan@greentopia.org.

Our viewing platform cocktail parties are available to all! They include a tour of the high falls gorge from the Pont de Renne Bridge by the director of the Greentopia board Lisa Baron. With wine, cheese, and a beautiful view it is a great place to bring friends, coworkers, or anyone else! For more information reach out to Lisa Baron at lisa@greentopia.org.

Come to the EcoFair! We’re launching Greentopia’s EcoDistrict.

Come to the EcoFair! We’re launching Greentopia’s EcoDistrict.

It’s time to launch the High Falls Eco-District! So no, that’s nothing like sailing a Frisbee over the edge of the Genesee River ravine in Greentopia’s backyard. It’s the formal process required to begin certification of the EcoDistrict north of downtown. The planning stage, which involved lots of meetings with stakeholders and then registering that plan, is over. Now the plan has to be shared with the public and adopted by individual stakeholders’ pledges toward green practices. This is all working toward certification by the international organization, EcoDistricts.org

Harkening back to Greentopia’s early days, the launch will be marked with a public EcoFair Oct. 7, from noon to 5 p.m., coinciding with Rochester’s annual Genesee River Romance event. This fair will be held on and near the Ponte du Rennes Bridge, that pedestrian pathway that has the best view of the river gorge and the river’s High Falls.

EcoDistrict Manager Rachel Walsh said the event will feature:

  • A gardening project
  • A fair filled with information tables and vendors
  • The opportunity to recycle electronics
  • A collaborate chalk mural
  • Goats (Yes, goats. They’re the star of cute Internet videos, but also a sustainable way to remove brush
  • A food truck (Maybe wash your hands between eating lunch and petting a goat.)

Other nearby events that day include Zagster bike tours of the area and tours of Monroe Community College’s new campus at Kodak Tower.

Next steps for the EcoDistrict include stakeholders making and signing commitments that will spell out how they will undertake sustainable efforts to take “equity, resilience and climate protection seriously,” Walsh said. It’s expected to take about three years to gather these written commitments, and then Rochester’s EcoDistrict will join dozens around the world.

“We won’t wait for certification to start projects,” Walsh said. The short list is a walking trail, solar power installation, a pollinator pathway and other programming. Come visit our fair on Oct. 7 and see what it’s all about.

Start your day with ideas for a greener city

Start your day with ideas for a greener city

SEATING IS LIMITED, so RSVP to reserve your seat today!

Greentopia is bringing to town an international consultant who works with cities on becoming more green – from reducing greenhouse gases to avoiding transportation logjams. Shannon Bouton, chief operating officer in Detroit for the

Shannon N BoutonShannon Bouton, chief operating officer in Detroit for the McKinsey Center for Business & Environment, will speak Feb. 28 in our Green Leadership Series, sponsored by Rochester Gas & Electric. Her local appearance will be at 8 a.m. at Oak Hill Country Club, 145 Kilbourn Road. Admission is free but registrations are required and a $10 donation is suggested to help defray costs of the event, which includes a continental breakfast.

Bouton’s talk is titled “Building the Cities of the Future with Green Districts,” a subject she’s explored on more than one continent. Trained as a field biologist, Bouton co-wrote the McKinsey publications How to Make a City Great and Urban Mobility at a Tipping Point. She has advised city and state governments, non-profit organizations and public utilities on subjects including energy efficiency and program design, reduction of greenhouse gasses, and sustainability.

These are ideas that we here at Greentopia grapple with all the time in our work to make Rochester more vibrantly sustainable. “We’re starting the conversation in a sort of leadership way about how Rochester can take advantage of these things and rebuild the city,” said Greentopia Co-founder Michael A. Philipson. Bouton’s talk is the second in the Green Leadership Series. The first event featured green initiatives at Monroe Community College, RG&E and  the Genesee Brewery.

Don’t miss this opportunity to be in on the conversion about green ideas that could help Rochester thrive. You can RSVP

SEATING IS LIMITED, so RSVP to reserve your seat today!

Celebrating 5 Years of Green Growth!

February 18, 2016, marked the fifth anniversary of Greentopia’s incorporation. So what does our five-year-old organization have to show for those years? Plenty!

  • Four years of free Greentopia festivals to raise awareness of sustainability and green assets in downtown Rochester, bringing more than 50,000 people (many for the first time) to High Falls.
  • Four years of Film Festivals to call attention to green issues and sustainability.
  • Three Futures Summit conferences, bringing in speakers from around the country to talk about urban sustainability and green redevelopment.
  • Purchase of a large section of the High Falls cataract to preserve it as part of the GardenAerial project.
  • Three years of Green Visions, a job training program that has provided 20 weeks each year of job training and employment for young people in the JOSANA neighborhood, while producing beautiful gardens to beautify the neighborhood and provide cut flowers to sell.
  • The beginning of New York’s first EcoDistrict, a district that will share ideas and green projects to work and live more sustainably in and around the north side of downtown Rochester.
  • Awards and recognition, including being named a  “top priority” transformational project by the Sustainability Workgroup of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council.
  • A massive Dinner on the Bridge, calling attention to and raising money for Greentopia’s initiatives, including the GardenAerial circling the canyon around High Falls.
  • The completed FlourGarden: a running water, native plants garden with sculptures and lighted fixtures on Brown’s Race, the very first capital development project of the GardenAerial.
  • Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council; Metabolic Studio; The Farash Foundation; The Community Foundation; Daisy Marquis Jones Foundation; and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (among others).
  • And the support of hundreds of individual and corporate donors for events, programs, and capital projects. Won’t you join with us?

And we’re just getting started.

Welcome Rachel Walsh, EcoDistrict Manager

Welcome Rachel Walsh, EcoDistrict Manager

Rachel Walsh had to go all the way to Seattle to find her next job in Rochester. Actually, she went to Antioch University Seattle’s Center for Creative Change and got what some might think of as the Greentopia degree, though she didn’t know it at the time. But when she saw the job description for manager of the EcoDistrict Greentopia is proposing for Rochester, Walsh told her professor, “Oh my goodness! They made a job of our course list. This is exactly the kind of work I want to be doing.”  Having grown up in the Churchville-Chili area, Walsh, 29, found the job both perfectly suited to her new credentials, and a great excuse to move closer to family again.

Before going to Seattle for her master’s degree in environment and community, Walsh earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from the State University of New York at Cobleskill and worked for two Rochester-area nurseries.

Walsh began work at Greentopia Jan. 18 and plans to move into an apartment in the Upper Monroe neighborhood with new roommates and her dog, a terrier mix.  Even before squaring away her living situation, she was already meeting stakeholders in the EcoDistrict, an overlay district with shared sustainability practices that would lie on both sides of the Genesee River and run roughly from the Main Street bridge to the Smith Street bridge. Her first priorities are developing an outreach strategy for involving stakeholders — business people, city officials and residents — and establishing an EcoDistrict steering committee. A grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Agency is funding the district’s groundwork.

Walsh’s work won’t be all meetings, though, she pointed out, as she’ll rely on community activities (a cleanup perhaps?) to bring people together, too. “People support what they help create,” Walsh said.

Getting Rochester to buy-in on the EcoDistrict — an idea that has taken root in other American cities — could be challenging, Walsh noted. “This is a very progressive project in a very conservative city.” Rochester has many great attributes, Walsh said, naming its arts scene, international cuisine, and cultural institutions. “I would also love to see the green progressive movement be one of the attributes that make Rochester great.”



Cities with fewer cars are more people-friendly says a Futures Summit speaker.

As a travel writer for publications such as National Geographic, Taras Grescoe travels around the world. But he doesn’t own a car. In fact, the Montreal resident says 90 percent of his transit is by foot, bicycle or subway. His keen observations while moving around cities from Moscow to Bogota led to his 2012 book, Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile.

Grescoe will be the mid-day keynote speaker at Greentopia’s Futures Summit Oct. 21 at Monroe Community College. While he sometimes uses a car-sharing service in Montreal, he says exercising individual rights by driving cars “is diminishing the commons for everybody.” Personal automobiles hog urban space and make moving around harder for others, he claims, adding that nearly one-third of urban residents don’t or can’t drive a car.

“The biggest obstacle is the presumption that every citizen has access to a car,” Grescoe told a transportation conference in Portland, OR two years ago. “Transit is about mobility, not trains or buses,” he said. Some examples include moving ramps in hilly cities in South America that turn an arduous, 30-minute walk uphill into a five-minute ride. Or the “Mom bike” in Japan, an inexpensive bicycle that allows a parent to peddle along with two children. Or the “cargo bike” in Denmark, where an adult can carry a week’s worth of groceries or up to three children.

Bigger modes of transportation, such as subways or light rail, work best when they’re not competing for space with cars and when they’re speedy and well connected, Grescoe said. He suggests cities go for low-hanging transit fruit by providing services in the more densely populated parts of a city that were perhaps designed for pedestrian traffic before automobiles became ubiquitous in the American landscape.

A manager for the new EcoDistrict

Greentopia is taking another step toward creating an ecodistrict in Rochester by moving ahead on hiring a manager for what will become the Rochesterville EcoDistrict. Following advertisements for the manager position, 50 people from around the country applied earlier this summer and the district’s critical team has narrowed the selection to eight finalists. A decision is expected in September and Greentopia hopes to have the person start work in early October.

The district’s name reflects a historic part of Rochester included in the district, which also encompasses part of Rochester’s downtown, the High Falls area, Frontier Field, Kodak Tower, the new Monroe Community College Campus, and Genesee Brewery.

The manager’s job will be to plan and organize the first such district in New York State, mostly by bringing together groups of stakeholders. Ecodistricts – Portland, OR, has several — are designated and planned in a grassroots manner to help a neighborhood achieve a better living environment. Potential benefits could be incentives and policies that help create a district-wide composting system or a bulk discounts for solar power. The district meshes nicely with Greentopia’s efforts to create the GardenAerial surrounding the High Falls.

“This will be the only ecodistrict in the US that has this kind of situation: the only one with a falls in it,” said Greentopia co-founder Lewis Stess.

Stess said businesses or residents often ask if the district will impose additional taxes or require participation. The short answer: no. A longer answer might include that grassroots discussions would be expected to consider new initiatives by consensus in the district. But Stess says: “Nobody’s making anybody do anything.”