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.

THANK YOU! Dinner Off the Bridge

Thanks to you all our Dinner Off the Bridge event was a HUGE success!

146 delicious dinners prepared by The Cub Room’s amazing staff were sold.

A huge thank you to everyone who came out to support our event! All of the proceeds were given to the Green Visions program, employing local youth to maintain our community flower gardens!

Follow @green.visions on Instagram or like the Green Visions Facebook page to get updates on the Green Visions program.

A special thanks to The Cub Room for hosting as well, along with Laughing Gull Chocolates, Java’s Cafe, Century Wine & Liquors, and Black Button Distilling for their additions to our meals.

Check out their websites here!

The Cub Room, Laughing Gull Chocolates, Java’s Cafe, Century Wine and Liquors, and Black Button Distilling.


#bethegoodroc COVID-19 – Meals for Health Workers

#bethegoodroc COVID-19 – Meals for Health Workers

BetheGoodRoc envisions a future where frontline and healthcare workers at any time of a crisis are provided with simple comforts to help make the situation more bearable and maintain a level of normalcy for workers and their families. We do this through the community.

What Can You Do?

As a community, we can pool our resources to support this cause. You can’t deliver a home-cooked meal to a hospital worker, but BetheGoodRoc can!

Greentopia and Be the Good Roc have teamed together to raise donations that will be used to buy meals from local restaurants that go directly to our hospital support staff.

BetheGoodRoc has already coordinated 400 meals from Chicken Out and delivered them to RGH Cardiac ECU. 

There’s certainly more to come from this great organization, and Greentopia looks forward to working with them on this needed project.

Green Visions Shipping Container Floral Workshop!

Green Visions Shipping Container Floral Workshop!

Now in its sixth year, the Green Visions program has installed an 800 square foot shipping container at the Green Visions Campus at 174 Whitney Street in the JOSANA neighborhood. The container has been completely retrofitted by Ikoniq, a Canandaigua-based company that creates top-of-the-line carts, kiosks, and containers for many of the country’s largest stadiums, concert halls, and amusement parks. The Green Visions’ container was designed to be used as a complete floral design workspace – with flower cooling room and tool room – and received financial support from the Allyn’s Creek Garden Club, the Rochester Garden Club, The John C. Wegman Foundation, Kathleen Holt and Steve Lurie, and the August Family Foundation.

“The Green Visions shipping container is a huge step forward in helping to manage the program’s consistent flower bouquet production and delivery. It is a first for the City of Rochester and serves as a model of alternative programming space for other grassroots neighborhood programs.” Says Lisa Baron, Board Chair of Greentopia.

This project also serves as another example of the amazing collaboration found between Rochester organizations committed to the revitalization of the JOSANA neighborhood. This year, the Green Visions program is providing landscape maintenance for 19 Habitat for Humanity properties. In return, Habitat for Humanity and Rochester Youth Build provided the materials and installed a driveway for the shipping container. All of these neighborhood developments are guided by the vision and leadership of Charles Settlement House Neighborhood Association and its JOSANA Master Plan. For the last six years, the Green Visions program has been working not just in the neighborhood, but more importantly with the neighborhood.


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.

Opportunity still blooms in a wet summer

Opportunity still blooms in a wet summer

It’s been an unusual summer for Green Visions, Greentopia’s job development program. A super-soaked spring and summer, along with some red-tape tangles, delayed the start of the season. Manager Morgan Barry said the Green Visions garden wasn’t tilled until late May, when it’s usually under cultivation by the first week in May. So some plants, notably a major crop of zinnias, are coming in a month late and all at once.

Rather than trying to conduct business as usual in an unusual situation, the program is experimenting a bit. Green Visions is still a job development program for young people 16-22 in the Northwest quadrant of Rochester, one of the poorest sections of a city where half the kids live in poverty. But with expertise growing in the staff and the job-skills participants, the site in the JOSANA Neighborhood can also offer more. A cut-your-own-bouquet event scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19, for instance. Visitors can walk away with their own cut flowers, or can rely on the expertise of managers Morgan Barry and Tiani Jennings to make a beautiful arrangement.

Other developments:

  • Greentopia purchased additional land adjacent to the main garden lot (797 Smith St.)
  • A learn-to-drive program is being added to the program later in the growing season, adding another key skill young people need to to secure regular employment.
  • A grant from the Developmentally Disabled Giving Circle at Rochester Area Community Foundation is allowing students who’ve aged out of Edison Technical High School’s program for disabled students to continue working – and, more importantly, getting paid – in the Green Visions program. (Most of the 16 program participants are from the neighborhood, but a couple spots are set aside for developmentally disabled disabled youngsters, who have an even harder time gaining job skills and employment.)

“It’s bringing back graduates and keeping their momentum going,” Barry said.

One such graduate is Frank Graham, 22, who returned this summer to work with Green Visions for a second year. He listed planting, watering, fertilizing, working hard and getting along with people as some of the things he’s learned.

“I’m a workaholic. It’s good, though,” Graham said. At home, his mother doesn’t like him to leave the house. Working with Greentopia gets him out into the sunlight. “It’s better than being in my room, cooped up,” he said.

Ideally, Green Visions graduates will take what they’ve learned over 20 weeks in the growing season and apply it to year-round jobs. Angela Tye, 22, has her sights set on a job in a garden department at a place like Home Depot or Wal-Mart. “I know what to do now. I know what the flowers need, what the plants need,” she said.

The grass is greener on the Greentopia side of the street

The grass is greener on the Greentopia side of the street

We’ve moved!

While it was nice being in the building on the corner of Platt Street and Brown’s Race, the sale of the building that housed Greentopia for the last several years resulted in our move to new digs across the way at 74 Brown’s Race.

“If you need us, we’re across the street,” said Greentopia Co-Founder Michael A. Philipson.  The move happened May 1 and the new quarters are both larger and a little more accessible, as the space is all on one level now – no more steps and ramps! One added bonus is the new office provides additional income for our initiatives because it includes two spaces to rent out, one of which is occupied. Another bonus is our new boardroom and balcony look out over the Genesee River gorge. And that’s the reason Greentopia moved to the High Falls area in the first place.

Stop by if you get a chance.  Just remember, we’re on the river side of the road now.

The voice of environmental news comes to our Leadership Series

The voice of environmental news comes to our Leadership Series

You probably know that mellifluous voice, the one that makes it seem that no matter how grim things are for the environment, there’s still hope. Steve Curwood, host and executive producer of Public Radio International’s Living on Earth show brings his voice to Rochester Tuesday, May 16, for Greentopia’s Leadership Series. Curwood’s talk is titled “Social Equity and Climate Resilience in the Green Redevelopment of Rochester.”  Rochester City Mayor Lovely Warren will also offer remarks.

Reservations are required for the breakfast lecture in our Greentopia Leadership Series. Donations of $10 are suggested to cover costs of the continental breakfast. Click here to make a reservation. Doors at the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Eisenhardt Auditorium, 657 East Ave., open at 7:30 am and the program begins at 8.

Curwood’s show is heard on some 300 radio stations around the country, including Rochester’s WXXI-AM, where it’s broadcast Sundays at 4 pm.  A Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, Curwood has hosted the environmental news show since April 1991. The series is sponsored by RG&E/Avangrid, with media sponsor WXXI.

Next in the series will be Mark W. Johnson of Civitas Landscape Architects, a thought leader in natural spaces in urban settings, who will talk about urban waterfront development on Sept. 11 at Oak Hill Country Club.

Step aside Netflix series. Green Visions has “14 Stories.”

Step aside Netflix series. Green Visions has “14 Stories.”

Trigger warning: you can’t watch Greentopia’s “14 Stories” without your heart being touched. This binge-worthy series of short films, posted on our website, profiles the young people who worked in the Green Visions program in 2016.

There’s the young mother who didn’t know what it was like to hang out with other teenagers because she had a baby at 13 and dropped out of school. And the young father of two who finds working with flowers at Green Visions an oasis of peace in his life.  Gardening can be hot, dirty, hard work. But it is also a lifeline of job skills and resume building for youth 18 to 22 living in a city neighborhood suffering from crushing poverty.

“These kids are in situations or circumstances in their lives because of the challenges they face,” said filmmaker Doug Buckley, of Blackbird Son Video Production, who created the “14 Stories” series. “That consumes them, I think.” A job with Green Visions exposes the young workers to life beyond a small radius within Rochester’s northeast side. Green Visions also helps the workers find new ways of dealing with life. “They’re used to conflict – and I know because they said it — that’s their first instinct is to react as if they’re in a conflict,” Buckley said. Side benefits of the program are that flower cultivation is making the soil healthier and the neighborhood more beautiful. Green Visions workers plant, raise and harvest the flowers, which are sold in stores such as Wegmans, Hart’s Local Grocers and the Rochester Public Market.

Seven of the “14 Stories” films are online now, and seven others are due to be uploaded later this spring. Watch and share, please. If you’re so moved, please support these young people or others like them by sponsoring a youth in the Green Visions program. There’s no other job development program like Green Visions in Rochester, providing 20 or more weeks of employment and training, including federal job safety certification.  Watch “14 Stories” and you’ll see that it’s no small achievement for young people in the JOSANA neighborhood to complete the program while dealing with all the survival issues they face.

The stories take you into the hearts and, in one case, the home of the Green Visions workers.  Buckley captured the sometimes bleak facts of their lives as well as their blossoming hopes. “I was really humbled by the fact that they would tell me those things, and tell me how they felt about those events in their lives,” he said.

For example, Tarin, who dropped out of high school in 10th grade, now hopes to go to college to study performing arts. “I can finally feel like I’m involved in something,” he says on camera.

Then there’s Anthony, who goes by the nickname of “Magic.” He shares, “Green Visions keeps me out of a lot of stuff. When I come to work, I get a lot of negative things off my mind.”

And there’s Breanna, who was living in a homeless shelter when she first started with the program. “I didn’t really feel like I had a family until I came to Green Visions,” she says. Now she talks about wanting to own a house and her own business.

We dare you not to be moved.

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!