For a little more than 4 years I’ve worked in the High Falls district of Rochester. Last Thursday afternoon I took my lunch (which I usually eat over my computer keyboard) and I walked down Mill Street to Granite Mills Park. Of course you’ve never heard of it. It’s nothing more than a 50 foot square patch of concrete, a few trees, and 3 or 4 benches—not quite a full fledged “park” in the traditional sense. But on this sunny afternoon Granite Mills Park had transformed into a real urban plaza abuzz with music, laughter, people clapping, and even dancing.
A series of midday concerts presented by Hochstein Music School and WXXI called Hochstein at High Falls had kicked off with music provided by the Po Boy’s Brass Band. I don’t know if it was the glorious weather, the site of the surprisingly huge lunch-time crowd, or the sound of those trombones, but think I caught a glimpse of what the future might be like for that neighborhood by the falls…
10 years ago when places like Tiki Bob’s (above) and Jillian’s were clamoring for twenty-somethings to fill these cobblestones streets at night, there weren’t many who noticed that during the light of day these same streets were dead quiet. And so, Jillian’s became Saddle Ridge, and Saddle Ridge became history—along with Empire Brewing Co., Bru, Tiki Bob’s, McFadden’s, Keys Martini & Piano Bar, and the entire High Falls Entertainment District concept.
One might say High Falls is now experiencing a more sensible rebirth. Even as the wider national economy continues to sputter, downtown Rochester for the first time in decades is at the receiving end of a migration of businesses and residents who are relocating from the suburbs. Two of the more notable newcomers are ESL Federal Credit Union and Nothnagle Realtors. But much of the city’s recent growth has come in much smaller doses, and High Falls is a prime example.
By next year 61 Commercial St. in High Falls will become home to about 150 employees of Stantec. Currently located on Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Rd., Stantec is an architectural consulting firm with over 10,000 employees worldwide. This old site of Jillian’s (and Saddle Ridge) was built between 1889-1891 when streetcars were the primary mode of public transportation. The building was originally a powerhouse for the Rochester Railway Company and became known as the “Old Trolley Barn”. Stantec plans to renovate the structure before moving in next year.
On the site of what used to be a Kodak parking lot, the brand new Mills at High Falls now stands proudly offering 67 new residential units as well as commercial storefronts. After opening this year, the building is already about half occupied according to Carolyn Vitale, COO of the Urban League of Rochester Economic Development Corp., which owns the property.
The Parazin Building at 208 Mill St. has recently been renovated and converted into 12 luxury apartments and commercial space on the first floor. Built 183 years ago, this rough stone building started out as a Seyle Fire Engine Co. factory and later housed Booth Bros. Shoe Machinery, and printing equipment company Parazin Corp. These new luxury apartments have just become available.
224 Mill St., known as the Parry Building, was one of Rochester’s original flour mills in the mid-1800’s. By 2006 this brick and heavy timber building has been converted into a variety of loft spaces for commercial and residential use. It is now fully occupied.
Finally, 192 Mill St., The Partners Building is now home to advertising agency Partners and Napier (where I work), as well as Entercom, which operates four local radio stations… And no, if you were wondering Brother Wease does not work here anymore.
I don’t mean to sound surprised at the fact that this particular neighborhood is attracting attention. I’m more surprised that it’s taken this long. Need I mention all of the other great tenants and attractions that have called High Falls home for some time… The Rochester Redwings, WXXI, Kodak World Headquarters, The Center at High Falls Museum and Visitor Center (where you can pick yourself up a Rochester Subway Poster), Creator’s Hands, Triphammer Grill, Jimmy Macs, Spin Cafe, Tribeca (yes, I know it’s a nightclub) and of course High Falls itself.
Look, don’t take my word for it. Come out to Granite Mills Park any one of these Thursday afternoons between now and July 18. Grab a panini from Spin Cafe and eat outside while enjoying the sites and sounds of High Falls.
By the way, you can download a brochure (PDF) and take a self-guided walking tour of the High Falls district.
Tags: Bru, business district, Center at High Falls, Creator's Hands, downtown Rochester, Empire Brewing Co., entertainment district, ESL, flour mill, Granite Mills Park, High Falls, Hochstein Music School, Jillians, Jimmy Mac's, Keys Martini & Piano Bar, Kodak, laser light show, McFadden's, mixed-use, New York, nightlife, Nothnagle, NY, Parazin Building, Parry Building, Partners Building, plaza, Redwings, Rochester, Rochester Railway, Rochester Subway Poster, Saddle Ridge, Spin Cafe, streetcar powerhouse, The Mills at High Falls, Tiki Bob's, Tribeca, trolley, Urban League of Rochester Economic Development Corp., urban renewal, urban revitalization, WXXI
This entry was posted on Saturday, June 20th, 2009 at 12:51 am and is filed under Rochester Destinations, Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.