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High Falls Visitor Center Will Close, June 30

April 7th, 2013

High Falls Visitor Center will be closing at the end of June. [PHOTO: Wayne Senville, Flickr]
Sally Wood Winslow has operated the High Falls Visitor Center external link, gift shop, and art gallery for 20 years. During that time she has personally greeted every single visitor with a boisterous “HELLO THERE! Welcome to the Visitor Center at High Falls!!” And, she has become a very good friend of mine, so this one hurts me personally. Today Sally announced the visitor center and gallery will be closing on June 30…

Sally Wood Winslow and her friend Roy at the High Falls Visitor Center.
Sally (that’s her on the left) says she was officially notified by the City last week of the closing. While no reasons were given, she says it’s almost certainly budget related. “It’s true this gallery has made a real contribution to quality of life in our community for 20 years, but it is probably not #1 on the priority list of city services.”

She’s wasting no time, however, planning the gallery’s final art show. The exhibit will be called simply, “Color.” Artist are invited to submit up to three works, and Sally promises that at least one will be displayed. Sally hand selects all the work displayed in the gallery. She says, “If you submit three, it will give us the best chance to create a beautiful and cohesive collection.” Artists can download an entry form here.

The High Falls Visitor Center is filled with local art, history, and interactive exhibits for the kids.Always looking to have a little bit of fun, Sally is asking for your ideas for something special to do at the last reception. “Artist Ken Nichols has volunteered to shave my head, and I’m actually considering it,” she jokes.

So what’s ahead for Sally? All she can say for now, is “fun and adventure.” Well, where ever the winds take you Sally, I’m sure you’ll fulfill that promise. But for my own selfishness, I hope you find fun and adventure close to home! Cause we’ll miss you if you go too far!

On a related, but more positive note…

Schematics have been completed for a new sunken garden along Browns Race.Schematics have been completed for a new sunken garden along Browns Race. The non-profit group, Friends of the GardenAerial, is working hard to pull together funds with many small, private contributions using an online tool called Ioby. But I’m told the campaign will close at the end of April and it’s well shy of the $10,000 goal. So if you haven’t contributed yet, please consider making a small donation here external link.

If you do contribute to this project, I will personally thank you by giving you a shout-out on RochesterSubway.com. Let me start by thanking those who have already contributed to raising over $2,000 of the $10,000 needed…

Thank you to… R. Manard, D. Olney, C. Stevens, M. Porter, R. Charboneau, L. Fedele, E. Spaull, K. Greene, S. Dinan, A. Kress, L. Moroney, W. Larsen, K. Wessendorf, P. Braus, T. Johnston, J. Rowe, D. Casper, M. Boutet, N. Nocon, L. Frey, T. Clement, K. Gardner, E. Haselbauer, J. Licitra, G. Kellogg, M. Delaney, W. Colley, B. Woelk, P. Giordano, P. Mcgrath, L. Stess, E. Frisch, D. Howell, M. Battle, D. Pearl, L. Seth, M. Tilton, Z. Declerck, M. Lewis, D. Dolce, M. Governale, R. Deguzman, and K. Cleary.

The nearly 300 foot long raceway will become a tribute to Rochester's history as The Flour City. The design features five distinct sections, each representing a different aspect of the Genesee River Gorge.The nearly 300 foot long raceway will become a tribute to Rochester’s history as The Flour City. The design features five distinct sections, each representing a different aspect of the Genesee River Gorge. These renderings were provided courtesy of the project designers, Landgarden Landscape Architects external link

'The Gorge' area will allow visitors to step down inside and explore the garden up close, while giant stacked millstones will provide lots of places for people to sit and enjoy the sites and sounds.The section closest to the Pont de Rennes Bridge and Granite Mills Park is appropriately named “The Gorge.” It will allow visitors to step down inside and explore the garden up close, while giant stacked millstones will provide lots of places for people to sit and enjoy the sites and sounds.

Fiber optic lights poke their way up through the stones and water, and native plantings soften the edge of the buildings in 'The Lower Falls.'
Fiber optic lights poke their way up through the stones and water, and native plantings soften the edge of the buildings in “The Lower Falls.”

Native trees and rain gardens line the overlook into 'The Middle Race.'
Native trees and rain gardens line the overlook into “The Middle Race.”

xxx
“The Promontory” provides a space for café tables and another space to enjoy the views.

xxx
In geography, a promontory is “a prominent mass of land that overlooks lower-lying land or a body of water.”

Water races over large, stair-stepped stones in the 'Millstone Falls.'
Water races over large, stair-stepped stones in this section called “Millstone Falls.”

Water flows down the sides of a stone obelisk, recreating 'The Falls.'
And, at the southern end of the garden, water flows down the sides of a stone obelisk, recreating “The Falls.”

The project designers are incorporating sustainable features including native plantings, rain gardens, and recycled water. They are also exploring the possibility of using wind power.
The project designers are incorporating sustainable features including native plantings, rain gardens, and recycled water. They are also exploring the possibility of using wind power.

So, on the one hand the long loved High Falls Visitor Center is closing. But, with the Rochester community pulling together to transform Browns Race into a completely unique public space, the new Sunken Garden could go a long way towards attracting new tenants and new visitors to this beautiful and historic neighborhood.

You can help make this happen by making a donation external link today. No amount is too small. And please share the link with your friends.

• • •

Thanks again to Landgarden Landscape Architects for the project renderings!

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 7th, 2013 at 10:27 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Rochester Destinations, Rochester News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

23 Responses to “High Falls Visitor Center Will Close, June 30”

  1. Thank you to DAVID SIGUENZA, D FRIER, J MCINTOSH, M BURNS for contributing to the Browns Race sunken garden yesterday!

  2. We just happened to be at High Falls yesterday taking a walk with the kids and popped into the visitors center, and sure enough- Sally gave us a big hearty hello. It was my first time in there, and the center is in remarkably good shape, a few of the exhibits could use a minor repair, but it seems so silly to shutter it. I hope it stays in good shape so it can be re-opened once the garden aerial gets off the ground (so to speak :) ) That space is too beautiful to be a ghost town!

  3. Renee says:

    Since moving to Rochester a few years ago, we have visited the visitors center frequently. We have taken all our out-of-town visitors there and our kids love it. I’m super sad that it is closing permanently. Boo hoo. Are they serious about it closing permanently?

  4. Adam says:

    Yes. Sally has been there EVERY time I’ve gone in (at least 10 times in last 2 years). Always helpful and cheerful. We made a point to bring out-of-town visitors there.

    But more importantly, can anyone get a comment from the City on the decision? Is Rachel covering this?

  5. Tom says:

    The city let the Visitor’s Center die by neglect. Many AV displays were not functioning when I was there. There also weren’t NEARLY enough historical artifacts, background on the city, etc. Someone from the City of Rochester should take a trip to Cincinnati’s terminal museum and see how amazing a local history museum can be, then try to replicate that experience at the visitor’s center.

  6. Andrew says:

    What is currently in the surrounding buildings? I haven’t been down there in a few years, but this site is awesome and has inspired me to explore downtown and live there when I graduate.

  7. Andrew, there are a couple of restaurants; one Italian place called La Luna, and one Caribbean place on the other side… although I’m not sure if that’s still open. The Philipson Group is a creative/marketing shop directly across the street. GardenAerial is also headquartered there. And there are apartments and offices in the nearby Parry Building and 208 Mill Street. There’s lots of stuff on Mill Street actually. But this “Centers at High Falls” row of buildings is pretty vacant except for La Luna.

  8. Andrew says:

    Thanks, looks like a prime spot for the next “Filling in” article then. IMO it could use a few bars for pre/post Red Wings games.

  9. Rick says:

    Aww this is sad, I hate to the see the visitor center go, that space is really nice! Any time I’m in high falls, and it’s open, I stop in for a visit.

    Is the closing permanent, or just a temporary thing?

  10. According to Sally, it’s permanent.

  11. ParkAvePete says:

    @Andrew They tried that no one came.

  12. Pete Tonery says:

    Does anybody know what the operating expenses are? Perhaps they can get an extension for 6 months while they work to repackage themselves as a 501 (c a charitable art organization. If the expenses are modest perhaps a local consortium of businesses could step i to support/donate? Breweries came quickly to mind…
    Helping is hard- the organization and effort must come from the Visitors Center.

  13. According to Rachel Barnhart today, “$226,000 a year to keep the Center at High Falls building open.” But that’s probably for the entire building, including the events area; what was formerly Max at High Falls.

  14. chase tyler says:

    Too bad. What will happen to the building?

    Also, the garden sounds like an excellent idea. Wasn’t there a racetrack in that area at one point?

  15. ELF says:

    Is there any way they could survive on their own without public funds? Charging admission and operating a smaller space, for example.

  16. RoCo does it. With grants and memberships and stuff like that. It’s possible.

  17. Matthew Denker says:

    I must admit that I’ve never actually been to the visitor center. High Falls has never been a neighborhood I’ve been able to connect to. Compared to a variety of other neighborhoods in Rochester that I believe are only a few small changes away from real success, I’ve always felt High Falls was lacking an enormous amount of infrastructure and support to become a full-fledged, 24 hour neighborhood. I don’t believe any of the money that has gone into making it an office/entertainment district has done anything to change this.

    That said, it is sad, to me, to hear that the visitor center is closing. The city is basically saying that it is not worth a single dollar from each person in the city to keep open. That’s pretty depressing. It also raises large questions about what the building will be used for going forward. High Falls has a tenuous grip on occupancy as it is. An empty building in a prime location will do nothing to help that. Something to ponder anyway.

    One of these days we will look at census numbers about High Falls compared to other neighborhoods in the city and it will be come immediately clear why this district has not gained the traction of other neighborhoods in the city. I assure you that it will come down to the balance of residents compared to offices and parking spaces.

  18. Jason Haremza says:

    @Matthew. As far as I know, most buildings in High Falls are close to full occupancy. What is unfortunate, is that even at high occupancy, there just doesn’t seem to be a critical mass of either office or residential uses to support even token retail or active streets.

    Historically and aesthetically, it’s such a cool area. But I agree it does often feel like a ghost town.

    As for the Center at High Falls, it’s sad but probably true that, nationwide (world wide?) the public sector no longer values history and interpreting history.

    I remember as a kid, coming from Buffalo to Rochester “on vacation” (boy were my parents cheap ;) and thinking, as a 12 year old history nerd that the then-new exhibits and interactive displays were pretty neat. But 20 years later, there was no updates, displays grew shabby, stopped working, etc. Does every city have as much trouble with routine maintenance as Rochester?

  19. Brandy says:

    Does anyone know what’s to come of the property in Brown’s Race- 104 Platt Street? The old Jimmy Macs.

  20. @Brandy, a restaurant called Caribbean Chateau went in there after Jimmy Macs. I guess it didn’t survive? Not sure at this point what’s in store for the building.

  21. Jim Fraser says:

    There is an awakening movement that may radically change the way cities engage in placemaking. And while most perceive its dimensions only vaguely, the juxtaposition of the two items in this post reveal a fault line that is emerging between two great ages in urban planning.

    Beginning with the acceptance of zoning as settled law in the 1920′s, control of the shaping of cities’ places, spaces and infrastructure became, by and large, and by turns, a function of government – mostly city government. The “post-war boom” and the Great Society gave us Urban Renewal, redlining and suburban sprawl. In Rochester, I-490 and the Inner Loop were blasted through downtown, destroying a large part of CornHill and severing countless vital connections between neighborhoods. “Slum clearing” morphed into “towers in the park” project housing, a disaster by nearly every measure. Midtown Plaza, built to compete with suburban retail by imitating it, failed. And the automobile was crowned king.

    While prosperity lasted and upward mobility still described ordinary lives, things seemed pretty good. But it couldn’t last. While other nations’ economies began to catch up, we continued in our wasteful ways, ignoring the warnings. Eventually, the belief that our prosperity was inevitable, a birthright, began to reveal itself as fiction to more and more, across a range of experts. Slowly at first, those who manage our city’s finances began to cut back. In time, in the name of ‘fiscal responsibility’, they began the destruction of assets. The office of City Historian was eliminated. The subway line and former canal bed west of downtown was filled in. The demolition of traditional housing has been given steroidal injections of cash. In a stunning, Orwellian twist of logic, we are told that “shrinkage is good.” The truth is, after a generation of insisting on deciding, doing, paying for everything, city government has priced itself out of the market.

    While all of these cuts look good on paper, they are toxic to the long-term health of our city. They are tactical, not strategic. City governments never were good with strategy, because good strategy requires vision, holistic thinking and risk. I refer readers to the chapter in Jane Jacobs’ “Death and Life” entitled, “The kind of problem a city is”, and to an entire book on the subject – “What We See” – an anthology intended as a follow-on to Jacobs’ work. City halls do how, not what or why. We never noticed that, in all these years while strategy was simple and dissenters were few. It is vital to our city’s survival that we do so now.

    What we see with the GardenAerial project is an unintended out-sourcing of planning strategy. While city hall’s visitor center bled cash, an entrepreneur with an idea built a new organization and inspired energetic individuals to join in. With a fraction of the city’s planning budget, they found tools to develop and render the vision. The GardenAerial team then found a way to crowd-source the financing of their project, while city hall couldn’t figure out a way to repair an old water pump. They’ve launched a host of events to build the brand and engage the public with their vision. Meanwhile, the city, finally noticing the red ink, chooses to cut another asset rather than risk another attempt at the vision thing.

    Entrepreneurship, collaboration, participation, and a visceral connection with coolness. Meet the new face of urban placemaking.

  22. Irene says:

    The Old Jimmy Macs / Caribbean Chateua building is for lease/sale. http://www.weichert.com/43858728/. This is a different listing than I saw last year. Back then I called the realtor cause the price seemed so cheap and was told it was actually the lease price, if this new listing is actually selling it for $299k then that is a steal

  23. Brandy says:

    Thank you for the information Irene.It’s no longer for sale, I was in the process of trying to view the property and it was taken off the market because of some financial issues. I know that some other parties were/are interested in the property as well.


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