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44 Responses to “The Big Plans for RG&E Beebee Station”

  1. Barbra Ann says:

    If you find out the difference between the cost of demolition/clean-up and restoration/clean-up, would you post? Because of the titans in the ‘energy’ industries proximity to upstate including Tesla, etc., it would be INCREDIBLE to have this restored, preserved and used as an energy-teaching location — not to mention hydro-power and the mills. I would love to tour the facility!!

  2. Irene says:

    I just read RGE’s plan the other day, and am also very sad. I got the impression that “green space” is actually going to be fenced off with no public access, so it’s even worse than it looks.

  3. Thanks Irene. I think you’re right. The presentation does seem to indicate there will be no public access to the land inside the gorge. But there will be parking.

  4. Tom says:

    I don’t think any thing can be done as far as redevelopment until all the toxins are cleaned up So I’m guessing RG&E is just demolishing the sight and not doing any environmental clean up.I would think this land is very valuable being in such close proximity to the river and the falls. I think RG&E would be willing to give the sight away if some developer came in and offered to clean up the sight and develop it. May be a casino and or hotel complex. I think this may be the only way this sight can be redeveloped without costing RG&E costumers and tax payers billions

  5. Ben says:

    I have explored and taken photos of the buildings next to the BeeBee plant. I believe they are old GM manufactoring plants. There are a bunch of old parts like headlights shrewn across the floor. The buildings I went in are in seriously bad condition. Walls were crumbling and there were big holes in the floors. The building with the giant smoke stack was very puzzling. Inside there were huge claws and a crane system that moved on a giant iron beam. in the floor there were these giant chutes that led from the third floor (or second) to the ground level. Also there was a ton of trash in these chutes. It was a cool experience until the RG&E security told us to get out and police were on the way.

  6. @Ben, send me an email. I want to ask you a few questions about your experience in that plant… info [at] rochestersubway.com

  7. kmannkoopa says:

    I think Tom is right on above.

    The permitting process for this will be interesting (they gave it 8 months in their schedule), as even they expect the city to declare that a draft environmental impact statement will need to be done.

    Right now there is little in the way of government money to clean up sites, the only way it will be redeveloped is with private money. And casinos/hotels seem to have the deepest pockets, unless…

    I for one think that the state regulator, the PSC should require RG&E to remediate the site if it is within their power to do so (and it might be). Then let RG&E sell the remediated property to recoup some of their investment. A clean site there would attract a lot of interest.

  8. Matthew Denker says:

    @kmannkoopa – That’s the only feasible way I’ve managed to hear that would make this work. Otherwise, they basically bank the land on the hopes that it is worth cleaning up in the future. The definition of worth is fuzzy, here, as it could be a politician willing to champion for EPA money, and not actual cash value.

  9. Mittens says:

    People REALLY don’t want Rochester to be an urban city do they? This is getting ridiculous.

  10. Lorilyn says:

    I worked for three years at Beebe Station as a training consultant — in the building in the second photo above. I shared the office with shift foremen who worked in the attached coal plant. I find all the photos very familiar. :)

    I worked there 21 years ago, but even then, the building was part of a defunct and deserted steam plant. Asbestos was dripping off the pipes, and the last year I was there, the asbestos was removed. I am lucky I don’t have lung problems now! I’m sure there is asbestos there still.

    I believe the best use for that building is to DEMOLISH it and leave it in its natural state. I am 1000000 percent for preservation in most cases — but not in this one.

    RG&E is not in the tourist business, so I wouldn’t expect them to make it something accessible to the public.

  11. Having worked at RG&E, I can say this isn’t all that surprising. They’re not the most forward-thinking company. Hell, they’re barely even a current-looking company. Iberdola might have pushed some improvements through, but unless they did a complete management shakedown a project to revamp this building’s never going to happen.

    @Mittens: Rochester already is an urban city, just a small one suffering from a lot of decay.

  12. Russell Station

    The Rochester Gas and Electric has petitioned the Public Service Commission to Terminate the Auction
    Process for Russell Station. If they are successful, Russell will be demolished and removed from the tax rolls.
    Russell can not be auctioned because the RG&E severed every cable in the plant at floor level so they
    couldn’t be spliced. In other words they made sure the plant was worthless. Originally RG&E and the PSC said Russell could be converted to Gas. and the PSC said it should have been.

  13. Joel Helfrich says:

    @lorilyn: They will demolish the buildings, but a high chain-link fence surrounding a green hillside with no access by residents and tourists is hardly anything like a “natural state.” It is, in fact, no better than the countless parking lots that we like to create all over this City. And there will be no river access for anyone. This is no deal, as far as I am concerned. People need to wake up to the reality here that this is a 1,000,000 square foot loss. In any other city, this would be awesome. But not here.

    We have countless examples all over the U.S. of the adaptive reuse of power plants, even coal-fired power plants. The buildings should be reused — otherwise you are creating a HUGE hole in the center of our City.

  14. Tom says:

    I started as an operator at BeeBee in the early eightys. loved that place the history, still work in the company today. Also worked at Russell for over 20 years till it closed. loved that place to. what a shame. lot of good people worked those plants. Beebee was an engineering marvel. the some of the equipment in there should be in a museum.

  15. Lorilyn says:

    A chain link fence around an empty lot would still be better than sinking millions into trying to make those buildings good for anything.

    Beebee was not only a coal plant but a deserted steam plant, as I mentioned. It is and was a mess — for many decades. There was also a hydroelectric component.

    Russell Station on Beach Avenue is another story, and that’s very sad to see that it will be (or has been) demolished. I worked there, too. Something could have been done with that.

    I worked at Kodak Office for many years, too. I can barely believe that debacle. I also worked for WXXI; thank goodness that’s still in business.

    It’s true that Rochester, in general, has little vision compared to other parts of the country.

    I left 21 years ago. In that time, Raleigh, NC, has evolved to become a modern, vibrant city.

    Meanwhile, Rochester destroyed Midtown, and there is no reason to go downtown. I attended a wedding in a beautiful downtown church last summer and stayed at the Radisson. Beautiful views, but it was sad it made no sense to walk around the area.

    My real estate taxes in Raleigh have barely risen in that time. I shudder to think what they’d be in Rochester.

    It’s all very sad. I always loved the city and left only because of employment. But there is so little to love these days, especially downtown.

    Thank goodness the suburbs are healthy.

  16. Russell can not be auctioned because the RG&E severed every cable in the plant at floor level so they
    couldn’t be spliced. In other words they made sure the plant was worthless. Originally RG&E and the PSC said Russell could be converted to Gas. and the PSC said it should have been.
    Iberdrola ordered it done. They did not want someone to
    buy it and become competition to them. All cables, power and control were severed
    at floor level, so they can’t be spliced. Kodak has the same model generators and they
    are going to be converted to gas. My problem, as a business owner, is a grid failure
    would leave Monroe County dead in the water. The RG&E has very little generation left.
    Preventing Russell from being converted to gas is a crime.
    And we the rate payers footed the bill!
    How did the PSC allow this to happen ?

  17. Matthew Denker says:

    Honestly, how many millions are we talking about here? 1? 5? 10? 14? Because if it’s less than 14, its worth it to do instead of the ridiculous new off ramp from 390 to UofR and better for the city as a whole.

    Also, the incredibly healthy suburbs are almost the exact problem for Rochester. Not that less healthy suburbs would be better, but it’s too easy to avoid Rochester all together and to feel like everything’s great in your own little village. So many of those people and businesses should be downtown, but each suburb fights with the others over which one can give businesses and developers a bigger, never-ending, unsustainable break to get them to move there or further out or into a greenfield without any way to pay for the maintenance in the future. It is a giant Ponzi scheme to denude fresh land further and further away. And for what?

  18. Lorilyn says:

    If they’ve cut all the cables, it’s a moot issue.

  19. Nathanael says:

    Don’t CERCLA and TSCA prohibit RG&E from just abandoning the site dirty, as they appear to be trying to do? They have to clean it up, legally. Are they trying to evade the legal requirements?

    If it’s cleaned up someone will grab it, buildings or no buildings. But if it’s NOT cleaned up…

  20. Joel Helfrich says:

    ATTENTION: Please let me know if you would like to participate off-line in discussions regarding some kind of adaptive reuse of Beebe Station. (No naysayers allowed; in other words, come prepared to fight for the buildings OR do not come at all.)

  21. Lorilyn says:

    Isn’t it a done deal that it will be demolished?

  22. We’ll, technically it’s only a “done deal” when bricks hit the ground. The buildings are still there.

  23. Joel Helfrich says:

    Who was Beebe?

  24. @Joel, I don’t know much except that Alexander Beebee was the President of RG&E during the 1940’s. I’m not sure how long his tenure was. But he presided over the construction of at least Russell Station in Greece, and possibly an expansion of this (Beebee) plant.

  25. Mr. Bee Bee sold his lake front property and Mansion to the RG$E, and that is where Ginna plant
    is now. Mr. Ginna threw lavish parties at the Ginna Mansion, I was at one. Bob knew how to live :)

  26. Lorilyn says:

    For Ginna — from Wikipedia — “The plant was named after Robert Emmett Ginna, a former chief executive of Rochester Gas & Electric, who was one of the nation’s earliest advocates of using nuclear energy to generate electricity.”

  27. Tom says:

    It was Energy East that ordered the cutting of the cables at Russell I believe, was there for the shutdown. Not Iberdrola. I believe Iberdrola was in process of buying RG&E but I think it was all Energy East’s doing.

  28. No matter who actually ordered it, disabling Russell is a crime.
    And we the rate payers footed the bill!
    And why did the management at RG&E allow this to happen ? No one with guts left !
    And do they own the PSC ?

  29. Lorilyn says:

    I’d rather see a grassy area than that pile of rust and asbestos that is there now.

    There are so many issues affecting Rochester. This one no longer is worth the energy to fight it. It’s a lost cause.

  30. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Lorilyn — You do not live here anymore (or at least not for 21 years) so I am not sure how you think there is no reason to fight for access to the greatest natural resource that this community has: the River gorge…. What other city anywhere in the world has this kind of a natural feature with a large waterfall in the center of the city? I think that you are sadly mistaken. The loss of the Cataract Brewery buildings for a parking lot was the latest mistake in the High Falls area. This will be many times worse, since we will lose the cool architectural history from many of the old sections of Beebe, as well as access to the community’s largest asset. Although there is always the lower falls area of the Genesee River, it is not accessible to everyone.

  31. Lorilyn says:

    The question was not about access. The question was whether or not the buildings should be saved. You continue to beat a dead horse.

    RG&E still has working hydroelectric facilities there. So they’re not going to make it into a park.

    Rochesterians have never had access there. Why do you think a utility would open themselves up to liability and open it now?

    It makes no sense.

    When someone stands on the bridge and looks down the river, they’ll see a green area instead of old rusted ugly buildings. I see that as a huge improvement.

    Those buildings bring back memories for me. I loved my time there. But there is no need for them anymore.

    Rochester has had trouble making the (beautiful) falls a destination.

    There is no incentive to spend multi-millions on retrofitting some very ugly buildings that represent nothing more than old technology.

    There is no beauty, no art, no craftsmanship in those buildings. There’s nothing but rust and leftover asbestos.

    I have not lived there recently, but that doesn’t mean I never will again — and I do visit. So as a “tourist,” I’d also prefer to see green rather than millions of dollars flushed away. One way or another, either through taxes or increased energy costs, Rochesterians would be the ones “paying” for it.

  32. Joel Helfrich says:

    The hydro plant in High Falls is not in the same location (which comprise a huge number of acres) as the buildings that RG&E plans to remove. People can still have access and indeed should, as tourists OR residents like me, to the River. I note that at the Lower Falls, you can almost touch Station Number 5.

    Fine: take down the buildings, if that is the final issue, but you can still do that and create some kind of access to the River — if not a park on the gorge walls, then a park along the River since RG&E has long since cleaned up the land south of the Pont de Rennes Bridge.

    You seem to be missing the point: we have ooodles of examples of utilities turning over land (and all the while dealing with “liability” concerns) to the public or to municipalities.

    What you also fail to realize is that although it has taken a long time, all of the renovated buildings in High Falls are occupied. We now have people living there, due to mixed use projects by the Urban League (new construction and renovation of brownstones on State Street). And with MCC’s move to Kodak Tower in the next few years, even more people will be there. Plus, you have the sunken gardens and other plans for the area. High Falls is almost there as a destination. It is not as you have stated.

  33. Lorilyn says:

    There is at least one small hydro-electric building near by. I’ve been in it. I’ve been inside Station 5, too.

    Yes, you should focus your mission on access rather than the dead issue of not tearing down the buildings.

    Go for it! Identify what “access” means: A park? A sitting area with picnic tables? Stairs to get to it? (Big liability there!) Handicapped accessible? Parking? Lighting? Avoiding vandalism to existing structures? Insurance when a kid falls in the river? (NY state is lawsuit-happy.)

    There are a lot of issues. Address them, document them, and identify the benefits. Then figure out whether you would want it to be a joint RG&E venture with the City or just RG&E. I would think it’d have to be joint since RG&E is not in the park business.

    Then start a campaign. Get a website. A change.org petition. Twitter account. Get top people on your side.

    Do your best to get done what is possible. Don’t waste effort on what is not possible. (Saving the buildings is not possible.)

    Good luck!

  34. Matthew Denker says:

    I’m always intrigued by the argument of saving a building is not possible. I mean, ok, sometimes a building is too far gone to be saved. Sometimes they blow up from gas line leaks and such. But really, buildings don’t frequently just fall down. Similarly, it is a rare case that the building in question of being saved is in any eminent danger of doing itself in. Beebe isn’t about to just hop into the river of its own accord. It, like so many other buildings will be torn down by people. It still exists, and thus it can be saved. That doesn’t mean it’s profitable, or worth it, or that RG&E would do it, or that Joel can persuade anyone TO do it, but it still exists, and it is not running away, and thus it absolutely CAN be saved. Just pointing that out.

  35. Lorilyn says:

    Strange logic.

  36. Chuck says:

    I worked at Beebee Station from the early 70’s to 1980. Part of my responsibility was to preserve the abundant history of the plant and serve as tour guide. Several turbines dated back to the early 1900’s. It was amazing to see pictures of rock being taken up the hill by donkey. In the day asbestos was the only way to insulate the steam piping, it would be a tremendous remediation project. I still can picture walking from one end of the plant to the other on grated walkways. The changeover to bunker C oil was amazing. The buildings are a piece of industrial magic that should be preserved even if only in part for generations to marvel at.

  37. Lorilyn says:

    So where is the history of the plant? Where are the photos of the donkeys?

    It would be great to have pictures and videos of the place and interviews with the former workers before the buildings were torn down.

    That’s the least they could do.

  38. Tom says:

    from working there in the 80’s and some 90’s. it really was pretty cool. like I said in earlier posts Beebee was amazing. You could fit Russell Station into Beebee twice! huge! yes turbines are very old in what we called the old house. I guess the building would look much better if they took down the metal siding that was put up years ago and then you can see what the building really looked like. Like I said, I have great memories there, I know it will probably come down, I think it is a shame.

  39. Anson says:

    I visited this station the other day and was struck by how much decay there is within Rochester city limits. Any updates on what’s going on with this project by RG&E? I’d be interested in getting involved to push for something a little more progressive than fenced in grass.

  40. Lorilyn says:

    Anson, there is no benefit to RG&E to do anything more progressive. If it was open to the public, they would have the liability. Why would they ever want that?

    If it was a progressive city, the city would purchase it (or ask for it to be donated, fat chance, though} and make it a park at least.

    But that’s not what Rochester does. It SELLS off its parkland area to private developers to develop projects no one needs or wants. (Edgewater’s plan for Charlotte.)

  41. Greg says:

    Having worked at Beebee Station for 20 years, it is sad to see it go. People that are not aware of the history of this site would be surprised at the number of new technologies that were pioneered there. It once was the largest power plant east of the Mississippi. It once powered the Rochester subway system, made coke and an artificial gas substitute for natural gas. It originally was 50 cycles and later converted to 60. Extremely reliable, it supplied steam to downtown and was capable of generating 150 Megawatts or more. with the addition of Unit 12 in the 1950’s that number approached 200. Some of the turbo-generators go back to 1902, some other equipment even older. The first commercial Hydrogen cooled generator was used there.In it’s entire history it probably was only off-line 3 times, which is a stellar record. Pollution controls were installed there long before they were required (1930’s) Regardless of what it looks like now, it has been a marvelous piece of machinery that served Rochester well. Anyone interested in finding out more it’s history and the history of the dedicated men that worked there. Feel free to contact me at zorgblats@gmail.com. I will share what I know.

  42. Andrew says:

    Looks like demolition has begun. Any update on what the plans are afterwards?


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