I was saddened to learn last week about Rochester Gas and Electric Corp’s shortsighted proposal to demolish Beebee Station. If the plans are carried out, Rochester will have a tremendous hole at the center of the city: High Falls. What is most important to realize is that there is another, alternative way forward…
See the Pratt Street Power Plant in Baltimore here and here . Take a look at the Long Island Power Station that was successfully converted into upscale residential condominiums. Several more projects are underway, such as the Ottawa Street Power Station reuse in Lansing, Michigan, the repurposing of Yonkers Power Station in Yonkers, NY, or the extremely cool redevelopment of the Seaholm Power Plant in Austin, Texas, which became the EPA’s first “Ready for Reuse” project under the Toxic Substance Control Act.
Look at the following extraordinary examples of adaptive reuse of industrial buildings: a sewage treatment plant in the Netherlands, a water pumping station in Berlin, and a water processing plant in Amsterdam. Most adaptive reuse projects elsewhere in the world are at least ten times the cost of those in Rochester.
Was there something “less contaminated” about those buildings? No, there was not. Admittedly, the cleanup of Beebee will require a great amount of money and will take years–perhaps a decade–to complete, but it will create many construction and permanent jobs for our community.
Imagine the High Falls area without this anchor building. Then imagine loft apartments, art galleries and studios, a theater, hotel, an architecturally significant Wegmans location, shopping, restaurants, exterior climbing walls, a new park along the river, and perhaps even an environmentally-themed school with river access.
Think of all of the amazing economic development in a portion of the City that has radically changed within the last few years. The Urban League’s apartments and MCC’s move to the High Falls neighborhood are just the start of what is possible. I could foresee this as a project that local, state, and federal officials, the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, the City and County, and local business leaders could get behind and help to finance.
The bottom line: Rochester is so far “behind the curve” of most other cities. And we do not even seem to care any longer about historic preservation. Clearly Rochester can and should do better. As one energy consulting firm executive recently stated, “Repurposing these old power plants not only signals a shift in where people live and what they do … but also how they think about the environment and how our energy mix is changing and evolving.” Rochester and RG&E need to “get with the times.”
RG&E can help this community at its core, at the place in the High Falls where this City got its start. RG&E could take advantage of millions of dollars in historic preservation tax credits for equity in the redevelopment of this huge property. When the rusty metal exterior of several of the Beebee Station buildings come off, we will all see the tremendous windows and architectural detail that has been hidden for years. The possibilities for Beebee Station are endless. I remain hopeful that smarter thinking will prevail.
RG&E will discuss their future plans for the decommissioned BeeBee Station in a private session for High Falls Business Association members this Tuesday (8:00 a.m.) at RG&E’s main office. But you can see the “future plans” right here…
About Joel Helfrich:
Tags: adaptive reuse, Bankside Power Station, Battersea Power Station, demolition, downtown Rochester, Gasometer City, High Falls, Joel Helfrich, RG&E Beebee Station, Rochester, Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E), Rochester NY, rochester photos, Tate Modern art museum
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