Rochester's High Falls, once the cradle of the region's industry, now the cradle of a green movement

The High Falls district is a wonderful historic area of downtown Rochester that has long struggled for an identity.  During the 17th and 18th Century, it was the cradle of Rochester’s industry as the mighty Genesee River was funneled off into Brown’s Race, powering gristmills that led to Rochester being christened  the “Flour City.” Soon, other businesses cropped up around the gristmills, such as one of the world’s largest button factories, the Eastman Kodak Company and the Genesee Brewing Company. Click here for the history  and a walking tour of the High Falls and Historic Brown’s Race District.

In recent years, the district no longer had the same high traffic it once did, and excluding a recent attempt to turn it into an entertainment district, it has lain fallow, waiting for the right opportunity to flourish.  Recent endeavors to renovate buildings there and turn them into mixed-use complexes offer encouragement that this will be one of Rochester’s next growth districts.

One visionary company that has seen the possibilities of this district is the Philipson Group, a  marketing, design and  event planning group that is the driving force behind the upcoming Greentopia Festival taking place on September 17-18 in the High Falls District.  This will be an event unlike any other you’ve attended because of its focus on ecology, sustainability and environmental best practices. This event will also become  a “launchpad” for a new initiative to transform the Pont de Rennes Bridge into a suspended arboretum and park. “GardenAerial,” its prospective name, will be designed to encourage foot and bike traffic, showcasing the district’s history and its beautiful 96′ urban waterfall.

It is exciting how many organizations have gotten behind and are partnering on this initiative, demonstrating this region’s commitment to the environment.

There’ll be an exciting lineup of speakers both days.  Saturday will feature an array of Eco Quick-Talks, and on Sunday, keynoters Ed Begley Jr., Actor and Activist (live via Skype), Bill McKibben, Author, Educator and Environmentalist, Paul Watson, Animal Rights Activist and Conservationist (via skype), Patrick Cullina, V.P. of Horticulture and Park Operations (via skype) and Michael Cooper, Civil Engineer at Bergmann Associates will share insights. During the afternoon on Sunday, a variety of enviro-mentor panels gather speakers discussing green topics and issues.  All  speakers are encouraged to use a “TedTalks” style of fast-paced engaging presentation and the topics cover everything from waste reduction, urban living, health and wellness and alternative energy to green homes and more.

Attendees are also invited to “Bike the Bridges” on Saturday, September 17 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for a scenic tour of the area (be sure to see brochure and to sign waiver), and there’ll be plenty of music (more than a dozen groups will be performing), food (including culinary demonstrations by local chefs on the use of regional products) , kids’ activities, exhibitions and vending of consumer-oriented green products and technologies, and a showcase of alternative fuel low-emissions vehicles.

This event is free and open to the public and takes place in the High Falls Historic Browns Race District of Rochester.

I hope you’re as excited about this event as I am and I look forward to seeing you there.

P.S. If you’re there on Sunday, September 18, I’ll be participating on an enviro-mentor panel from 4 to 5 p.m. in the main room at the Center at High Falls.  The topic I’ll be covering will be “Sustainable Finger Lakes: The Greening of a Tourism Treasure.”  Check out my “video postcard” that will be part of the presentation and that offers a snapshot of a longer piece I’m working on that will include interviews and more tourism-oriented businesses.

Photo and text copyright 2011©Carol White Llewellyn.

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