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Hochul budget includes $100 million for Inner Loop North fill-in

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Gov. Kathy Hochul has included $100 million in her 2022-23 budget for a proposal to fill in the north section of the Inner Loop, a project Mayor Malik Evans on Monday hailed as one of the greatest development opportunities in modern Rochester history.

Hochul announced the funding during a stop at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus. During a news conference following a meeting with the governor, Evans said the project provides a chance to right historical wrongs.

“We’re reconnecting communities,” Evans said. “That’s what that moat did, it divided communities.”

Evans added that the $100 million allocation would amount to an unprecedented sum of state money for a single project in the city. He compared it to the construction of the Erie Canal, which made Rochester a boomtown, and which the state completed in 1825 at a cost of $7 million, or roughly $200 million in today’s dollars.

The northern section of the Inner Loop stretches about 1.5 miles and once filled in could create about 25 acres of new, developable land on the edge of downtown. In 2019, former Commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood and Business Development Norm Jones estimated the project would cost approximately $100 million.

Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services Rich Perrin said his predecessor’s estimate is likely still on point. The city, however, will seek additional funding to support the project, he added.

“What we’re seeing right now is incredible volatility in the bidding environment, that’s just where we are right now,” Perrin said. “We have a supply chain that was completely disrupted because of COVID…We’re looking at it, we’ll keep an eye on the cost.”

Perrin and Evans said the state commitment gives the city the chance to move forward quickly on the project. The city expects to release the final planning study next month, issue a request for proposals in April or May, and begin the preliminary designs this summer — they could take two years to complete..

If everything goes according to plan, the project could be finished by 2027, said Erik Frisch, deputy commissioner of the city’s Department of Neighborhood and Business Development.

During her remarks Monday, Hochul said she wants to see an expedited process for getting the fill-in done.

“We have a two year design process underway now,” said Hochul. “And I’m going to say, could we shorten that a little bit? But we’ll replicate the success of the Inner Loop East. We know how to do this, we’ve done it before, and we can have the in-fill. This area has divided Rochester too long.”

Evans said he hopes that the new space near the center of the city could inspire the formation of a vibrant neighborhood, including a new wave of businesses.

“This project will set the stage for other investments to come, and we can’t even think about or realize, we can’t even imagine it,” Evans said. “This investment will allow us to take Rochester to the next level, it’s going to allow us to reconnect our neighborhoods, neighborhoods that should not have disconnected.”

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or gino@rochester-citynews.com.

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