Once upon a time when I worked in downtown Rochester, I could walk at lunchtime in any kinds of weather and not get wet. There used to be an extensive skyway system. It was a walk that usually took 30-40 minutes and was a nice break away from work. Parts of the tunnel/skyway system were a bit chilly, but the walk could be taken in all sorts of weather – even snowstorms and high heat and humidity.
|Bridge from Chase to Midtown|
I would leave my desk in Clinton Square, take the elevator downstairs and then go out the back of the building into the Chase Tower. I then took the escalator in the Tower up to the 2nd level. From there, I walked across the skyway bridge into Midtown Plaza. After taking a loop of the second level of Midtown, I walked out the back of Midtown and walked through another series of skyway bridges. I eventually ended that arm of the route at the Washington Square garage. I turned back to retrace my steps.
Just before entering Midtown Plaza again, there was another skyway bridge that lead off towards Xerox (where Eric used to work). We walked to meet each other at lunchtime several times over the years. From the Xerox side of the skyway, there were also underground connections that lead over to the Bausch & Lomb building and also to elevators that went up into the Rundell library expansion.
After doing the B&L loop, I went back into Midtown and back into the Chase Tower. Going down into the Chase Concourse of Shops, there was a hallway off the back that lead down underground and hooked up to the South Avenue parking garage. If you kept going, the escalators lead to the skyway bridge that connected with the Convention Center. You could walk through the Convention Center and follow the skyway bridge into where it ended at the Radisson Hotel. I would then loop around the second floor of the hotel and turn back to retrace my steps back into Chase Tower and back to work at Clinton Square.
I went out at lunchtime the other day, hoping to explore some of the old walkways. I left the Crossroads Building at the Four Corners and walked up Exchange to Court Street. I went East on Court Street and kept going past the Blue Cross Arena. I passed the Rundell library and the Bausch & Lomb building. As I approached Xerox, I could already see that things looked different. As I turned North on Chestnut Street and approached the block where Midtown Plaza used to stand, I was devastated and stood speechless looking at the barren lot where the old Plaza used to stand. I was so saddened that I couldn’t even take pictures of the empty lot.
|What Midtown Plaza used to look
like from the back
|View of Midtown today|
It became very clear as I looked at what used to be the heart of the skyway system and its connections that the skyway system as I knew it is no more. The center of it has been removed. I still (after all these years) cannot believe that there wasn’t a way to keep Midtown Plaza open and preserve it as a landmark of some sort. The City was so hasty to tear it down and make way for Paetec and its corporate headquarters. Paetec’s plans changed, of course. “The new downtown headquarters for PAETEC was to be part of a redevelopment plan, with the state of New York using a 40 million dollar state grant to clear the Midtown site”. “With the economic recession of 2008–2009, PAETEC scaled down their plans significantly, first to a much smaller new building, and then to a simple re-use of the existing Seneca Building. With PAETEC’s acquisition by Windstream Communications, the new plan will involve only two-thirds of the Seneca Building; the city is considering options for the corner parcel on which the Tower would have been built”. How sad that the Mall had to go for a project that fizzled and failed.
Here is an interesting article I found about the future of the skyway system – http://www.rbj.net/print_article.asp?aID=192011. The connection I mentioned to the B&L building and the Rundell library cost $4 million to build, and now it likely gets limited use. According to the author, the City planners believe that the street life is far more important than the skyway system. I say “Boo!” to you, Rochester planners. I believe that there was a place for both indoor and outdoor connections. I also believe that there was a place for a revitalized Midtown Plaza. Instead of raising rents and driving all the shops and stores out of the plaza (does anyone remember when Wegmans used to sit in the back corner?), you should have been trying to attract more and better stores. Downtown used to be something to behold, especially at Christmas time.
I did walk part of the old skyway system when I was out the other day. I went into Clinton Square and over into Chase Tower. You can’t take the escalators up to the second floor anymore – they are blocked off since there is no connection to Midtown Plaza now. The lower level of Chase Tower is also horrifying. It’s all empty. All the old storefronts are still there advertising a pizza shop, a restaurant/grill, a hair salon, and several others. They are all vacant except for a barber shop.
I went over through the South Avenue garage into the Convention Center and to the Radisson Hotel. Here is a photo of a gingerbread version of the White House on display in the Convention Center. This was the highlight of my walk and the only reason for a smile or two.
You really can’t go “home” again. It makes you sad.