City unveils waterfront plans

Published Dec 6, 2017 at 4:00pm

The city plans to reopen Clinton’s Ditch near the Barge Canal as a unique feature for an area of the waterfront it is trying to develop, and the public got its first look at that plan at an informational meeting Tuesday evening.

The project is an infrastructure upgrade and improved access to the area to foster development. It is paired with the proposed housing complex at the site of the former DeWitt Clinton school on Ann Street, and extends to the canal’s waterfront between the bridges of South James Street and the Arterial.

Dubbed the Rome Waterfront Village Project, it is meant to add features to the area to encourage use there, whether that’s recreational or commercial.

The site covers 15.28 acres south of downtown with frontage along the river and canal. It’s about 3,300 feet between the bridges.

The project involves public rights-of-way improvements around the DeWitt Clinton site. Designers Tuesday noted that there is no intention to demolish any buildings in the area as part of the municipal project, though the former school will be torn down for the housing project.

The key feature of this project is to open up Clinton’s Ditch, designers told the crowd of about 30, calling it a unique feature. The plan is to uncover the canal that predated the Erie Canal, restoring it to a 4-foot-deep grassy channel flanked by sidewalks. It would slope from 40 feet wide at the top to 28 feet across at the bottom. The Ditch would not naturally flow into the canal. Its presence, it was noted, would help mitigate storm water in the area.

The city has a state Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant of $783,550 to study what to do in and around the waterfront area. There is no outside money yet for the work, but city officials at the meeting said they are reviewing options and plan to aggressively pursue such funding once the design documents are complete. The goal is to have those designs done by March next year, though all the projects being planned could take up to a decade to complete when done in stages.

The city has hired three firms to complete the design. Bergman Associates, the general contractor, is covering such aspects as traffic factors like access and infrastructure upgrades needed, and is getting up to $381,000. Fisher Associates is involved with the rights-of-way in the immediate area around the Ann Street parcel, with a contract up to $124,350. O’Brien & Geer is handling the improvements at the waterfront, with a contract up to $228,200. The balance of about $50,000 covers salaries in the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development.