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A New Neighborhood Will Replace a Sunken Rochester Highway

2:30 PM CST on March 1, 2018

With a portion of the Inner Loop highway filled in, Rochester is ready to reconnect its downtown to the East End neighborhood with mixed-use development. Photos: Google Maps

Rochester's Inner Loop freeway is like a moat surrounding downtown, a sunken highway severing surrounding neighborhoods from the city center. But piece by piece, the city is starting to fix this great mistake of the Interstate era.

Late last year, the city finished the Inner Loop East highway removal project. Paid for in large part by a federal TIGER grant, the $22 million project filled in two-thirds of a mile of the old highway trench, setting the stage for better street grid connections and walkable development. The segment carried about 7,000 vehicles a day before it was filled in.

All told, the project has opened more than six acres of land for development. While the old Inner Loop right-of-way is still an empty gravel expanse, the city doesn't expect it to sit vacant very long.

Three development projects have the endorsement of Mayor Lovely Warren, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

The largest is the mixed-use "Neighborhood of Play," backed by the nearby Strong Museum of Play. It would include a museum expansion, as well as housing, retail, and a hotel.

The $105 million "Neighborhood of play" would include a hotel, museum space, retail and housing. Rendering: Urban Design Associates via Democrat & Chronicle
The "Neighborhood of Play." Rendering: Urban Design Associates via Democrat & Chronicle
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Another developer is planning a pair of four-story buildings with housing, retail, and offices.

And a third developer, which already has two residential projects underway near the Inner Loop, will add a third building with below-market apartments where the Inner Loop used to be.

A third building by Home Leasing would bring affordable housing to an area formerly occupied by the Inner Loop freeway. Rendering: SWBR Architects via Democrat and Chronicle
Home Leasing's "Charlotte Square Phase III" will build below-market apartments on a parcel formerly occupied by the Inner Loop freeway. Rendering: SWBR Architects via Democrat and Chronicle
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Here's a view of the space cleared by the highway.

The removal of the Inner Loop freeway opened up six acres of land for development. Photo: City of Rochester
The removal of the Inner Loop freeway opened up six acres of land for development. Photo: City of Rochester
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City spokesperson James Smith told the Democrat & Chronicle that the success of this phase of the project could lead to similar changes along the northern section of the Inner Loop, which remains a sunken highway.

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