Vacuum Oil - South Genesee River Corridor Brownfield Opportunity Area

Project Background

The Department of State’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) Program  provides communities with guidance, expertise and financial assistance, up to 90 percent of the total eligible project costs, to complete revitalization and implementation strategies for neighborhoods or areas affected by brownfields. The NYS BOA Program is a 3-step process that enables communities to comprehensively assess existing economic and environmental conditions associated with brownfield blight and impacted areas, identify and prioritize community supported redevelopment opportunities, and attract public and private investment.

Planning for the City of Rochester Vacuum Oil - South Genesee River Brownfield Opportunity Area (VOBOA) began in 2006 when the City of Rochester completed Step 1 of the NYS BOA Program  which led to funding from the NYS Department of State (NYS DOS) for Step 2 in 2010.  During Step 2, the City of Rochester worked with neighborhood stakeholders to develop a revitalization strategy for the VOBOA. That collaboration and vision led to further funding in fall of 2014 for Step 3 which involves detailed planning and predevelopment studies and activities.

The City of Rochester received top honors and the 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award from New Partners for Community Revitalization (NPCR), the leading state brownfields organization. Read the news release here.  In addition, the VOBOA is among the first twelve BOAs designated by NYS Governor Cuomo, making VOBOA properties eligible to receive additional tax credit incentives to transform dormant and blighted areas into economic development projects. Read the full announcement here.

Participation in the NYS BOA Program seeks to help to stimulate further investment in the neighborhood and will provide important information to assist in bringing new businesses, residents and employment as well as improving access to the Genesee River waterfront. 

Step 3 – Implementation Strategy

As described above, the VOBOA program is a 3-Step process. Step 3 involves several studies that will lead to a well-defined implementation strategy.  Essentially, the vision is taken from a conceptual plan to a more detailed and developable plan with information and tools to facilitate development.  The funded work plan has many components, each with its own team and components. 

Click on the components below to see the information and documents currently available for review:

Work Plan Component  Component Description 
Building Condition and Structural Assessments The condition of specified structures and their suitability for reuse will be analyzed to determine the extent of necessary structural repairs, code compliance improvements and associated costs. This task will include an architectural and structural inspection of the properties, the development of floor plans and elevations, and the completion of costs estimates for proposed improvements to prepare these structures for redevelopment.
Housing Analysis and Reinvestment Strategy A resident-driven and market-based strategy for housing will be developed. This in-depth housing analysis, modeled after the successful JOSANA Neighborhood Plan, will identify how the neighborhood can be strengthened as a market and how this market can have a positive impact upon the quality of life for the Study Area.
Land Appraisals The City will hire a professional appraiser(s) to complete land appraisals within the footprint of the former Vacuum Oil refinery and portions of properties that may be required for new right-of-way. The appraisals will be utilized for budgeting, cost estimating, financing and legal due diligence aspects to implement all future activities within the BOA.
Generic Environmental Impact Statement The City team will complete a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) to identify potential adverse environmental impacts and mitigation alternatives to expedite future private redevelopment activities. The GEIS will establish a set of development thresholds for development density, open space, traffic volume and parking as well as examine proposed zoning changes.
Geotechnical Investigations The City intends to procure geotechnical experts to provide subsurface drilling and discovery analysis for a thorough evaluation of geotechnical conditions for redevelopment. The evaluation will also report on the depth to bedrock, the make-up of the soil and the underlying geomorphology along the banks of the Genesee River.
Phase I Environmental Site Assessments Complete Phase 1 assessments, per ASTM standards, will be conducted for several properties within the Vacuum Oil site footprint. This due diligence effort is required prior to redevelopment or reuse of these sites.
Floodplain Engineering Assessment & Mitigation Planning This task includes an assessment of feasible alternatives for development, potential impacts to the floodplain and the identification of potential mitigation efforts. Information from the geotechnical investigations may also be utilized to inform the flood plain assessment.
Wetland and Invasive Species Assessment & Mitigation Planning This task will review existing NYSDEC and National Wetlands Inventory mapping and perform a site inspection to identify the presence and extent of wetlands on site. In addition, this effort will include the identification of invasive species along the Genesee Riverway Trail and waterfront and develop a scope of work to eradicate noxious species to prepare for landscape enhancements as part of BOA Master Plan implementation efforts.
Traffic Study and Transportation and Infrastructure Feasibility and Enhancement Studies, including Exchange Street Streetscape and Traffic Calming This task includes the planning and design of several new, rehabilitated or extended roadways that are proposed as part of the BOA Master Plan. Planning and design includes the feasible alignment, conceptual design and anticipated function of the roadways. In coordination with feasibility and preliminary design services for new and expanded transportation infrastructure, the City's team will also conduct an analysis of anticipated traffic and parking impacts within the neighborhood as a result of the incremental build-out of the BOA Master Plan. This analysis will assist in the appropriate sizing, configuration and location of streets and parking areas, and will identify alternatives to meet anticipated parking demands. In addition, a complete analysis of existing streetscape and traffic conditions of Exchange Street will be conducted to determine appropriate alternatives to enhance accessibility, safety and aesthetics along the corridor and at primary intersections. Lastly, an analysis of the existing utility infrastructure will be conducted to determine if the current capacity is sufficient to support proposed development density.
Waterfront and Public Realm Concept Plan, including Neighborhood Pocket Park Site Selection & Conceptual Design The City team will prepare a Waterfront Recreation and Public Realm Master Plan which will identify, program and conceptually design public space improvements and historic/cultural interpretation opportunities within the BOA and along the Genesee River waterfront. The plan will identify a location and concept designs for at least one additional neighborhood park within the BOA.
Zoning Update proposed and Design Standard for Development drafted The City team will codify a set of changes to the existing zoning code and map to reflect the vision for redevelopment within the BOA Study Area, including the creation of a set of design standards that visually depict appropriate design alternatives that meet the spirit and intent of the BOA vision.
Developer Site Evaluation Reports and Pro-formas The City will complete Site Evaluation Reports for select strategic sites that aggregate extensive data and information pertaining to the condition of the site and its viability as an investment. These reports will be modeled from those currently utilized within the private real estate development industry during the due diligence and investment decision making process. As part of these reports, a model pro-forma will be developed to determine required cash flow, income and anticipated tax implications.

Community Participation 

This ongoing community-based planning effort seeks to integrate ideas generated from residents, business owners, and other stakeholders into the actual development of plan recommendations. Continued involvement and participation by the public is critical to ensuring the planning processes are successful and the final plans achieve the community’s vision.

The PLEX Neighborhood Association will be assisting the City of Rochester with community outreach.  Click here to go to the PLEX website 

The VOBOA planning project engages a Project Advisory Committee composed of members of the PLEX Neighborhood Association; neighborhood residents, property owners, and business owners; City Council members; and government agency representatives. Step 3 PAC meeting information available here:

Nov. 18, 2015 

July 22, 2015 

Brownfield Cleanup 

Within the VOBOA, substantial
acreage has been accepted
into the New York State
Brownfield Cleanup Program.
For more information, click here.


We want to hear from you!

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If you have questions about the project or would like more information, please contact:

Dorraine Kirkmire
Environmental Specialist/Planner, Division of Environmental Quality, City of Rochester
(585) 428-6698 or email her