South Wedge & Highland Park: A Mix of Urban and Green Landscapes
Shortly after moving to Rochester I began looking for a walkable and affordable urban neighborhood where I could get involved in neighborhood planning and community development as a volunteer and resident. I was drawn to the South Wedge and Highland Park Neighborhoods due to the excitement surrounding the commercial district on South Ave and the proximity to Highland Park. I soon found an affordable and tiny 1850 fixer upper for my first home.
My immediate neighborhood between the South Ave commercial district of the South Wedge and Highland Park offered me activity and excitement to the north and peaceful greenspace and beautiful landscapes to the south, both within a quick walk.
After getting married, my wife and I hoped to find a bigger home still in close proximity to both the Wedge and Highland Park and were lucky to find a great house across the street from the Park in a 1940s fixer upper. We love the location which offers us the ability to walk in the park daily, while still being a short walk from all the activity and local businesses in the Wedge.
Why I love the South Wedge:
(A small walkable urban village that has been revitalized do to the hard work, investment and cooperative efforts of residents, local businesses, and community stakeholders.)
- Historic buildings and intact urban streets – While some areas of Rochester have experienced varying degrees of suburban style auto-oriented development, the historic urban form of the Wedge is largely intact. Residents and property owners have invested time and money rehabbing their buildings over the years. The
neighborhood has a small local preservation district at South Ave and Gregory St, and a large National Register Historic District that includes over 300 properties.
- Activity – Something is always going on in the Wedge. There are always people on the street walking to and from businesses, homes, work and play. People and activity on the street are key components of great urban neighborhoods.
- Location and walkability – The compact design of the Wedge makes it very walkable and its location within the City allows for a quick walk to many places such as downtown, the Genesee Riverfront and Canal Trail, Highland Park, and other nearby neighborhoods. There are also convenient bus lines in the Wedge on Mt. Hope, South Ave, and S. Clinton Ave / Goodman St.
- Local Businesses – One of the great assets of the South Wedge is all of the locally owned businesses and friendly business owners, many of whom live in the neighborhood and are passionate about seeing the area succeed.
- People – The Wedge is a tightknit community made up of interesting people. Neighbors tend to know each other and really care about their neighborhood which is why they are so active in neighborhood and community groups. The area has a number of block clubs as well as a strong neighborhood association and business association.
Why I love Highland Park:
(A historic, world class Olmsted Park and Arboretum featuring some of the finest landscapes and plant collections.)
- History – the parkland and many of its original plant species were donated to the City of Rochester in 1887 by George Ellwanger and Patrick Barry owners of the Mt. Hope Nursery (which was one of the largest and most productive nurseries in the world in the 1860s-1870s). The park plan was created by world renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted whose design has been preserved through careful maintenance and appropriate expansion over the years. The horticultural history of the neighborhood and City lives on through the park and its wide variety of plant collections.
- Design – While the park may look completely natural it is the result of Olmsted’s careful planning and incorporation of manicured landscapes and trails into the existing topography of the site. The winding paths highlight different plant collections and around each bend a new view is framed inviting visitors to continue walking and exploring.
- Plant Collections – From spring to fall, something new is always blooming in Highland Park. The park features hundreds of species of trees, shrubs and flowers from around the world (many of which are rare and some of which are the top specimens in the state and country).
- Passive recreation – The trails in Highland Park offer some of the best walks/strolls in the City. On any given day there are families, dog walkers, and couples wandering through the park observing the peaceful landscapes and enjoying all that the park has to offer.
- (Visit http://www.highlandparkconservancy.org/ for more information. New website coming soon!)
Lastly, a piece of advice: find a neighborhood you love, get involved, and volunteer!
Volunteering for a neighborhood or community organization is a great way to connect with your neighbors and advocate for your neighborhood priorities.
posted by Tom Kicior
Tom is a Senior City Planner in the City of Rochester’s Bureau of Planning and Zoning, and has been involved with neighborhood and community development groups such as the South Wedge Planning Committee; Business Association of the South Wedge; Azalea Neighbors; and Highland Park Conservancy.