I-Team 10 Investigation: Downtown theatre revived?

Posted at: 03/27/2014 6:12 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

Could efforts to build a downtown performing arts center be revived? I-Team 10 has learned Rochester’s mayor has made a formal request for state funding.  

Mayor Lovely Warren says it will take $100 million to make the center happen. Mayor Warren has pitched the idea to the governor, saying she’s committed to finding a way to bring a performing arts center to downtown Rochester.

It is no secret Lovely Warren supports a downtown performing arts center, preferable on the former Midtown site. Now she’s put it in writing in a letter to the governor and asked the state to fund it. 

When Mayor Lovely Warren campaigned last fall, she expressed support for a downtown performing arts center at the former Midtown site. Now she's following through. I-Team 10 has obtained a letter from Warren to Governor Cuomo. The letter was written last month. It is a list of her top funding requests.

Among them, she asks the state for $100 million for a downtown theatre, citing it as an economic driver and a magnet for visitors and tourists.

Arnie Rothschild, RBTL President, said, "We need a new theatre and the community deserves a new theatre. And so as they review if they take a look at the economic impact, I think it's a very compelling case."

Rothschild says he hasn't spoken with the mayor about her funding request, but applauds her effort.

RBTL has already aligned with the owners of the Medley Centre to bring the theatre there, but re-development of the former mall has stalled. Rothschild says he'll wait to see how it all unfolds. 

Rothschild said, “The idea that suddenly two locations want us thrills me, as opposed to no one wanting us for a long time."

Warren was in Albany Thursday and was unavailable for comment. 

A downtown performing arts center is not a new idea. Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks pushed hard to build Renaissance Square. It combined a theatre, bus terminal and MCC campus, but the project fell apart in 2009 over disagreements with the city over the final design. Brooks said she still supports the idea of a downtown theatre.

Maggie Brooks, Monroe County Executive, said, "I have always said that arts and culture is going to be a driver for revitalization in our center city. So to the extent the new mayor shares a piece of that vision, I'm encouraged by that."

A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo said due to the current budget negotiations going on, they would be declining comment for now.  In the letter, the mayor also asks for state funding for several other projects including the Inner Loop and improvements to the Rochester Public Market.