Mayor Lovely Warren is quietly building support for a downtown theater. She is handing out a booklet to business and political leaders called, "Setting the Stage: A Performing Arts Center for Downtown Rochester."
Warren asked Governor Andrew Cuomo for $100 million to fund the project at the Midtown site.
"I had a meeting with the governor a few weeks back. His thought was go to the community of Rochester and build the support for it and I'll take a serious look at it," Warren said.
Now, she's trying to build that consensus. The booklet describes the economic impact of all arts and cultural institutions in Rochester, citing an Arts and Cultural Council study showing a $198 million economic impact.
Warren wants Rochester to have an identity as the City of the Arts. She said Buffalo is known for professional sports, Syracuse is known for college sports and Albany is known as the state capital.
"What are we really known for? We're known for being innovative when it comes down to arts and being a community that embraces the arts," the mayor said. "I believe a performing arts center in our downtown will help us with that."
Warren said people focused too much on her $100 million request.
"This is capital funding. It comes from a completely different pot and it's spread over a long period of time, so it wouldn't be $100 million that the state would pay out right away," she said.
There are still a lot of questions about a downtown theater. How much would it cost? Would there be an operating subsidy? Warren said possibilities to subsidize the facility would could come from parking revenues, the hotel-motel tax or a surcharge on tickets at a planned movie theater at Midtown Tower.
"For me, it's not trying to figure out 100 ways why this can't work, let's figure out a way that it can work that is not a burden to the citizens and taxpayers of Rochester and that would help enhance and bring tourists and people in our downtown," said the mayor.
Meanwhile, the Rochester Broadway Theatre League still has a memorandum of understanding with the developer of Medley Centre. However, that project is stalled.
"We've always liked downtown site," said RBTL Chairman Arnold Rothschild. "We continue to work with (Medley owner Scott) Congel. Both are different projects. We think both would be successful."
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