(Rochester, N.Y.) – The announcement was a stunner.
Last fall, Governor Eliot Spitzer came to Rochester and pledged up to $65 million to tear down Midtown Plaza. PAETEC Communications agreed to build its world headquarters on the site.
The governor put the money in his proposed budget. The funds have not been approved by the Legislature.
Following Monday’s stunner from the governor, there are worries Albany’s biggest champion for the project will be out of the picture.
“I can't predict the future of what will happen in Albany,” said Mayor Robert Duffy. “I can certainly say this project is so big for New York state, for upstate, for this region.”
Duffy said he’s confident the money will remain in the budget.
The city has an aggressive timeline. Tenants have to be out in June. The city hopes to start site work in July. Demolition is expected early next year.
PAETEC CEO Arunas Chesonis was traveling Tuesday and not available for comment on the Spitzer scandal and the status of the project. Chesonis has donated $35,000 to the Spitzer-Paterson campaign fund over the last three years.
Chesonis hopes to have his company’s headquarters built within four years. He brought the idea to the mayor about locating at the Midtown site.
The University of Rochester Medical Center is counting on $50 million in state funding for its Translational Sciences building. A groundbreaking is planned for this spring. A spokesman said the medical center is confident the funds will be there, because many state lawmakers are on board the project.
State Senator James Alesi (R, Perinton) said the Senate is about to approve the 2008-09 budget, which contains the full Midtown funding.
“I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to get that accomplished,” he said.
Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D, Irondequoit) said the assembly plans to approve the funding.
If the Senate and Assembly pass separate budgets that include funding for Midtown, the next step is the two bodies have to work out a single budget. The governor would then have to sign it.
“If anything were to change, it will call into question how much influence do we have as a community in Albany. I think we have a lot,” Duffy said. “This will be a great test.”