Rochester, N.Y. - Several factors led RBTL to abandon plans for a Midtown theater in favor of one at Medley Centre, according to RBTL Chairman Arnold Rothschild.
First, the Midtown project has taken a long time to come together. The price tag for a theater at the site was about $70 million. RBTL would have been responsible for securing $15 million in private funding, which the organization has not accomplished.
Second, the theater, announced during the Robert Duffy administration, was not a priority for the Tom Richards administration.
"I don’t know how you build a performing arts center anywhere if the government, that’s not a priority," said Rothschild.
"Is it the most important thing for my administration to be working on? No," said Richards.
Third, Medley developer Scott Congel offered to build the 3,000-seat theater for RBTL at a cost of $40 million to $50 million. RBTL would not be responsible for the construction cost and would be a tenant in charge of operations and programming.
"I'm sure they could build something cheaper. But cheaper is what it is," said Richards. "If they want to build a metal box out in Medley and that’s okay with them, then that’s okay."
Congel offered to put $2.5 million into RBTL's current home, Auditorium Centre. The money would be used to retire the existing debt and make improvements. The Auditorium would still house other programming. Rothschild said the Auditorium, at 2,400 seats, is too small and ticket prices would have to be higher.
Rothschild is confident Congel can pull off the development. He said the new theater could be open in two years.
"We spend an awful lot of time figuring out why we can’t do things. I would say those who say it can’t be done should not get in the way of those about to do it," Rothschild said.
Congel plans a $750 million lifestyle center at Medley, which is nearly vacant. The project would include housing, retail, offices and a hotel. Congel has not done any interviews about the project and has not revealed any updated plans.
"I’m just not sure what kind of credibility this Medley proposal has and I’m not going to chase it. I’m just not," said Richards.