Not a lot has been said in public about what's going on, but Rochester Broadway Theatre League leaders say a lot is going on behind the scenes to get a new performing arts center in Irondequoit. They say are confident the project will happen.
"Right now, we're straight ahead, green lights, moving forward with this."
RBTL chairman Arnie Rothschild says RBTL has been in talks with developer Scott Congel for more than a year. He says Congel will spend between $40 million and $50 million to build a new 3,000-seat theater in Irondequoit's Medley Center.
In 2009, we saw an idea of what plans could look like, in a project the Congel group was calling Lakeridge Center.
Rothschild says the deal with Congel also includes the developer paying off RBTL's $1.6 million debt of the Auditorium Theatre and putting $700,000 to $900,000 in to renovate it.
"From the community point of view, it's the best of all worlds. It's going to be great, brand new, state-of-the-art performing arts center with all the amenities, and a reasonably sized downtown theatre that can handle the parking, that can handle the size shows where currently those things are a problem,” Rothschild said.
What's always been at issue with this project is the money. Rothschild says Congel has made big deals happen before. In this plan, Congel would own the properties; RBTL would operate them.
"I've probably been in 15 meetings at minimum about the financing of this deal. I'm personally confident that's its moving forward,” he said.
In 2010, RBTL announced that it had chosen the former Midtown Plaza site for the new theater. Rothschild says ultimately those plans cost more – $70 million. He also felt things did not move quickly enough because the city had other priorities.
"It's great project to have downtown, we made a space for them at Midtown that's still available. But they can't afford to build it and they can't afford to maintain it so they're going to have to get government money to make the project work,” said Tom Richards, Rochester mayor.
“It's fair for the city to ask of people, fair of the government who come to them and ask of people you got to raise enough money privately to be credible and if you do that, we'll partner with you. As far as I know, they've never been able to do it,” Richards said.
Throughout all of what's happened at Medley Center, Irondequoit town leaders say they've been cautiously optimistic. They are again now, hoping RBTL's presence there may actually make the whole project there finally come together.
"I do think things are beginning to turn around and hopefully some finding will loosen up. It's difficult to be patient, but I think in the end the project will be so worth it that we just hold tight for now hope that in the spring we'll see some real action, if not before,” said Deborah Essley, Irondequoit Deputy Supervisor.
Arnie Rothschild says construction could begin as early as this spring and the new theater could be in place by 2015.