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Most favor Midtown site for RBTL’s new theater

The majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favor Midtown Plaza as the site for Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s new performing arts center.

The RBTL soon will complete its evaluation of site proposals for a new performing arts facility. Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy asked RBTL last week to add Midtown to the five sites the search committee has been considering.

The Clinton Crossings project in the town of Brighton, led by Anthony J. Costello & Son Development, received 15 percent of the vote, and some 14 percent favored the Medley Centre in the town of Irondequoit, owned by SRC Development Group LLC.

RBTL says it needs a new venue to attract top-shelf shows, and it maintains the cost of upgrading the Auditorium Theatre—its current home—is prohibitive.

Roughly 975 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Nov. 16 and 17.

Which site do you favor for RBTL’s new performing arts center?
Midtown Plaza in Rochester: 55%
Clinton Crossings in Brighton: 15%
Medley Centre in Irondequoit: 14%
Canal Ponds in Greece and Gates: 7%
Former Xerox facility in Webster: 5%
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington: 4%

Over the past several years, how frequently have you attended RBTL shows at the Auditorium Theatre?
I am an RBTL subscriber: 8%
Several times a year: 28%
Once a year: 31%
Less than once a year: 22%
Never: 11%

Here are some readers’ comments:

I really believe that a downtown performing arts center makes the most sense for community development. If only our community leaders could figure out how to make it simpler for the private development of the venue without turning it into a circus act.
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply

I am not certain that Midtown is the place for the theater, but somewhere downtown is the place. A community’s center city must be vibrant. If the community’s theater is located somewhere else, we have then made a conscious decision to remove one of the great opportunities for rebuilding Rochester.
—Richard C. Rivers, The Rivers Organization

The Brighton site is more centrally located than the other sites. It has bus access from the city, (is) right off of 590 and would allow for people on all sides of the city to attend events.
—John Esposito

I really don’t favor any money being spent on this project anywhere in the area. Support for the project is weak because we simply don’t need it here. We have plenty of usable venues as it is. The only reason this is being perpetuated is that it is some political pet project. Use the money for something that the community, and not just the few intellectual elite, will benefit from.
—Scott Ireland

We need the site downtown to revitalize the city. I think having it anywhere but downtown contradicts all the efforts being made to reinvigorate the city.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport

If you want people to come, locate the center in a central, easily accessible location. There is none more accessible or central than Clinton Crossings in Brighton.
—Ken Frank, Adam Communications

Any performing arts center ought to be located centrally, both for access from the entire community and for synergy with other arts facilities and organizations. However, I do not favor construction of a facility dedicated solely to RBTL, unless RBTL pays the entire bill without government assistance. If there will be any level of public funding, this facility should also accommodate other performing arts organizations—especially our many talented community theater companies.
—Martin Nott, president, Off-Monroe Players, and accounting director, O’Keeffe & Co.

As wonderful as the shows are, I stopped going because the Auditorium Theatre is so awful. The last time I went, before the show even started, the women’s bathroom was flooded and only one toilet was working. Seats are so uncomfortable and it’s so hard to see the stage; I can’t justify paying $100 for an experience that bad.
—C.M. Juby

While I appreciate and support the efforts of the towns that got engaged and I know of examples where such venues have temporarily been successful on the outskirts, visiting a performance there has always been an isolated experience. Forgive me, suburbs, but the best economic development in my eyes is to huddle and strengthen our city. With a strong city, all community business and the suburbs will prosper, too. A Broadway show belongs downtown – the theater must be imbedded in a geographical area where maximum synergies are created. Entertainment is what makes a city vibrant and creates quality of life. It’s time to see Greater Rochester as one and develop it with a clear focused vision (which needs work) or call it game plan, where every player (town) has its key role in winning the game.
—Hans von Gehlen, MindSetter LLC

I believe a downtown location is essential for a revitalized downtown Rochester, and I think it would be the best place for a theater. … Locations that are closer to the city are better than locations which are farther away, if RBTL wants to encourage good attendance. So Webster and especially Farmington are not good alternatives, whereas Brighton, Greece and Irondequoit (in that order) are much better.
—David S. Movsky, logistics consultant

The Webster site is easy-on and -off with minimum traffic considerations and other amenities like shopping and restaurants are easy-on, easy-off on Route 104 too! I think the Medley Centre would make a great MCC campus! Downtown has just lost its appeal: Bad parking, few restaurant choices and they roll up the sidewalk at dusk.
—Myron Kowal, Response Care Inc.

We need to keep this wonderful asset in downtown Rochester, and the city needs to listen to the people leading the RBTL in terms of their needs.
—Bill McDonald, Medical Motor Service

Putting this facility downtown is of paramount importance to the health of the city, and with it the entire region. We need to provide more reasons for people to go downtown, not fewer.
—Matthew D. Wilson

Clinton Crossing rates the best balance in overall location accessibility, parking and safety. We would definitely increase our patronage if such a site is chosen.
—Cindy and Scott Hept 

What is wrong with the Auditorium Theater?
—Todd VanHouten

Whichever site costs the people of Rochester, Monroe County and New York State the least money is my choice. In our current recession, with more than 10 percent of people out of work and the state going bankrupt, I don’t want an extra dollar of city, county or state money going to build a new facility, where we already have a serviceable facility at the Auditorium Theater. The probability that the facility would be funded privately is most likely at the Medley Centre. The first show should be about the Fast Ferry and High Falls: "The Rochester Follies." In the words of Jerry McGuire, "Show Me the Money.”
—Clifford Jacobson, WebHomeUSA.com

Excuse me, but why exactly are communities jumping through the hoops, and why is the media reporting on, what is a non-event? Has the RBTL ever outlined HOW they are going to raise an estimated $40 million to $50 million to build a new theater? They cannot even maintain the Auditorium Theater in a first-class manner. From what I can tell, the RBTL always has their hand out for more public dollars. No other development project would be even considered without a financial commitment from the "developer", in this case the RBTL. There are many, many Broadway show booking groups. I say forget this nonsense and bring in another group that will provide performance venues AND upgrade the Auditorium Theater!
—Will Condo

Wherever it is located it needs to be accessible by expressway with plenty of good free parking. It also needs to be secure and near restaurants. Centrally located is another plus. All the other sites do not meet these requirements.
—Bob Stein 

Despite all of the negative press the city of Rochester receives, there is plenty of evidence to support the notion of “If you build it, they will come.” Frontier Field, the East End, the Jazz Festival, Corn Hill Landing—all of these are examples of cultural vibrancy in our great city that are supported not only by people from within the city limits but by those from the greater metropolitan area. No matter what the naysayers may claim, the majority of people from Monroe County and the surrounding area yearn for a city that they can be proud of and they have shown time and again over the past decade that they will support institutions and cultural events within our downtown core. With all due respect to those towns that are clamoring for the RBTL to build in their own backyard, theater belongs in downtown Rochester and a new performing arts center in the heart of the city will be one more step in its slow but steady rebirth.
—Marc Fleming

No taxpayer money should be used.
—Greg Palis

The Medley Center would be a fantastic place to locate the new theater– abundant amounts of convenient, free parking, a location that’s super-easy to reach from a major highway and almost carte-blanche for the RBTL to create exactly the venue they need to maximize success. Seems like a wonderful opportunity to me!
—Christopher Burns, Rochester

The mayor did little or nothing to help make the previous deal why should we believe that he’ll follow through with support for a different city site?
—Bob Miglioratti

Rochester is our center. How often will Gates residents want to drive out to Farmington to see a show? How often will Henrietta residents drive to Webster? For a large venue theater to be successful, it will need support from the whole community.
—Lawrence Jones

In my opinion, the only viable site is the Farmington location. Farmington and the surrounding areas are rich in beauty. Minutes from the proposed venue is one of the most top rated lakes in the country. Complimenting the beauty of the lake is a country side whose majestic appearance is second to none and whose attraction is magnified throughout the change of the seasons. In addition to the allurement of the surrounding area is the fact that the proposed venue is a very large campus that offers serenity as well as easy access. The proposed Farmington area and proposed site is already a destination for a large volume of people and with the addition of the theater this site will truly represent a multi-functional location. The other locations have their own qualities but they cannot provide the same attraction value that destination type activities need in order to survive.
—William Nash, Ultrafab Inc.

To me, it has to be centrally located and that means Midtown/downtown. All other locations suffer from geographic inconvenience (folks in Pittsford won’t want to drive to Gates, and folks in Chili won’t want to drive to Webster or Farmington, etc.) and even worse don’t address the revitalization of downtown.
—David Lamb

With the objective of selling seats to theater shows, the selection criteria must include: a) Ease of access—on an expressway is best; b) Ease of parking—free and perceived to be safe; c) Proximity—as close to as many customers as possible. Of the choices, only Medley Center and Xerox qualify.
—Dave Kennedy

Having a performing arts center in the Medley Center would help to revitalize that entire section of Irondequoit. It has easy expressway accessibility and free parking. The only missing element would be to increase security on the premises.
—FJ Muto

The Brighton location makes the most sense. It’s easy to get to, centrally located, safe and has plenty of restaurants in the area.
—Rick Bradley

We’ve got some momentum downtown, let’s keep it going. Once Paetec is in place the area will be very different and even more appealing. If we don’t support downtown, not only will it crumble, but then the inner ring of suburbs will also deteriorate and the Rochester area will be in real trouble.
—Dave Vanable

The RBTL should be able to locate wherever it feels it can make enough revenue to pay off its investment on its new theater. No government funding should be needed nor should any government influence the location decision. Just like any other business the RBTL needs to stand on its own.
—Peter Short, Pittsford

Keep it in the city.
—Daniel Mossien

Whatever location is chosen needs to have viable funding lined up and be in a central location in our region to have the best chances of long term success. Aside from that, it’s my view that a downtown location could nicely anchor a “Theater District” in the Main Street area with Blackfriars, Downstairs Cabaret, etc. in a way that the suburban locations would not. Although there doesn’t seem to be a lot of energy around it, the money being proposed for a new facility could do a very nice job of renovating the Auditorium Theater and overcoming whatever shortcomings they feel they need to.
—Matthew McDermott, SPHR Employee Benefits Consultant, the Landmark Group

To be successful, a professional theatre facility that wants to attract national shows and sell-out audiences needs the synergy provided by proximity to other like venues, to hotels, to daily walk-by pedestrian traffic, and to an array of restaurants, clubs, and other amenities. Only a city location offers this kind of concentration, a major reason why the Jazz Festival is so successful. The RBTL should emulate this model.
—Bob Loeb, Robert Loeb Communications, Pittsford

A performing arts center for Broadway shows is something for all of the Rochester area, not just one community (Webster, Brighton, etc). Since Rochester is the focal point of our region, it only makes sense that something like this should be centrally located in an urban area, near a mass of housing, hotels, restaurants, offices, parks, etc. A strong city-center makes a strong region. No one goes to a mall on Long Island or a casino in Northern New Jersey to see Broadway shows. They go to Broadway, 42nd Street, etc., in Midtown Manhattan.
—Andrew Volpe

This project needs to be downtown to improve the core city center for Rochester.
—Rick Brienzi, executive vice president and CFO, E-chx Inc. Payroll Solutions

I think that the major performance venues should be in the city. Since it is the center of our population and provides about equal distance for the population around it, it is as good as it gets. It is time that the city and county leaders make a joint plan to incorporate both the venues and enough parking. An example is the Eastman Theater with the close-by parking garage (unfortunately it was made too small for a full crowd at the theater).
—Ingo H. Leubner, Crystallization Consulting

Any theater site should be in downtown Rochester, designed by a local architect and engineering team, and constructed by the local work force. However, the best sites are not on the list. If the community can afford a new facility it should be located at the "Rascal” site on East Main Street across from the Eastman Theatre. That location would put the East End over the top. If the community cannot afford a new facility, then the Auditorium Theatre complex should be renovated. In addition to the main theater space, the Auditorium complex has a number of smaller spaces that can accommodate a wide range of uses. Another plus would be the "sustainability” aspect of reuse of an existing facility. There are many examples of successful renovation/restoration of old "grand" theatres across the state: first and foremost, The Eastman Theatre here in Rochester; the renovation of the Shea’s Theatre in downtown Buffalo was completed a number of years ago; and the restoration of the Proctor’s Theatre Complex in Schenectady was completed in 2008.Our firm was involved with all of these projects, and they have received enthusiastic support in each locality.
—Al Casey, president, M/E Engineering PC

As a subscriber, I would be more excited about the RBTL if it was located downtown, particularly for the dining options and that little extra bit of excitement associated with coming into the city instead of just another trip to the suburbs. However, I also understand the RBTL’s reluctance given the perceived willingness on the part of the city to nuke the Renaissance Square project over the inclusion of a new theater.
—Kevin Halpin, DeltaPoint Capital Management, LLC

Anyplace but downtown.
—Rick Corey, Penfield

The RBTL must have criteria and specifications for the site search. Among the requirements it must include public accessibility, safety, parking, and cost. All are critical. I would like to see a focus on the center of the city. Further, we must accept that nothing is permanent. Surprisingly, the other locations have merit, although the Finger Lakes, Canal Ponds, and Webster locations appear to have an accessibility issue. I hope the selection committee approaches this task with more professionalism, and less political accommodation than past public interest projects.
—Dennis Kiriazides, Xerox, retired

There is enough in the burbs; people, traffic, retail and shows. Let’s put some life back into our city. Rochester has the potential to turn itself around, to be vibrant and welcoming. Increase the business and the police and retail and people will come.
—Fran Leo

For an entertainment facility of this magnitude, it must be located in only one place: Downtown Rochester. Imagine the message it sends, to have a performing arts center of this magnitude, an entertainment Mecca, so to speak, be located in an outlining suburban/rural location. We would be the laughing stock of the nation. An image fortified by the fact that we can’t seem to understand that the core of our community (downtown Rochester) is where activity, diversity, sociability and sense of community must reside. If we are to truly become a vibrant mid-size city—a city that we all can be proud of, a city that survives the challenges facing so many rust belt cities—the core must survive and activity must return to its origin. We cannot continue to spread our resources outward. Poll after poll states that downtown Rochester needs life, so why are we even discussing other locations? Are we so complacent with the current state of affairs, that we’ve lost sight of the greater vision?
—Tom Hack

This project should be part of the revitalization of downtown. Midtown area is a perfect location that will keep people coming in to town to eat, to shop, to live in the area.
—Charles Kaplan, KCC Holding Inc.

I believe the Medley Center will be an excellent location because of access via major expressways and plenty of free parking.
—Alan Shaffer, Despatch Industries

I would go to RBTL more often if I could afford it. I would like to see the arts organizations in our communities grouped in the downtown area as a part of re-building commerce in the city. It is to the benefit of us all.
—Emily Neece

I think the Medley Center site is ideally located. It’s close to the city with plenty of parking. It’s also centrally located to the eastern and western suburbs.
—Christine Norris

Excellent idea: good utilization of existing space, great location, underground parking that theoretically would be safe and desirable for inclement weather, opportunity to add collaborative venues for dining before theater and/or an after-theater cabaret. See what happens when fresh ideas are able to surface rather than force-fitting a bad idea? So few people thought the Renaissance Square with a bus garage plus theater plus MCC was a good idea, the theater was not the right scale, and MCC would not have had adequate space! Those who knew many of the problems with the Renaissance Square concept kept quiet until the idea solidly failed. Now we’re thinking creatively!
—Karen Kall, On Kall Marketing

While I support the concept of RBLT not only doing well and moving forward both as a business and a major arts organization in the Greater Rochester Community, one cannot emphasize enough that this is a business which has only become profitable under the great leadership of Don Jefferies in the past couple of years. For this business leadership, we citizens of Rochester owe Don a debt of gratitude for leadership and better performing arts in our city. But before as a community we go hog wild inventing locations for a "New Theater" one should ask the question who is paying for this extravaganza? The overheads created by the type of investment suggested is not sustainable at current levels to amortize this new structure and also make a profit for the RBLT in my opinion. One should look at the reality of this in addition to "public opinion" for where such a structure may or may not be built. The current Auditorium location (if cooperation with the University of Rochester and the City could be arranged) is still the very best location for a public driving from East, West, and South of the City of Rochester to attend a performing arts event. All one need do is look at the "War Memorial," the Geva Theater, the Eastman Theater, the Blackfriars Theater and the current Main Street location of RBLT at the Auditorium to realize there is synergy and a sense of city in all these performing arts locations. Nazareth College has added and adapted its performing arts center to me more user friendly and accessible and its East Avenue Location is well-received, but other suburban locations are all dismal. All one need do is look to RIT’s Great Stages to realize the public just does not drive there! Downtown is still the heart of the artistic world in Monroe County. All the money and glamour in the world will not change this unless or until Rochester adds another million people population. Based on the past 30 years, our city should be the same size as Jacksonville, Fla.  It was bigger than Jacksonville in 1980. So suburban locations for the Arts—Neeeeeeeeeeee. However, a thoughtful partnership with the University of Rochester and the Auditorium Theater and perhaps even some eminent domain between Pike Co. and the Auditorium could make a real positive impact going forward for all. Midtown is well located, but I prefer working a team work with Rochester’s School of the Arts, The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery Campus and the Auditorium Theater. This could be a bright spot for the future of performing arts in Rochester. Best wishes for the future to RBTL, I pray they are not foolish enough to believe "If you build it they will come." Rochester is not a "Field of Dreams."
—R. Bruce Lindsay, VP Marketing, RE/MAX Realty Group

My opinion is that the Medley Center would make a terrific place for RBTL. The central location makes it an attractive place with ample parking as well as access by public transportation. Furthermore, the surrounding area can accommodate additional businesses such as restaurants and pubs which will allow attendees to RBTL a place to have dinner prior to enjoying an evening at the theatre. Two thumbs up!
—Sjoerd Stoffelsma, RBC Wealth Management

Midtown would be absolutely perfect. Plenty of indoor and convenient parking; the opportunity to develop other entertainment options and amenities (restaurants, cafés, gift shops etc.) in the area and a wonderful anchor and magnet for our downtown Center City area. It’s the perfect enhancement for that area and a win-win for both the city and RBTL. None of the other locations have nearly as realistic an opportunity to develop corollary business and loss the opportunity to become a destination.
—Alan Ziegler

If the RBTL will not continue to use the Auditorium Theater, and state that it is "impossible" to renovate, then I believe they should build their new theater anywhere they would like, preferably on the Midtown site, but like most of these projects, the RBTL will come to the taxpayers with their hand out looking for the people to pay for their private theater, with little or no prospect of the taxpayer even receiving a discounted ticket to one of the performances.
—Joe Wierzbowski, Plymouth Photo Studio

I live in Brighton, but in my opinion it would be a mistake to build a new performing arts center anywhere but downtown. Renovating the existing Auditorium Center should still be under consideration also.
—John Osowski

Probably irrational, regardless Midtown represents another opportunity downtown. Clinton Crossings is a better site for RBTL but not for the region.
—Peter Brizee, T. Peter Brizee Realtors

I’m not sure it should be at Midtown, per se, but it definitely should be in downtown Rochester. This is too important a cultural asset to be built anywhere that doesn’t reinforce this region’s core. —Andy Vaughan

(c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

Most favor Midtown site for RBTL’s new theater

The majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favor Midtown Plaza as the site for Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s new performing arts center.

The RBTL soon will complete its evaluation of site proposals for a new performing arts facility. Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy asked RBTL last week to add Midtown to the five sites the search committee has been considering.

The Clinton Crossings project in the town of Brighton, led by Anthony J. Costello & Son Development, received 15 percent of the vote, and some 14 percent favored the Medley Centre in the town of Irondequoit, owned by SRC Development Group LLC.

RBTL says it needs a new venue to attract top-shelf shows, and it maintains that the cost of upgrading the Auditorium Theatre—its current home—is prohibitive.

Roughly 975 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Nov. 16 and 17.

Which site do you favor for RBTL’s new performing arts center?
Midtown Plaza in Rochester: 55%
Clinton Crossings in Brighton: 15%
Medley Centre in Irondequoit: 14%
Canal Ponds in Greece and Gates: 7%
Former Xerox facility in Webster: 5%
Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington: 4%

Over the past several years, how frequently have you attended RBTL shows at the Auditorium Theatre?
I am an RBTL subscriber: 8%
Several times a year: 28%
Once a year: 31%
Less than once a year: 22%
Never: 11%

Here are some readers’ comments:

I really believe that a downtown performing arts center makes the most sense for community development. If only our community leaders could figure out how to make it simpler for the private development of the venue without turning it into a circus act.
—Lou Calarese, Applied Audio & Theatre Supply

I am not certain that Midtown is the place for the theater, but somewhere downtown is the place. A community’s center city must be vibrant. If the community’s theater is located somewhere else, we have then made a conscious decision to remove one of the great opportunities for rebuilding Rochester.
—Richard C. Rivers, The Rivers Organization

The Brighton site is more centrally located than the other sites. It has bus access from the city, (is) right off of 590 and would allow for people on all sides of the city to attend events.
—John Esposito

Despite all of the negative press the city of Rochester receives, there is plenty of evidence to support the notion of “If you build it, they will come.” Frontier Field, the East End, the Jazz Festival, Corn Hill Landing—all of these are examples of cultural vibrancy in our great city that are supported not only by people from within the city limits but by those from the greater metropolitan area.
—Marc Fleming

I really don’t favor any money being spent on this project anywhere in the area. Support for the project is weak because we simply don’t need it here. We have plenty of usable venues as it is. The only reason this is being perpetuated is that it is some political pet project. Use the money for something that the community, and not just the few intellectual elite, will benefit from.
—Scott Ireland

We need the site downtown to revitalize the city. I think having it anywhere but downtown contradicts all the efforts being made to reinvigorate the city.
—Peter Bonenfant, Fairport

If you want people to come, locate the center in a central, easily accessible location. There is none more accessible or central than Clinton Crossings in Brighton.
—Ken Frank, Adam Communications

Any performing arts center ought to be located centrally, both for access from the entire community and for synergy with other arts facilities and organizations. However, I do not favor construction of a facility dedicated solely to RBTL, unless RBTL pays the entire bill without government assistance. If there will be any level of public funding, this facility should also accommodate other performing arts organizations—especially our many talented community theater companies.
—Martin Nott, president, Off-Monroe Players, and accounting director, O’Keeffe & Co.

As wonderful as the shows are, I stopped going because the Auditorium Theatre is so awful. The last time I went, before the show even started, the women’s bathroom was flooded and only one toilet was working. Seats are so uncomfortable and it’s so hard to see the stage; I can’t justify paying $100 for an experience that bad.
—C.M. Juby

While I appreciate and support the efforts of the towns that got engaged and I know of examples where such venues have temporarily been successful on the outskirts, visiting a performance there has always been an isolated experience. Forgive me, suburbs, but the best economic development in my eyes is to huddle and strengthen our city. With a strong city, all community business and the suburbs will prosper too.
—Hans von Gehlen, MindSetter LLC

I believe a downtown location is essential for a revitalized downtown Rochester, and I think it would be the best place for a theater. … Locations that are closer to the city are better than locations which are farther away, if RBTL wants to encourage good attendance. So Webster and especially Farmington are not good alternatives, whereas Brighton, Greece and Irondequoit (in that order) are much better.
—David S. Movsky, logistics consultant

The Webster site is easy-on and -off with minimum traffic considerations, and other amenities like shopping and restaurants are easy-on, easy-off on Route 104 too! I think the Medley Centre would make a great MCC campus! Downtown has just lost its appeal: Bad parking, few restaurant choices and they roll up the sidewalk at dusk.
—Myron Kowal, Response Care Inc.

We need to keep this wonderful asset in downtown Rochester, and the city needs to listen to the people leading the RBTL in terms of their needs.
—Bill McDonald, Medical Motor Service

11/20/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.

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