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Medley, RBTL have theater agreement

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Arnie Rothschild, head of RBTL. - FILE PHOTO

UPDATE: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 11:15 a.m.

Arnie Rothschild, the chair of Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s board, says that a proposed 3,000-seat theater at Medley Centre wouldn’t require any fund-raising by the RBTL.

Rothschild says that the dead mall’s developer, Scott Congel, has agreed to build the theater. RBTL would then lease and program the theater, Rothschild says. The details of that arrangement are being negotiated, but the RBTL and Congel have an agreement in principle, he says.

As part of the deal, Congel would also pay off the debt on the Auditorium Theatre. The Aud would be renovated into a smaller theater, which RBTL would still own and program, Rothschild says.

Many remain skeptical of the Medley Centre project. Physically, the site shows no signs of progress. The mall proper is vacant except for two remaining department stores. And the East Irondequoit school district is enforcing a provision of the developer’s payment in lieu of taxes agreement requiring Congel to make a payment if he fails to meet a development milestone.

Rothschild says he’s confident that Congel will move forward with the project. He points to the developer’s successful projects across the northeast.

“I believe strongly that he’ll be able to do it,” Rothschild says.

ORIGINAL STORY:

It's a busy time in Medley Centre news. Last night, the East Irondequoit school board approved a measure requiring Medley Centre developer Scott Congel to pay several hundred thousand dollars for missing an investment milestone.

Also yesterday: word got out that Rochester Broadway Theatre League's board is in favor of locating a new theater at Medley Centre.

In 2009, Congel entered into a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the district, the Town of Irondequoit, and the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency. Congel makes an annual payment to the entities, instead of paying taxes. But the agreement also includes milestones, which are meant to ensure that the massive mixed-use project doesn't sit idle. If Congel misses one, he is assessed a fee; the amount of the fee is based on how much he misses the milestone by.

Congel was supposed to have invested $90 million in the project, which is supposed to include apartments, retail, at least one hotel and more by April 30, but district officials say he missed the mark by approximately $25 million. Now, they want him to pay what amounts to an $827,722 fee, of which approximately $550,000 would go to the district. The money is due in January, when he makes his annual PILOT payment. If he doesn't pay up, he could be held in default of the PILOT agreement, says John Abbott, the East Irondequoit district's deputy superintendent.

"It's our obligation to enforce the PILOT," Abbott says.

But this issue may not be over. COMIDA has accepted the developer's claim that he's invested $93 million into the project. On its own, that difference of opinion may not matter. But Congel could sue the school district to prevent being assessed the extra payment.

But even then, a lawsuit could backfire on the developer if he sues and loses. He has to meet further investment milestones in 2013 and 2014.

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