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City Council will hold Parcel 5 public forum

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Rochester City Council will hold a public forum on Thursday, August 10, to hear comments and concerns about the development of Parcel 5 at Midtown. The open comment period starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 30 Church Street.

The city announced in April that, if City Council approves it, Parcel 5 would be sold to the Rochester Broadway Theatre League and Morgan Communities to develop a 3,000-seat performing arts center topped by a 150-apartment building. Development of the site has been a hotly debated topic -- it was expected that city officials would have chosen a proposal by Gallina Development for a mix of commercial space and condominiums, but Mayor Lovely Warren endorsed RBTL and Morgan Communities after they submitted a revised proposal that included housing. Another one of the proposals was for Visionary Square, a green space with room for vendors, and several grassroots groups have continued to advocate for a park-like area at the heart of downtown. And it's become a campaign issue for both mayoral and city council candidates.

City Council has to approve the sale of Parcel 5, and so far, the Warren administration has not sent legislation to the council. Meanwhile, opposition to the arts center has been picking up.

"We know there is a need for a thoughtful public discussion regarding Parcel 5, and we want to hear from our constituents in advance of any formal legislation regarding this parcel," Council President Loretta Scott said in a statement today.

Council's decision to schedule the form comes on the heels of news, first reported by WXXI News last night, that letters from several Rochester arts organizations have been sent to City Council raising their own concerns about the Performing Arts Center proposal. At least the Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester, Geva Theatre Center, and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra have sent letters.

According to the Geva letter sent on July 31, arts leaders are concerned "that the process of awarding Parcel 5, and now the City Council's consideration of the project, has seemed mysteriously opaque. We do not know when public comment will be heard on the proposal; meanwhile, there is a full campaign by the theater developer to 'sell' the project as a fait accompli. This alarms many of us."

In the RPO's letter, dated August 2 and signed by President and CEO Ralph Craviso, the organization raises concerns about the impact a Parcel 5 performing arts center would have on other Rochester cultural institutions. The RPO wants the city to perform an impact study to "determine how the current Parcel 5 proposal would affect other Rochester arts institutions, and in particular, our community's performing arts institutions."

Those who want to speak at the public forum can sign up in advance by calling 428-7538, or can sign up that night at City Hall. Comments can also be sent via email to council@cityofrochester.gov and by mail to City Council, 30 Church Street, Room 301A, Rochester, New York, 14614.

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