City officials announced this morning that if City Council approves, it’ll be both: a 3000-seat theater for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s shows with a 150-apartment building on top of it. The apartment portion will be handled by Morgan Communities, which has extensive housing development experience in downtown and the Greater Rochester area.
What Parcel 5 won’t be is a park-like open space set aside for events and temporary vendors such as food trucks. That proposal, called Visionary Square, had strong support from some activists but apparently wasn’t under serious consideration by city officials.
A long strip of open space behind Parcel 5 will remain as public green space.
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- LaBella Associates' conceptual drawing for a theater for the Rochester Broadway Theatre League with apartments above the rear portion of the theater. The front of the theater will be along East Main Street.
RBTL has pushed for a new theater downtown for decades, but concerns about its funding, both for construction and for continuing operations, have persisted. RBTL CEO Arnie Rothschild announced recently that philanthropist Tom Golisano would commit $25 million toward a theater. The possibility of combining the theater with housing seems to have interested Morgan and convinced City Hall.
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- LaBella Associates' conceptual drawing for the 150-unit apartment tower on the rear of the Parcel 5 site.
In addition to bringing apartment residents downtown, the complex is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of theater-goers. Rothschild has said for years that a new, larger theater will permit it to host more shows. And he continues to insist that RBTL will maintain and host shows at the Auditorium Theatre, where it now stages its productions.
While today's announcement ends the suspense about the future of a key part of Parcel 5, it doesn't mean ground-breaking for the project is imminent. Financing is still being put together, for instance. According to the City Hall press release, city officials have been talking both with the developers and "a host of other potential funding sources." Given those discussions, the press release says, "the City is confident the project will have the funding needed to bring this project to completion."
"Once funding has been finalized," the release says, the city will move ahead with selling Parcel 5 to Morgan Communities and RBTL. Because the sale of public land is involved, that sale will need to be approved by City Council.
Earlier this week, Mayor Lovely Warren sent City Council proposed legislation awarding Parcel 2 of the Midtown site, to Morgan and Buckingham Properties, if funding is secured. That site is at East Broad Street and South Clinton Avenue.