DON'T RUSH WITH REN SQUARE
No one should be surprised that the concept of Renaissance Square, especially the performing arts center, would experience design changes as the project meets the reality of financing and market forces ("The Downsizing of Renaissance Square," September 16).
From Bill Nojay's proposed single-use bus palace to the gargantuan mixed-use project being designed by Moshe Safdie, the plans for this critical center-city site have been based more on a political edifice complex than actual public needs or financial feasibility. To this day, after millions in public dollars have been earmarked and spent on this project, there are no solid marketing reports or permanent job-creation figures to support construction of Renaissance Square. And the millions of dollars that will be needed annually to operate the bus terminal and performing arts facility are never discussed publicly.
Meanwhile, the Main Street corridor continues to languish, and smaller, more achievable projects --- such as the FrederickDouglassMuseum, Ss. Peter and Paul Church re-use, or a downtown supermarket --- go nowhere.
A small 250-500 seat, black-box facility that could showcase dance, opera, film, and other entertainment venues may be appropriate and complimentary to existing performance houses. But the fundamental audience assessment and private-sector support for such a venture must be identified first, unlike Renaissance Square.
Perhaps a MonroeCommunity College performing arts program could manage and provide an income stream for this type of space. One only has to look at the just-opened $181 million, 2000-seat FourSeasonsCenter in Toronto, which attracted the financial contributions of more than 20 individuals and corporations to its "million dollar club." This was the critical element to gaining additional public dollar support to bring this project to reality.
Does Rochester have a similar pool of individual and corporate benefactors for yet another cultural destination? This is a question that should have been answered before any architectural drawings were prepared for Renaissance Square. Having served as the principal staff for the City of Boston in the 1980's for the revitalization of its Theater District, then known as the "Combat Zone," I am fully aware of the social and economic value of the performing arts. But I can also acknowledge that the "wants" of performing arts groups for their own facilities do not easily transfer to the economic realities to maintain such buildings and plan for performances.
There should be a pause in any further planning for Renaissance Square until it is solidly established that Rochester will indeed benefit from such a large and complex project.
Will Condo, Demeter Drive, Greece
I am one of those who blame urban flight and the residents of the burbs for much of Rochester's woes. I am especially moved to blame when I consider that I pay more tax on my city house than friends in the burbs pay on houses worth three times as much.
If Ms Schoenberger of Penfield (The Mail, September 13) really believes that "if we're serious about reviving Rochester, we will invest in youth," I suggest she (and her suburban neighbors) can help by making contributions to one of the Rochester Area Community Foundation's scholarship funds for city students.
Sam Abrams, Dartmouth Street, Rochester
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