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Golisano pulls support from proposed performing arts complex in Rochester

Veronica Volk

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Tom Golisano announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing his support of $25 million for the Performing Arts Center in downtown Rochester.

Golisano said, “I originally made this decision to support the Performing Arts Center in 2016. Now two years later, the project is no closer to becoming a reality. It has dramatically changed in scope, becoming part of a larger entertainment complex, which is not in line with my philanthropic priorities. It has also not garnered the financial support it needs from the community. It is time for me to move on to the many other projects we are working on in this region that need support and that are more aligned with my philanthropic priorities.”  

Golisano notified RBTL Chairman and CEO Arnie Rothschild of his decision Tuesday morning.

Mayor Lovely Warren issued this statement:

Today we were informed that Tom Golisano is withdrawing his funding commitment for the Performing Arts Center project.  While this development is disappointing, we remain committed to this important, job-creating project and its potential to transform our city center.   As part of the larger ROC the Riverway program, the ‘Riverside Performing Arts Center Project’ has never been more viable and the opportunity to work with Governor Cuomo, the State of New York, organized labor and the private sector to invest in a project that will deliver more than 1,000 needed jobs for Rochester residents is too important to give up.”

There are some big changes to the proposed Performing Arts Center in downtown Rochester that were announced Tuesday morning.

Last month,  Mayor Warren announced a plan to move the project from Parcel 5 to the site now occupied by the Riverside Hotel on Main Street.

It is a proposed $250 million project, that would see a new hotel at that location, along with two theaters, retail, restaurant and residential development.

And the complex is now being tied to the ROC the Riverway initiative, which includes a number of projects being proposed downtown and along the Genesee River.

The project would include Christa Development and the Rochester Broadway Theater League, with the Rochester Riverside Convention Center also being part of the mix.

Together, those partners would work to raise funding and engage the community in the process.

Earlier this year, the city had an arts consulting firm evaluate the impact of a new performing arts center on other local arts organizations.

Arnie Rothschild, the Chairman and CEO of the Rochester Broadway Theater League has been leading the push for years now for a performing arts center.

He said that work will continue on this concept. “We’re going to move the project forward, I’ve been in some meetings today; certainly we’d rather not have it be this way right now, and (Golisano) is a wonderful man and people have to be mindful of the fact that he’s got a lot of projects that he’s trying to pull together in different areas so I admire the man, we just gotta find a new naming rights sponsor and we will," Rothschild told WXXI News.

He also indicated there could be other opportunities now to raise funds by selling naming rights.

“What we’re talking about here is a major entertainment complex as well, that will change what the convention center is like so that would lend itself to some corporations doing naming rights as opposed to individuals, but again, we respect whatever decision he made. We continue invest money in design work and engineering studies and we’re going to keep going,” Rothschild said.

Heidi Zimmer-Meyer is the president of the Rochester Downtown Development Corporation and said this is unfortunate news, but that the project has captured the public interest, and garnered more support especially in its new proposed location at the site of the current Radisson Hotel.
“A project of this magnitude is going to be complicated. It’s got a very heavy lift in terms of funding. But the concept, the actual project concept is so compelling, that I feel we will find a way to get this funded."


Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.