It's a war of words over future funding for Renaissance Square.
“My understanding is that they would be carved out, in this budget, somewhere in a capitol fund. So we started looking and I started asking...where is it, when will we be receiving it?” says County Executive Maggie Brooks.
“First off, there was never a commitment of 18-million dollars to Renaissance Square, if you go back in all the press reports and all the conversations...this was really about using State money to try and expand capacity for performing arts,” says Assemblyman Joe Morelle (D-132nd District) who is also the former chairman of the Assembly’s Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee.
Morelle says the $18-million dollars did go to arts funding in Rochester. State aid was designated to the Eastman Theatre renovations, a performing arts center at Nazareth College and renovations to the Dryden Theatre at the George Eastman House.
“Not only is it not a surprise, there was no commitment made of its kind and truth is, the County Executive has been at a number of announcements where this money has been used and promised,” says Morelle.
“I think that those are all wonderful investments,” says Brooks, “but I think that Renaissance Square will also be a sustainable asset in our community.”
The biggest argument over the project is its cost. Brooks budgeted $230-million dollars to renovate the portion of Clinton and Main Street in downtown Rochester. However, the money was budgeted four years ago and since then, the cost of construction has increased.
“Now, we have said the budget is 230-million dollars, now two years ago, that would have probably bought us a lot more than it would today but that's the budget and that is my commitment to taxpayers and at the end of the day I have to be able to defend this project,” says Brooks.
However, Morelle says state aid may not be coming anytime soon unless either the cost or the scale of Renaissance Square is revised.
“So one of two things has to happen relative to construction: either an updated construction cost that will tell us what it will cost to build what she envisioned two or three years ago or four years ago or a redesign that's smaller,” says Morelle, “I'm not prepared to advance anymore state money, and obviously I don't speak for the State but as it relates to my position, I'm not going to advance any more money for Ren Square until those vital questions are answered.”
The County has currently secured $175 million dollars for the project. Brooks says the County is in talks with several private investors for Renaissance Square, however, to date no major private investor has stepped forward to back the project.