Daily Messenger / www.mpnnow.com
Melody Burri, Staff Writer
“The $18 million project would restore decaying theater, upgrade senior citizen housing
CANANDAIGUA — City Planning and Development Committee members got another look at the rich and stylish design being proposed to breathe life back into a decaying local theater.
The $18 million project would also put a shine on existing senior housing at the corner of North Main Street and Fort Hill Avenue, owned and managed by Conifer Realty LLC.
Representatives from the Fort Hill Performing Arts Center Canandaigua, a non-profit group working to renovate and revitalize the former Canandaigua Academy auditorium, described their $4.33 million part of the project to committee members.
FHPACC Board President Gordon Estey called it “a community performing arts center run by theater professionals” which will be “extremely successful and a wonderful benefit to the community.”
The goal: to provide a space for community organizations in the performing arts to have a production facility usable at reasonable costs.
“My career started in that facility 46 years ago,” said Estey, a lifelong Canandaigua resident. “And my career is going to end in that facility, so I’m excited more than I ever could be for anything.”
The joint project by Conifer and FHPACC will be funded in large part by New York state grants, tax credits and a corporate loan. The remainder will be raised through a capital campaign that will launch in July, Estey said.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” he said. “And this is what’s going to make it workable is the fact that we have all been in this business. We know what we’re getting into, and we know how to get to the end result.”
FHPACC Executive Director Holger Stave said the theater has been empty and dormant since 1995.
Conifer, which owns the entire apartment and theater facility, will restore the theater and then allow FHPACC to purchase it as one would purchase a condominium, Stave said.
The non-profit will add theatrical lighting, sound and performance technology to make it suitable for recitals, concerts, open mic nights, movie nights and comedy nights — all at a reasonable cost to artists. The only limitation: The space can’t be used for “anything political,” Stave said.
Ultimately, FHPACC will own the 450-seat theater and inner lobby, Conifer will continue to own the apartments, and the two entities will share common spaces.
“This facility will be a lot more affordable and open to anybody who wants to put something on here,” Stave said.
Preliminary commitments have already been made by Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra, Finger Lakes Opera, Rochester City Ballet, The Academy Players, Finger Lakes Concert Band, Rochester Chamber Orchestra, Cobblestone Arts Center, Finger Lakes Chorale, Chamber Music Festival and Ontario County Arts Council to use the space for performances and rehearsals, Stave said.
The new inner lobby area, beneath the former balcony, will be also equipped to handle visual arts exhibitions, Stave said.
It’s a perfect use of space, because “the acoustics were bad under there,” said Estey.
While the theater is being restored for $4.33 million, Conifer plans to spend the about $14 million updating the finishes in all of its 22-year-old senior citizen housing units at 235 N. Main St. A new roof and mechanical systems will be installed, as well as exterior upgrades, including driveways, sidewalks and additional parking.
Both Conifer and FHPACC hope to secure PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements through the Ontario County IDA (Industrial Development Agency). In order to do that, city officials need to affirm that they’re behind the project — both the theater and apartment upgrades.
While board members weren’t willing to recommend PILOT agreements without more detailed information, they did recommend that the IDA pursue the combined project further.
FHPACC and Conifer representatives will take their plan to the IDA, and if greenlighted, back to city officials.
“It’s going to be spectacular,” said Estey.
For more information, visit www.fhpacc.org.”
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