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On Ren Square and the arts

Reader feedback - 11-29-06 

The mail


REN SQUARE'S NO ARTS CENTER

I'll have to disagree with Gil French's statement that members of the arts community ignorantly agreed to build a 2800-seat theater for RBTL ("The Theatre We Should Have," November 15).

I, along with members of the arts and business community, served on Tom Mooney's planning committee. And yes, we swore to secrecy, knowing that the process would be controversial and that the goal of creating an arts center was best served by debating amongst ourselves before making our findings public.

The end result of countless meetings was far from what I and many members of the committee anticipated. Instead of arriving at a consensus on how an arts center would best serve the arts community, the community at large, and taxpayers who would build and pay for the center's operating costs, we arrived at one thing: location.

A vote was taken to determine if an arts center should be built at HighFalls or in close proximity to the Eastman Theatre. All but one member voted for a location near the Eastman, the committee was disbanded, and it never met again.

At that point, constructive public input effectively ended when four men began meeting behind closed doors to determine the location for the center. The arts community did not remain silent while the arts center became the arts center-bus terminal. There were letters to the editor, input at far too few public hearings, and lively discussion within the arts community.

But let's face it: Ren Square was never intended to be an arts center. It is an inventive way of obtaining federal and state funding while claiming to be an arts center. Instead of criticizing the arts community, direct your criticism at the politicians and business leaders who support it, many of whom opposed even modest expenditures for art at the recently renovated RochesterMonroeCountyAirport.

It is ironic that Louise Slaughter, who has a national reputation in the arts community for her support of the arts, facing criticism from members of both political parties, labor unions, and the business community, voiced her opposition to the project.

I agree with Gil French. We can do a lot more with a lot less, but let's face it: Ren Square is a done deal not a good deal.

Bill Coppard, Caywood


SMALLER THEATERS SHOULD COME FIRST

Analyzing the Renaissance Square project, one must be troubled by decisions regarding the Performing Arts Center. Why is the community building another large venue for Broadway shows when the Auditorium Theater already has been upgraded to accommodate such shows?

Why is the small theater being downsized in quality and size and the much-needed, medium-size, 1500-seat theater is in limbo? Sure, it would be nice to have a fancy new 2800-seat theater, but with limited funds, priorities should be established based on venue needs, economic impact, and cost.

To me, it would make sense to eliminate the 2800-seat theater from Renaissance Square and replace it with the medium-size theater and a quality small theater. Retain the Auditorium Theater as the venue for Broadway shows but allocate several million dollars to enhance the facility inside and out. When and if economic conditions improve, the community can look down the road to building a brand new Broadway theater.

Building the medium-size theater instead of the large one at Renaissance Square would quickly accommodate Garth Fagan Dance, significantly lower costs, and allow for more design money for a world-class theater. In addition, a smaller theater would create less parking stress at Ren Square. The present plan for a 2800-seat venue would create severe parking problems that can only be solved by building a multi-million dollar parking garage.

Retaining and enhancing the Broadway theater at the Auditorium complex would also act as a catalyst for further development in the adjacent Arts neighborhood.

The Garth Fagan Dance group is a world-class asset that has been ignored when it comes to providing for a quality venue. The same can be said about opera, ballet, and the RPO. A recent study indicated that a medium-size theater would be utilized 313 days a year compared to only 170 days for the Broadway theater.

The Ren Square plan already has been significantly reduced in size and quality because of rising construction costs, and the start of construction is still well over a year away. Just watch the project proceed with significant cost overruns and a further deterioration in quality and size of the final product. This is the nature of any large public project.

It makes sense to build the medium-size theater in place of the large one at Renaissance Square, but in Rochester what makes sense rarely wins out in the end.

Dennis Michaels, North Goodman Street, Rochester


A REDUNDANT GARAGE

The planned five-story parking garage on the west side of South Avenue between Manor Parkway and Linden Street is simply all wrong for the area and the era ("Garage Opener," November 8).

Given that 220 employees who park at the former RochesterPsychiatricCenter will need to stop using that lot, all possible alternatives to a parking garage should be considered. Now is not the time to provide for more vehicles. Now is the time for HighlandHospital to take a different approach.

Predictions for the not-too-distant future include more expensive fuel and far fewer cars on the road. In City's April 5 interview, James Howard Kunstler said that by 2018 "the car is going to be a very diminished presence in our lives in a way that most ordinary people cannot imagine" and that "driving is going to be an enormous problem for us."

Others agree with Kunstler and foresee serious problems even sooner, less than 10 years from now. Whether sooner or later, the planned parking garage, having put its Abominable Snowman footprint on the land to destroy the neighborhood for many, and having affected the breathing of everyone, will then become redundant.

If those in charge at HighlandHospital cannot "think outside the box," they might ask their employees to suggest alternatives, or call in a consultant with foresight and flexible thinking.

Byrna Weir, Brighton


NOBODY DID IT?

I read the debate among your readers on atheism (The Mail, November 8) and want to add my two cents worth.

Take the newspaper you're holding in your hands right now. If I told someone that nobody wrote it --- that there was a big explosion, and when the dust settled there was a newspaper with every word in the right spot, with all the pages in order --- they wouldn't believe me. If I told them that nobody built their house, nobody nailed the boards together, nobody put the right amount of mortar between the bricks, nobody put the roof on, they wouldn't believe me either.

Now look at one cell in the human body. If its entire genetic code was printed out in City Newspaper; many thousands of copies would be required to contain it all. Take away a small portion of that DNA or add an extra copy in the wrong place at the wrong time, and you have someone with cancer, some kind of birth defect, or any of the genetic disorders known to medical science.

The same people who would think I'm crazy for saying nobody wrote anything in this newspaper would agree with me if I said nobody wrote the far more complex DNA found in humans or any other form of life.

Jim Nantz, Phoenix, Arizona


WRITING TO CITY

We welcome and encourage readers' letters for publication. Send them to: themail@rochester-citynews.com or The Mail, City Newspaper, 250 North Goodman Street, Rochester14607.

Our guidelines: We don't publish anonymous letters --- and we ask that you include your street name and city/town/village. We don't publish letters that have been sent to other media --- and we don't publish form letters generated by activist groups. While we don't restrict length, letters of under 350 words have a greater chance of being published. We do edit letters for clarity and brevity. And in general we don't publish letters (or longer "op-ed" pieces) from the same writer more often than about once every two months.

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