Tuesday, June 7, 2016

[UPDATE] Weird connections, checkered histories mark Midtown proposals

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 1:31 PM

UPDATE 10 a.m., June 8 —- It's now being reported that the Senecas didn't submit a proposal. The city apparently put the information together based on its discussions with the Seneca Nation. 


OK, so we’ll call them the casino proposal and the “anti” casino proposal.

The City of Rochester received two project pitches for the chunk of land known as parcel 5 at Midtown downtown. One, as expected, is a combined casino-performing arts center submitted by the Seneca Nation of Indians.

The other, which seems less like a proposal than a thesis statement, is an offer to create 400 jobs and a promise to assemble state and local cognoscenti to finally make a downtown performing arts center happen.
The latter was submitted on behalf of Thomas Wilmot, chair of Wilmorite Management Group.

Frankly, though, I don’t know why the city would take a chance on Wilmorite after what happened with the Sibley Building. (A Wilmorite company that technically owned the building defaulted on promised payments and essentially skated on millions in debt. And the situation kept Sibley, a major downtown anchor, in stasis for years.)

The Senecas say that they’ll build a casino, but they’re restricted to only video game terminals and video slots. Their proposal also promises a 3,000-seat performing arts center and job preferences for residents of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods.

The presumption is that RBTL would program the PAC. But the Seneca Nation would undoubtedly seek to make the Midtown parcel sovereign land and if that sovereignty applies to the PAC, too, I’m not sure how RBTL fits in. Maybe RBTL and the nation work out a side agreement?

In its proposal, Wilmorite says that it will get Rochester residents jobs at Lago, Finger Lakes Raceway, and Batavia OTB and bus them there for free. The company will go into greater detail on its entire pitch, it says, if and when the city shows interest.

At least part of Wilmorite’s proposal is undoubtedly motivated by self-interest. The company certainly wants to protect its Lago casino, which is being built in Seneca County.

An interesting point in all this is that Delaware North is named by Wilmorite as one of the companies that has committed to providing some of the 400 jobs for Rochester residents. But Delaware, which owns Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack, tried unsuccessfully to block Wilmorite’s Lago casino in court. 

And the D&C reported last week that Delaware offered donations to local ministers in exchange for speaking out against a Rochester casino. 

More by Christine Carrie Fien

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