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“It’s the convergence of two pipe dreams. Two things that will never happen have decided to never happen together.” – Bob Lonsberry, WHAM 1180


One could easily laugh off the idea of a $750 million development along Route 104 in Irondequoit. The price tag is one of the very few details we know about the plan to revitalize Medley Centre. Developer Scott Congel, son of mall magnate Robert Congel, hasn’t given interviews or taken questions. He’s the man behind the curtain.

But Congel is known to local politicians, who have entertained his big ideas for the mall. According to state records, he’s paying Al D’Amato’s lobbying firm $15,000 a month to work on Medley Centre. There’s no question Congel is following the Destiny USA playbook of PILOTs and taxpayer support. While Destiny is not the behemoth promised, it is still something.

According to COMIDA documents, Congel has incurred $90 million in expenses so far on Medley. The East Irondequoit school district believes the PILOT says the money must be spent. COMIDA says it counts if he has the money secured. Either way, he has a ton of money in the deal and is current on the PILOT payments. (By the way, who else is clamoring to do anything with the mall?)

It’s easy to laugh off Congel until it isn’t.

Mayor Tom Richards dismissed the Rochester Broadway Theater League’s plan to ditch Midtown Plaza site and in favor of a theater at Medley in a report I did for 13WHAM News:

Is it the most important thing for my administration to be working on? No.

I’m sure they could build something cheaper. But cheaper is what it is. If they want to build a metal box out in Medley and that’s okay with them, then that’s okay.

I’m just not sure what kind of credibility this Medley proposal has and I’m not going to chase it. I’m just not.

The mayor isn’t going to fight for something he doesn’t think is real. He told RBTL to make it real by raising $15 million of private money. But I don’t think RBTL could have pulled anything off without a champion in the mayor. RBTL needs someone with power fighting for public and private cash.

I have a feeling if Medley moves forward, community leaders will get antsy. Only then will the fight for a downtown theater begin. If the city loses, future generations will lament the shortsightedness of moving Broadway to East Ridge Road.

Links of the Day:

– A tax-exempt Syracuse hospital will pay for city services. Rochester should go after institutions for deals like this one.

– Time Warner’s CEO says cord-cutting is limited to low-income Americans. (I must be one of them.)

– Football coaches at major colleges saw a 70 percent hike in pay over the last six years. (Did you even get a cost-of-living increase all of those years?)

– More New Yorkers believe in Santa Claus this year compared to last year.

14 Responses to “Metal Box in Medley”

  1. November 20, 2012 at 6:33 pm Michael Bloch responds:

    Pipe dream is right. Congel does not have the money, just false promises, and Arnie is foolish for believing anything Congel says. The RBTL doesn’t have the money either. The whole thing is so rediculous. Arnie is out of touch with reality.

  2. November 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm ikejames responds:

    Good post Rachel.

    The Mayor is calling their bluff. Would he be a champion for downtown Broadway? Sure. But if RBTL is trying to soften up the Mayor by teasing the Medley center, Richards is right to tell them to go for it. I think, ultimately, the likelihood of this thing staying in the city if extremely high.

    However, I think, in general, the arts in Rochester needs reassessment. I’m not comfortable with the constant challenges they seem to face, whether it be the RBTL, the RPO, and so forth. Even some of the sports teams. Are these not viable or just mismanaged? And no, the answer can’t be both. If it isn’t viable, it really doesn’t matter how well it is managed. 🙂

  3. Cord cutting is for resourceful people with some money, low income people never had cords to cut. Poor proper don’t have $67 a month for basic cable.

  4. November 20, 2012 at 7:31 pm Ginny Maier responds:

    Rachel, I think it is essential to remember that while Congel is current on the PILOT payments, he is getting every cent of those payments refunded by NYS taxpayers as a result of the Empire Zone designation of the Medley parcels. I’ve FOILed the Empire Zone filings for this parcel for several years in a row – the latest year available (2010) indicates a 1 to 1 relationship between the PILOT payment due that year and the refund he claimed from the state. I don’t think we should give him credit for paying the PILOT payments – it’s not costing him one red cent.

    I can’t think of anything that drives me more crazy than the “no one else is clamoring to do anything with the mall” statement. It is his private property. It was not offered on the open market for sale when he acquired it from the last owner and it is not for sale now. How could anyone else have anything to say about how the mall could be redeveloped EXCEPT him? We have no idea if there are any other ideas because there is not opportunity to propose an alternative as long as the property is in his hands!

    Instead of saying to the developer, “why don’t you propose something for that property that DOESN’T require taxpayer subsidies?” We took his word that this was the only viable option for that property. The banks have apparently looked at his plan EVEN WITH the subsidies and said “no way are we financing this.” I think that should tell us something about the viability of this idea.

  5. November 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm Dan Palmer responds:

    Calling the tax scam that Bob Congel pulled on the fools in my hometown “something” is like hoping for a filling meal, only to be served a warm turd.
    At least it’s SOMETHING 😉

  6. Is there a pattern developing within our community in regards to entertainment? This article addresses the potential of the RBTL moving from the downtown area to a suburb. Apparently, the city doesn’t want them. A few weeks ago, it was reported that the Pro basketball team was moving to the dome and leaving downtown. It was also mentioned that the indoor soccer team may also consider this move. Then just yesterday, it was reported that the East End Fest may not be able to close streets due to a new law that the city council is promoting. This would end this event downtown. I will admit that I am biased. I detest going into downtown for anything. Parking is an issue. Pan handlers are an issue. People crossing the street whenever they want and daring you is an issue. It looks to me as if pretty soon there won’t be any reason to go downtown. Is that a part of the plan? Is the mayor and city council that stupid?

  7. November 20, 2012 at 10:43 pm JoJoCracko responds:

    Lets not forget the Chair of RBTL was the Media Consultant for the Bill Johnson Campaign in the 2011 Mayoral Special Election and conceived the Monopoly Man TV Ad.

  8. RBTL will be far more successful with far more patrons if located in the burbs vs the city, like it or not.

    Easier to get to, easier to park, likely cheaper to park, safer walk from car to theater and back, faster entrance and exit with limited traffic hassles. Additional ‘tailgating’ functions and tents allowed in a burb location prior to plays etc etc etc.

    Few would be concerned with wife’s or daughters attending a play in the burbs at night, by themselves, not so with the city location.

    Like it or not RBTL is better off in the burbs for the RBTL and for their customers.

    Of course Duffy and the DEMS threw the RBTL out of their REN plan as the first thing they didn’t want. IT was the first part of blowing up the REN plan. (we will now get bus station, and MCC DT 10 years or more later and at twice the cost and maybe no RBTL downtown.

    When the RBTL shopped around after Duffy rejected them, they found lots of BURB locations interested and they all presented good viable solutions.

    Then of course Duffy 4 weeks later offered the RBTL the prime corner of Main and Clinton free of charge. BUT the cat of the RBTL in the burbs was out of the bag.

    Duffy has a legacy that just keeps on giving only sadly in a negative way.

  9. It’s pretty obvious that we are funding a tax scheme for Congel. Pull the plug. Irondquoit needs to stop playing around with this guy. I’m wondering about a lot of these projects, who would want to pay 5 million on the Sibley building where the last owner decided not to pay taxes on and got away with it? These people are making money without benefiting the community. It sounds like the old joke about land in Florida I want to sell you. Luxury apartments while the poor’s kids fight outside and young adults take remedial college courses. How about improving their lives and provide decent housing?

  10. Oh for crying out loud, the city is not a scary place. God forbid you might see a few black people out and about. Get over yourself.

    Few would be concerned with wife’s or daughters attending a play in the burbs at night, by themselves, not so with the city location.

    What a patronizing, sexist thing to say.

    • If the city is not a scary place, why are most of the murders committed there? Why is most crime committed there? Why is the city police force bigger by far than the county and area state police force combined?
      Why did the stores move to the burbs, why did the shoppers? Why did so many businesses? Crime is a major reason.

      And if my comment is patronizing and sexist in your mind, Again I wear the badge proudly and your name calling means nothing to me.

      I try hard to guard against putting my loved ones in harms way and I am proud of that. And on the other hand I encourage you to let your loved ones go anywhere in the city they want at 2 AM.

      Oh BTW— why did the UR and city police beef up significantly their patrols of the UR and adjoining parts of the city in response to violence perpetrated on UR students? Because it a SAFE place? Oh yea the city is totally safe. You gonna believe me or your eyes?

  11. November 21, 2012 at 11:56 am theodore kumlander responds:

    who keeps shoving money in this guys hand ?Congel is a high priced grifter i don’t understand why they keep giving him more money. turn the mall into something useful and profitable. how about indoor water park?

  12. November 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm Jim RochNY responds:

    I found this article ‘Crossgate Neighbors suspect a Pyramid Scheme’ “very interesting”. I suspect the same developer, Congel, has overextended himself at this point in light of this economic climate, also compounded by a record increase in online spending vs. local commerce http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Crossgates-neighbors-suspect-a-Pyramid-scheme-4064155.php#photo-3790017

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