Despite the wishes of city lawmakers, funding for new digital projectors at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre was not included in Buffalo’s capital budget approved for next year.
However, negotiations are ongoing with other potential funders in the philanthropic community, Michael T. Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place, said Tuesday.
“We’re going to keep moving on and continue to figure this out and hope we have good news in the future,” said Schmand, who is also the theater’s treasurer. “People are paying attention, which is a good thing.”
Schmand commended the Common Council on its willingness to help the theater, but said he didn’t think the city would be able to fund the projectors through the capital budget because the movie theater complex is owned by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.
Indeed, the city’s Law Department said that there is no legal justification for funding improvements through the capital budget for a facility that is not directly owned by the city, despite the Council’s desire to do so, said Majority Leader Demone A. Smith.
“To use capital funds, which are supposed to be used for infrastructure, to buy digital projectors for a building that we essentially don’t own, to be used by a for-profit corporation, we couldn’t legally justify it,” Smith said.
Dipson Theatres operates the movie theater, and Schmand credited the company with bringing first-run movies downtown.
First-run movies will soon only be available in digital format, requiring the theater to upgrade its projection equipment, something expected to cost $420,000. An additional $1.4 million is required to upgrade the theater’s other amenities so it is comparable to others in the area.
Conversation about downtown’s only movie theater will not grind to a halt in Council chambers, despite Tuesday’s news. Lawmakers will discuss the future of the Market Arcade during an upcoming Community Development Committee meeting.
The $22.9 million capital budget the Council approved on Tuesday includes $1 million for new police vehicles, $3.3 million for demolitions, $1.6 million for park improvements and $1.3 million for rehabilitation of a lift bridge at the foot of West Ferry Street.
The Council did not modify Mayor Byron W. Brown’s capital budget recommendation much, except to outline improvements in each of the nine Council districts, which total $2.3 million. They include lighting on Richmond Avenue, improvements on William Street, a commercial kitchen at the Broadway Market, basketball courts at Martin Luther King Park and new bathrooms at Lasalle Park. Other items were trimmed, so the total budget amount did not change from when it was submitted to lawmakers by the administration.
In other business Tuesday, the Council did not vote on a request from General Mills to fence off 300 feet of South Michigan Avenue near the city ship canal, and won’t, at least for a few weeks.
South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon, who represents Kelly Island, where the proposed fence, gate and guard shack would be built, said he has some questions for the company that need to be answered before a vote is held.
Scanlon said a public hearing before the vote is also necessary, and notifications must be sent out before that can take place.
Council members are weighing the company’s concerns about security and its desire for employee parking against the wishes of some neighbors who want a place to view the city ship canal from the island.
The Council approved a study and assessment of needs of the Broadway Market. The city intends to spend up to $30,000 of federal block grant money on the study, which will be conducted by Urban Marketing Collaborative.