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A group working to restore Buffalo Central Terminal envisions a time when the cavernous structure in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood will become a focal point for arts and historic preservation. Marilyn Rodgers, executive director of the Central Terminal Restoration Corp., insists the lofty goal is not pie in the sky.

The Buffalo News’ Brian Meyer met with Rodgers and took a tour of the landmark, which has undergone major roof work and drain repairs. During an interview, Rodgers disclosed a new development strategy that is being pursued.

Here is a summary of several issues covered in an interview that is part of the “In Focus” series. Watch the full eight-minute interview above.

Brian Meyer: Infrastructure work is just one component of this very ambitious renovation. Some are saying it would be $60 million. I’ve heard estimates as high as $100 million. Is that realistic?

Marilyn Rodgers: It is realistic if you look at it in a business sense. To be able to model after what many organizations have done, (including) the Richardson Complex – using three tax parcels as they’ve done. It’s easy to split this particular complex up into three tax parcels, with two of them being private development. And the center, which is the concourse and always open to the public in the future, (with) the Central Terminal Restoration Corp. running it. That would include a museum, possibly a culinary school in a restaurant ... and having various shops to be able to service those folks ...

Meyer: You have interest from the private sector?

Rodgers: Yes, we do.

Meyer: But you can’t disclose (interested parties)?

Rodgers: Not at this time. You never really want to disclose what’s going on in the private sector with possible purchase or leases, just out of confidentiality and respect. Also, some of the folks that are willing to do a lease with us at this point, they’re leasing somewhere else. We want to make sure that they don’t get kicked to the curb because they’re interested in going someplace else.

Meyer: The long-term plan is to make this almost a mecca for arts and historic preservation and so forth?

Rodgers: Exactly. Very arts-based and extremely education-based. Whether it’s arts organizations that come in and have studios, galleries, performance space or performance storage space. Or even to have live-work space for artists and artisans. That would be one component. The other component is the education – to be able to combine classes from colleges and universities in shared-classroom space here on the campus. It would allow for even more interesting concepts that would lead to adaptive reuse. And that’s what we’re looking at. We’re looking at more adaptive reuse, not only here in Buffalo, but nationwide ... We also have education programs that we tested out last year (with grammar school children) ...

Meyer: You’ve seen some of the letters to the editor – people saying: “How can we possibly in good conscience plow tens of millions of dollars into a place that hasn’t been used for decades, when we have so many other needs out there?”

Rodgers: First off, we’re a national landmark. Secondly, I see their point. I don’t like to waste money either, particularly my tax money. But at the same time, when $63 million of our (state) taxes went into (Ralph Wilson Stadium in the late 1990s, so that we can visit it seven times out of the year for a game ... You have to consider that $63 million could have done this project.

Meyer: Do you think the community would support that?

Rodgers: If it’s really considering what is good for the community at large, what is good for our region. To have something like a center for education and the arts, bringing back an entire neighborhood under a model that we took from Denver, Colo., ... (it would bring) reinvestment within the neighborhood, workforce development, economic development ... Once we’re able to get things moving and get this area restored, it’s going to be a jewel in the city’s crown. It’s going to be a jewel in Western New York’s crown. It’s going to be a jewel in New York State’s crown.

email: bmeyer@buffnews.com