EDA approves $120K sales tax break for Bent’s Opera Hall project

Photos by Tom Rivers: This photo from September shows contractors working on the Bent’s Opera House, a dominant structure at the intersection of routes 63 and 31 in Medina’s historic downtown business district.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 February 2020 at 3:14 pm

MEDINA – The Orleans Economic Development Agency approved a sales tax break on the $1.5 million in furnishings and kitchen equipment at the 30,000-square-foot, three-story site at 444 Main St., which is being turned into a restaurant, 10-room hotel and events center.

The sales tax exemption will save Bent’s Opera House LLC $120,875 in sales tax on $1,550,911 in expenditures, which includes $821,869 in kitchen equipment and restaurant furnishings, $499,491 in hotel furnishings and fixtures, and $120,875 on furnishings and fixtures at the events center on the top floor.

In paperwork filed with the Orleans EDA, Bent’s listed a target completion date for the project for this coming September. Bent’s expects to create 22 jobs at the site and draw customers from Rochester, Buffalo, Canada and nearby Niagara County, as well as other states and European countries. The jobs will pay an average of $43,318 a year, according to the Bent’s application with the EDA.

The Bent’s redevelopment is led by Medina businessman Roger Hungerford.

“The event center is going to provide a venue that is unparalleled in the United States given the fact that it is a renovation of a 155-year-old opera house,” Bent’s officials stated in the EDA filing.

The EDA said Bent’s qualified for EDA assistance because the site will be a tourism draw with a high-end farm-to-table restaurant, 10 unique hotel rooms, and an event space for up to 180 people.

The door is open for the many construction workers who have been working to save the Bent’s Opera House and transform it into its new purpose as a restaurant, hotel and events center.

The developer hasn’t sought any other EDA assistance for the project, including a discounted phased-in property tax through a PILOT or a sales tax abatement for construction materials.

The property previously was tax exempt when it was owned by the Orleans Renaissance Group. Now it is generating property taxes for the Village of Medina, Town of Ridgeway, Orleans County and Medina school district.

In an application with the EDA, Bent’s officials said the events center will host concerts, weddings and receptions, shows and speakers.

“Grand chandeliers will draw people’s eyes up to the restored, decorative ceiling on the third floor,” wrote Lisa Tombari, director of historic properties and operations for Talis Equity, a Hungerford company. “The entire third floor is being renovated, leaving the stage and stage side boxes with their original decorative wood and trim.”

The stairs from the second to third floor are the original from when the opera house was built in 1865. The hardwood floors will be restored for the events center.

On the second floor, where there will be 10 hotel rooms, many of the original doors, doorways, window trim, hardwood floors and ticket booth will remain intact and restored to their original beauty, Tombari wrote.

The farm-to-table restaurant will be open seven days a week with the bar area having room for 20 people and the restaurant seating approximately 55.

“While our intent is to preserve as much as possible, the first floor of the building was most recently a bank and most original items have been removed long ago,” Tombari said in the application. “We are replacing the windows and doors to look like the originals, but at the same time will be energy efficient.”

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