What an absolute shame. It was just wonderful the way it was.
Photos: North side of Main Street as 'urban renewal' hits Downtown Batavia
Submitted by Howard Owens on May 13, 2012 - 1:01pm
A few weeks ago, we ran pictures of the destruction of Downtown Batavia by local photographer Antoinette Dempski. That prompted Todd Jantzi to share these photos with me. Jantzi owns Bontrager's and came across two sets of photos in a box of auction items. He gave one set to the Holland Land Office Museum and kept the other for himself. He doesn't know who the photographer was.
These photos make me sick to my stomach. How disgraceful. Utter, complete tragedy. Moronic. I'm am stupefied.
I agree Billie.
The realities of those "nice old buildings" is that they were full of asbestos, were highly non-environmentally sound for utility consumption, had serious structural deficencies, had rat infestations, etc. etc, etc. Those that glamorize them are simply not in touch with all the real problems they presented. Yes, it is true that perhaps City Council made some serious errors in what replaced them, but that is another story. A lot of people talk about how nice it would be to have the old buildings, but very very few are willing to put their own money, hard work, and invest both their time and money to really do what it takes to preserve and maintain such buildings. I know a recent buyer of a "nice old building" in Batavia and they got socked $30k for only minor asbestos removal plus are dealing with all kinds of other such unexpected costs. It would of maybe been nice to preserve the "old time" look of Main Street, but that is tough to do and also accommodate progress. The "good olde days" are better left as memories of how it use to be either real or imagined. That's why decisions of today are even more important to be sound decisions so that "progress" does not leave us longing for those "good olde days."
I agree Howard.
Mike, I'm sorry, but that doesn't jive with me. Like Howard said, there are cities, villages and towns all over this country that were able to preserve history while bringing things up. Besides if we use your logic, why do we still have any old buildings in town then? Did none of them have asbestos or other hazardous materials? I'm sure they did, but business owners bought them and fixed them. That is what happens.
History is an important thing. You can improve upon it, but to demolish it without any thought of the future? Sad. Thankfully, we have new business owners like Dr. Jain, Steve Hawley, Steve Mullen from Larry's and others, who are trying to improve upon the mess that is that City Centre.
It was all the result of greed and lack of imagination.
Howard, I invite you to buy a "nice old building" and put your money, time, and effort, where your heart is. Then, when you start dealing with all the realities of such a project and all the costs, codes, requirements to remove asbestos, handicapped accessible laws, etc., come talk to me about all the federal monies available etc. There is a project right now at the old surprise store on Ellicott Street. Go talk to him and there is a story for you on how he is getting kicked in the teeth over and over. Then perhaps some of those realities will be more apparent. Even Kenny's project has languished for years despite all his good intentions and efforts. I am VERY sure he would also have some good info for you on what he has dealt with and how much support is available for such a project on any level. Just look at the hassle he had to get the patio added to his restuarant and the 1' awning overhang saga. I'm not saying it's not nice to see the olde days, but saying the practicality of it all is not the reality of such a project and to think there is equal support to have kept or maintain such old buildings is simplistic and not factual. I have rehabbed my fair share of old buildings and have a lot of first hand experience and knowledge with a lot of current and former such buildings. It can be a nightmare. If your trying to preseve the old character then this is all even more true. Another example would be the old Wiard Plow building on Swan Street that is darn near falling down. Rehab started years ago and then nothing. Most likely the victim of the realities of being able to complete such a project despite the very best intentions and efforts. If it was true that there was support for keeping and maintaining such buildings and it was feasible then someone would have been doing so. Those that fawn about them are mainly those that have no experience and have never and would never put the time, investment, money, effort, etc. in to buying one, operating one, and maintaining one and if they did, it would be VERY difficult to successfully do so. Yes, it is nice to think about how nice the old buildings use to be, but how they use to be, and what it takes to make them how we think it use to be, is mostly not how it is in reality.
Yes, but Michael you're missing the point! Look at what they replaced it with! It is falling apart on the inside! It looks more outdated than what WAS there! No one is arguing that taking on an old building isn't a great deal of work, but if your choices (which ours are) these old building in this photo and what is there now?
Is there anyone who would prefer what we have? It is one of the main things that is constantly brought up about the downtown area. Like I said, there are those who are trying, but really?
Like I said above phil, what replaced them is a separate issue. The only changes on the examples you mentioned are facades and not one of them has the old buildings from the photos and all that encounters. Not sure what other old buildings you are referring to in town, but if you go talk to them rather than state empty examples I am sure you will find what I have pointed out. I gave you two eamples. Go talk to them and then come back and add what you found out.
With all respect sir. I did not give an empty example, and since I was not criticizing you but having a dialogue I would hope our tone could be civil.
The facades as I was pointing out was acknowledging that at least we have local owners who are trying to make the best of the mess that we were left, and yes I think it's incredibly important to look at what we were giving in lieu of beautiful architecture.
What older buildings was I referring to? How about everything that was NOT torn down on the other side? My point to your statement, sir, was that if went by the logic that you stated, why would we have them at all? I have spoken with Kenny, and I know how much work he has put into it. Again, never once did I claim that it was not a difficult, or expensive, endeavor. What I am suggesting is what we lost was not worth what we got in its place and that's sad.
To add to what Michael is saying, Howard and Phil you also have to understand the context of the times. Sylvania was closing, there were some other industries that had left in the 60's or were preparing to leave. There was a recession on in the early 70's. The future for Batavia looked pretty bleak. Michael is right some of those old buildings were falling apart and even condemned, if I remember right. I was only about 13 or 14 when the photos above were taken and I was more interested in young ladies and the interminable time I had to wait to get my drivers license than urban renewal, but I seem to recall the only thing anyone, including the governments wanted to invest in was ripping down old buildings and creating a new downtown. The mall was a bad idea, no question, it didn't work out very well, and the disaster of the street to it's west is like Hong Kong. They could surely have planned better, but those buildings were in really rough shape at the time. I love old historical bildings and I too would rather see them instead of the hideous mall. (Who remembers the goofy piece of modern art that used to sit in front of it, it looked like a snowplow) It is sad, but that's the way it goes, sometimes. Look at Buffalo, some really neat buildings are still being razed because they are so bad and have been neglected for so long, there's not a lot else that can be done, and they're not even replacing them. Just leaving an empty lot, which at the very least won't drop pieces on anyone or catch fire and create a huge danger for firefighters.
No, I understand all of that, Dave. My take on this isn't why it was done, but what they took, and left in its place. Instead of using those monies to spruce up downtown or fixing up the buildings, they cut them down and put up an impractical, ugly husk that was built poorly and had little forward thought process to it.
It is sad.
The point is Phil Easy for you to cat call, but you have no experience of what you comment about here. And I do believe you were clearly criticzing me points by questioning logic. Easy to be a couch critic. My point, get involved. Invest where your mouth is. You haven't and I dare say won't.
I believe, and this is just the recollection of a kid, but the idea was that the stores and shops that were in the buildings which were torn down would then re locate into the mall, thereby pooling resources for upkeep, parking and so forth. That didn't happen so much. Many just retired or moved elsewhere. Anyway, I agree the mall is an eyesore and not doing much for Batavia, and I agree it could've been done better, but it wasn't an arbitrary thing either. I very much like the old photos, Howard and would enjoy seeing more.
Howard, those are all arguments after the fact and not what I responded to. If you look at the first couple of comments it was citing the buildings as "wonderful" and urban renewal as a "disgrace" etc. etc. etc. I'm also not presenting "hearsay" on the condition of the buildings that were torn down. While you were in California, I have lived in Genesee County ALL my life. I was throughout all those buildings and remember the horrible condition most were in. Rats literally ran out when torn down and many were falling down on their own. I would love to see a Batavia where those old buildings with all their great features are intact as they once were etc., but I am just pointing out that was not the reality of the situation when they were torn down and in today's world such a building to even maintain is nearly impossible with the difference in utility costs, handicapped codes, building codes, etc. etc. I don't think too many would question the grandness of the old buidlings and architecture etc. I have family members that have restored and live in wonderful old Victorian homes in Batavia, have worked on many myself, go to auctions regularly and try to purchase pieces for restoring such old places, and appauld those that do, but it is a VERY VERY tough investment and not really correct to criticize removal of buildings that were really well beyond saving. I understand your not having the money for such an investment and my point is that not many do and it really seems unfair for those not owning or investing in such buildings to be sharply critcizing what others do if they can not maintain them and the end result is removal. I totally agree that there is indeed a value in preseving history and architecture in our area. There are many buildings that can be saved, but some of the few remaining are truly at their last stand right now. Perhaps energy could be put into helping those that are making the investment through support, dollars, etc. rather than lamenting and criticizing of the past that can not be changed. The Swan Street Wiard Plow building is a perfect example and a good example of the condition of many of those old buildings when torn down in the past. It is litearlly falling apart with bricks dropping. How about you all contact your Council memebers and support some assistance to those owners so that at least one of these crumbling buildings can be preserved? There are some significant features in that building like a huge safe etc. and Wiard Plow was a long time employer for our area and a solid piece of local history. I am sure the current owners would be happy to have your donations, volunteer work, and support, etc. to preserving what you say you want to see preserved. Actions speak louder than words.
The Wiss Hotel is also a good exmample of the condition of many of the Urban Renewal tear downs. They were hardly pristine buildings ravaged by a non-caring public and government.
I love listening to Billie Holiday....
Anyway love the video Howard
Hmmm... Actually Howard, the Wiss Hotel was a running bar, restaurant, boarding house business and had many tenants right up until it closed too. Only reason it hasn't been knocked down is that there is no urban renewal program today. If there was, it sounds like you as many in the past would also be calling for it's demolition despite it once being a cornerstone of the Leroy downtown. I highly doubt the past owners of the Wiss wanted it to end this way, but again the reality is different that the abilities to maintain it etc. in this day and age. The problems at the Wiss include all of those I previously mention which result in it costing tons to even knock down due to environments etc. etc. etc. The building could definately be saved if, like you say, those with deep pockets wanted to save it, but practically speaking there are no such clamors for saving the Wiss at this time. No one even wants to try a go at it if receiving the building for free. I do bet however, that 40 or years from now, there will be those that look fondly back on the glory days and old photos of the Wiss when it was at it's prime and proclaim it should have been save. 40 years too late of course.
Looks like Robert Moses had his fingers in everything accross the state. He really screwed up Niagara Falls. Go democrats; our supposed saviors.
Howard, your just talking in circles here. Your making my point, not too many can maintain what it takes to maintain such buildings and no one wants to step foward to do so or has the ability to do so. The the end result, such buildings get knocked down. Not a good thing, but the result is the same and easy to cat call what "others should do" when you yourself say you can't do what you say they should be doing.
Old buildings are very beautiful when restored. I have had an opportunity to contribute to that. It always cost much more than anticipated and takes longer than expected.
I have certainly heard both sides of the argument for years and the reality is that today, we must move forward with great leadership and vision for the future.
The unfortunate thing for our great City is that their seems to be some that will do anything they can to stop progress as in reference to the aforementioned former Surprise Store. This young man has started with a dream, hard work only to be faced with jealous people who have called the Dept. of Labor, DEC and they have put up a multiplicity of road-blocks for him to overcome. You would think that someone who wants to take a horrible building and do something productive with it, that those around him would applaud and support.
Lets all take responsibility for where we are and what we have to work with and make it beautiful. What a great area we live in with incredible opportunity.
By the way, hats off to the BID for helping the gentleman who has purchased that building. They do believe in our community.
LOL Michael.... Your logic on older buildings is a very limited observation. You exaggerate excessively the woes of getting an older building up to compliance. You do realize that abtement of a a building's asbestoes is half the cost of removing it before demolition. Also code enforcement can be helpful or harmful depending on how YOU deal with them. They have a job to do and you act like an ass to them from get go then yes they are gonna stick you for every little thing. The big money pit scenario you put forward is absolutely not true.
Before you start telling me I dont know what I am talking about be aware I spent almost 19 yrs before moving here renovating 2 and 3 family homes as well as a historical building into student housing in Ithaca. This is a town that calls it's building dept building Nazis, and is actively doing it's damnedest to hold landlords doubly accountable for saftey and compliance. Every project must have an architect, inspections at all stages, hanicapped access etc.... Yet they still do these things. The biggest factor we saw was in a family neighborhood we bought one of two buildings that were exact twins of each other, both were about 100 yrs old, both were built by the same builder bak then and both had about the same wear and tear. We renovated, the investor next to us razed and rebuilt. Our final costs 650,000.00 and a beautiful building. The investor next door spent 2 million and ended up building a parking garage instead of residential housing cause the costs of building a building that wasnt granfathered in for variances and building lot requirements were gonna triple that number. So it's doable if you have the professionalism, and goal oriented mind to do so..... You also must be willing and able to take a financial risk to see rewards in the long run. Otherwise just put the building up for sale and leave it to people who can accomplish this.
Hmmm you list NO projects in Batavia Kyle so who is offering "limited observation?" The fact that you site $650,000 to three times that amount for a project up to 19 years ago in Ithaca kind of demonstartes my points. Do you really think many locally have such funds and a willingness to make such an investment in our area? And if they did, could they then maintain it successfully? Again, I invite ANYONE that does want to make such an investment to do so and not just "talk" and criticize others from the couch. I would whole heartedly appauld and support that, but the practicality of that is not likely and for ALL the reasons I have previosuly mentioned. Grandfathered??? If you are making real changes to a building for public use there is VERY little that falls under any grandfathering and most public uses and agencies that might be tenants REQUIRE those updates. For the record, I am very much familiar with our area building inspectors and well aware of their job and responsibilities and have ALWAYS been on great terms with them and am confident they would tell you the same. Not blaming them at all and they do a great job, just pointing out there is tons for any investor, developer, etc. to deal with and that strongly impacts the fesibility of such a project and is the main reason old buildings are not restored. Ample opportunities abound in the area and can be bought on the cheap when you are ready to do more than talk. I named two good examples and one is for free when you are ready.
The project I citeed happened in 2006 Michael. Since I have only been here 3 almost 4 years I can only speak of the projects I was involved with there. Yes there are people who can and do make such investments in this area, they are fewer and far between from where I was from in Ithaca and for good reason, naysayers like yourself are the ones who become irritated when someone with money and foresight come in and do such projects and end up being the ones calling to complain about every little thing to "slow" down the construction.
Do you know a thing about grandfathering? Sounds like you dont, there is alot that can be accomplished with that. Take a look at the Landmark Theater in Syracuse, there is an upper baclony area seating that is used today. At the front of it there is only a knee high bar the way it was designed before OSHA ever exsisted, they tried to tell the investors of the theater that they couldnt use that seating, guess what, it got grandfathered in and is used today despite being required at one time to update it.
Your responses are getting rather vague now Michael It seems your response is getting repetative telling us all that we should spend money and try to do this work before criticizing what was done. Well this is still the US of A where people can freely give their opinions. I have been involved with this work in a much more competative place than here. Your opinions are very nice but they are still just that, your opinions of our viewpoints, your opinions of our bldg inspectors, and the opinion of talkers.
Opinions arent facts they are just opinions. Everyone is entitled to them and your dismissing others and telling them they are invalid because they arent doing this work is just you bullying over others to make your points right and others wrong. You dont know what anyone else's experience is..... I spent many long hours in common council meetings in Ithaca, fighting from the investor, property owners side and know what a city government can do to make investing 10x more expensive and 10x more inconvenient. Kudos to all those who who do invest and renovate, and kudos to those workers they employ who arent just laborers, you cant get a project done w just laborers your need people who's skills and their initative and desire to see the best job done working with you.
So go purchase your own ample opportunities and do the work yourself, I will continue to talk as will anyone else here and our opinions will be given just as equal consideration as yours. Because without people like us to move homes and businesses into your restored buildings they are just a waste of time and effort arent they?
You cannot make a realistic comparison between Batavia and Ithaca. Ithaca has two major college campuses in addition to a community college and is in the heart of the Finger Lakes Wine & Tourism Regions. A concerted effort for historic preservation would be consistent with the overall allure and appeal of that community.
What is the difference Kevin, Batavia is also not Leroy, or San Diego or Buffalo or Edinbergh, or Niagara Falls. Efforts for historic preservation dont hinge on anything more than the historical value of the events the happen at that locale, and the value placed on it by the community.
I can tell Kevin that you have only visited Ithaca, and didn't actually live there, the community there is very contentious and polarized, being of a simialr mix as here in Batavia, rural & urban mixed together. The closest Winery to Ithaca isnt anywhere near the city....you have to travel through two towns to get to it. The community college you attribute to Ithaca is in the town of dryden which is closer to Cortland than Ithaca.
Again an attempt to discredit a valid opinion, why? Is my point so threatening to those on the opposite side that they have to attempt to shoot holes in it to make it invalid?
I'm currently looking into what occured with the urban renewal on the north side of Main St. Initially there were a couple of buildings that were very bad, however there are alot of references to displacement of residential tenants and viable businesses. As a matter of fact one snippet claims that failure of the mall was due to the fact that business owners that were displace either moved outside the city and ended up failing, or the just couldnt survive the time they waited for the mall to be completed. Some eminient domain and forcible evcitions are mentioned as well, does that sound like rund own buildings that are better off gone? The residential population has never recovered as well as the businesses. So what was accomplished other then throwing money down a proverbial rathole?
I am waxing nostalgic for the early '70's Saab 99 in the first picture. More than likely purchased at the former Drake Street Motors in Elba, probably the smallest and most remote new Saab franchise dealership that ever existed in the US.
No Kyle I was just pointing out that some "opinions" are just flappings in the wind. Your comments are so far off base that I would classify them as nonsense. Perhaps you think it is ok to maintain an "opinion" and criticize that others should be doing what you are not doing yourself, have never really done in the past, and are unwilling to do now, but it really is just a waste of time to even respond to you. Your right Kyle, all the buildings that were torn down were wonderful buildings and all would be standing today and there would be a vibrant glorious bustling downtown in Batavia if it wasn't for that evil urban renewal and the plotting government that pushed progress on us and is trying to undermine us all. If someone was living in those buildings or running a business there, the building must have been wonderful as there aren't any examples of any run down or unsafe properties with tenants or businesses in them. It has nothing to do with the tax rates in the City versus the Town as to why business has expanded outside the City and contracted inside the City or all the different codes, business sign restrictions, or anything else just that evil Urban Renewal. We could have just Grandfathered everything and it could of been so grand and successful. Never mind the handicapped, or elderly, nevermind the fire codes, asbestos and other cancer causing building materials laiden in those wonderful old buildings. Those tenants and workers should appreciate the fine buildings and be grateful and not complain about being sick, unsafe, or not having access. To heck with all the jobs created by urban renewal, all the improved conditions, and to heck with all the fine examples of what replaced those buildings like the Bank of Castle, the new YMCA, HSBC, Fleet Bank, Restaurants, two Senior Citizen community housing complexes, etc. Curse all those places because our City of Batavia Mall is not a bustling Galleria Mall and that has nothing to do with the competition from the twin sister Cities on either side of us and the difficulty to truly compete with the larger selections and lower prices resulting from larger purchasing power from a much larger customer base with larger City populations etc. There are tons of examples of small cities with bustling Malls able to compete with two nearby major cities a half hour away. Batavia area citizens probably favor the larger City Malls because they too are all part of the conspiracy started by Urban Renewal. I think there is even a reference to Urban Renewal on the Myan calendar as the begining of the end. Dang if we only had all those old buildings back. But if that could happen, I'm sure you and others would then be giving "opinions" that those grand old buildings, like the Wiss or Wiard Plow, are too neglected and not fit for cats and would surely be calling for someone else, not you, to tear them down. (By the way, my two cats resent that the Wiss is said to not be fit for them and their "opinion" is that you should be fixing it up and adding pet doors to boot. They also liked that some of the buildings had rats) Nuf said.
So sarcasm still replaces a valid recognition of other's opinions.... Classify them as nonsense all you like doesn't change their validyd to anyone else except yourself. Never had I said that all of the buildings were in great shape but thats ok because you said I did it must be so.
As for the rest of your rant. It is laughable, the only space in the mall that are used are because they are there, it looks pretty pathetic and I'm sure dirve away more people than it attracts, your rant in light of the reality there makes your rant look pathetic, look at the rehab of the Jerome Center. As I did say some of the buildings being torn down were enevitable and necessary but not all. There would have been plenty of room for the new ones you listed.
Its obvious that legitimate arguments and observations from your side of the discussion are used up so now it'll be sarcasm and ridicule that you will be arguing back with, along with generalized statements all designed to make my points look silly. Nice try Michael, I guess I'll follow an old adage now and let you tangle yourself up with your own commentary from here on out. I made my points which didnt come from sitting on a couch making layman's observations or just flapping in the wind as you put it. But actually spending almost 2 decades of applying for permits, poring new foundations, removing asbestos insulated heating systems, replacing lathe and plaster with insulation and drywall, and all the other renovation tasks that come with restoring old buildings. Nothing like replacing an electrical system that was run through old gas pipes that used to power wall sconces and ceiling fixures. Not to mention the hours spent before zoning boards and city council meetings trying to get the politics out of meddling with the construction codes and requirements.
So continue on with your rants, they just prove that my opinons while supposedly invalid have you frustrated to the point that you have to resort to sarcasm and gneralizations rather than legitimate counterpoints.
LOL Jeff there are still quite a few of those 1970 Saab 99's around today, rebuilt bodies of course but the 2 I know of had so few mechanical problems that the owners didnt mind the upkeep of the rest of the vehicle. Well built cars in my honest opinion.
Kyle, I took my road test on a '74 99 LE 4 speed. Awesome cars and unheard of today that a new car franchise would have a dealership hidden back in the woods off a country road in the small town of Elba, NY
yup thats exactly what it was...the destruction.....