Quantcast
Skip to main content
Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Naysayers aside, BDC gave city a return on its investment in 2014, coordinator tells council

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bdc, downtown, economic development

The City of Batavia has realized a 500-percent return on its $360,000 investment in community development, Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator, told the City Council on Monday night.

The Council has authorized $90,000 a year over four years to the Batavia Development Corporation- that's $360,000. In return, the BDC has generated more than $2.1 million in public-private investment in Downtown.

Several of the projects managed by BDC were building owners constructing renovated apartments, all of which rented immediately.

But perhaps the biggest win is the renovation of the old Carr's Warehouse in Jackson Square.

The property sat vacant and deteriorating for three years. The city marketed the building as a revitalization project and eventually found a developer.

With the help of a $115,000 state grant, Paul Thompson and his partners invested more than $500,000 in constructing four apartments and a first-floor office area.

The vacancies were filled as soon as construction was completed.

The property was assessed at $30,000, but since it was a city-foreclosed property, it was generating zero tax revenue. Now it's assessed at more than $200,000 and on the tax roles. (The developer has the option to apply for a tax abatement by March under a municipal program that works like a PILOT, offering tax relief on the increase in assessed value).

The nine new residential units, using current economic models, are worth about $5,000 each in extra consumer buying power Downtown, Pacatte said.

Pacatte's job has been funded in the past through the use of revenue generated by Batavia Downs and transferred by the state to the city on an annual basis.

Since this is not general fund revenue, it doesn't have any impact on local property taxes. Even so, there is some question as to whether the current council is willing to once again use city money to fund the development coordinator's position.

Pacatte's Monday presentation could be seen as a pitch to save her job, but that didn't stop her from getting a little feisty. She was full of energy during her presentation, and when she spoke about negative attitudes, Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian challenged the remark and Pacatte shot right back with her own view.

The topic of the exchange was the mall, which Pacatte had already called a travesty and an embarrassment and one of the factors weighing down economic development in the city.

"I think maybe people have a negative attitude because they have heard the same old thing year after year," Christian said. "How many years have we heard we're going to do something with the mall. I've sat on this board for 24 years and I've heard year after year we're going to do something with the mall."

Pacatte responded that she didn't say the BDC was going to do something with the mall, just that the issue needed to be resolved.

The negative attitude discussion harkens back to a consultant report from three years ago, which Pacatte referenced, that said one of the things hurting Batavia is a persistent, nagging culture of antagonism to new proposals.

From the report (pdf; page 29):

... many residents and business leaders alike are quick to say what is right about the place, but only after they or others have said how it is not the community it used to be. This habit goes to the core of the challenge for Batavia. Regardless of how effective the city government is, or how successful the schools are, or how homeowners keep up beautiful homes, there is always the perception that things used to be better. This sets up an impossible goal: Batavia needs to be as good as its finest past features, but without any of its previous problems, and certainly without any of yesterday’s resources. It allows critics to say, “see, I told you so.” It lives on phrases like “that can’t be done,” and “we tried that,” and “here’s why that won’t work.” Until the community addresses this problem, Batavia won’t achieve its full and substantial potential.

Pacatte has succeeded in helping to bring new development to Downtown Batavia despite the naysayers. Each new apartment development was met by a wave of criticism and endless predictions that nobody would rent such high-priced units.

Yet, there are no vacancies. Landlords rent the apartments as quickly as they become available.

The Carr's project was roundly criticized, yet it's successful.

The negative attitudes are just something to try and work though as a professional, Pacatte said after the meeting.

"I think it's important to listen to what the community is saying, but we also have access and in our profession we understand that these projects do happen and happen a lot in other communities and there's no reason it shouldn't happen in Batavia," Pacatte said. "We bring the folks to the table who can make it happen.

"It's important to hear some of the negativity at the time to maybe rethink how we approach a project," Pacatte added, "but it's important to be a professional and understand that it is possible and persevere to that end. I was hired to impact the economic community in Batavia and I believe that's what I'm doing when I push those projects forward."

In 2015, the BDC will look to advance the Batavia Opportunity Areas, such as the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street, and right next to it, the Santy Tires property.

The mall fits in there somewhere, as well, though that is a much stickier problem with all of the competing interests and ancient animosities. Pacatte believes there might be an opportunity to apply for funding in 2015 through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council to pursue some sort of long-term solution.

She also sees as her job in 2015 an effort to foster a greater entrepreneurial spirit in Batavia, to coordinate and implement a new micro-enterprise grant program, and support an industry-specific incubator.

The BDC will also apply for more redevelopment grant money from the state.

Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 1:30 am

Crafter gets off of festival trail and opens store in Downtown Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown

In the craft business since 1998, Andre Gliwski Jr. thinks it's time to settle down.

Rather than setting up a booth at a different community festival each weekend, Gilwski has opened a craft store in Downtown Batavia, at 220 E. Main St. and is hosting an open house this Friday and Saturday.

Working out of a single location isn't just a better lifestyle for a young father (Gilwski and his wife have children ages 1 and 2), it's better for building relationships with customers.

"You have a better following when they know where you're at rather than trying to chase you down," Gilwski said.

Currently his shop, A.J.'s Crafts, stocks only items that he has made, or his mother or wife have made.

Among the kind of things Gilwski enjoys making are jewelry, clothes, blankets, bean bags, hair stretchies, catnip toys, tooth-fairy pillows and scarves.

He said he can make or have made pretty much any custom item a buyer might want.

His mother has been slowed by arthritis, but there's a table in the store filled with her handmade needlework items.

Gilwski's wife also makes jewelry and helps with some of the product finishes on Gilwski's work.

"I like crafts because they're all handmade and not made in other countries," Gilwski said. "It's something I enjoy doing and I enjoy the look on a customer's face when they buy something I've made. It's something different than what you'll see at Walmart or Kmart or some other Big Box store."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Council meeting features discussion on downtown mall frustrations

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city centre, downtown, genesee country mall, mall

There was a degree of frustration on all sides in council chambers Monday night over the long-simmering dispute over the state of the downtown mall after a resident raised the issue during public comments.

Some council members initially joined in the call of Richard Richmond to have the state's comptroller's office audit the city's legal fees associated with the city's dispute and the current lawsuit with the Mall Merchants Association.

Molino noted, however, that the city was audited last year and no irregularities related to legal bills were found.

He also asked what the goal of such an audit would be. The legal fees are public record and have been released before.

Richmond said he would like to see an itemized list of attorney fees for the mall, even suggesting audio go back six years to check for any inadvertent double billing.

The city's financial statements are scrutinized every year by an independent accountant, Molino told the council, and "they report any fraud or inconsistencies."

There have been no such reports.

Last year, resident John Roach issued a public records request and received documents showing the city's legal fees related to mall litigation, but some material was redacted if it could reveal information covered by attorney-client privilege. 

An audit, Molino suggested, would not necessarily uncover the kind of information perhaps some think it might.

"The comptroller is not going to provide you with guidance on what you pay for what services," Molino said. "They're not going to come in and tell you you're paying too much for police services, you're paying too much for fire services or you're paying too much for this."

Council members such as John Deleo expressed concern about how much was being spent on mall litigation and compared the years-long conflict with the mall association to a messy divorce that has gone on too long.

More than just the legal fees, perhaps, Deleo said, "people are concerned about the mall and the 57 buckets and how long does this divorce will go on."

After the meeting, Molino hinted at his own frustration with five or six years of disputes over the mall, but also expressed hope that a once-and-for-all solution can be reached during legal negotiations.

The condition of the mall and the disputes over the mall create a perception problem, Molino said, that could hold back redevelopment and brownfield development.

"It does not help the long-term success of the city nor the long-term success of the businesses and the redevelopment potential downtown, so, yes, it does hurt," Molino said. "It hurts everybody. I think everybody's business involved is going to benefit when it's resolved, and the city as a whole, and the community, will be able to get through this, and I hope it's a milestone that we can get past and say we were able to get past that hurdle."

There is an openness, Molino believes, to finding a solution to the disputes that led to the lawsuit, the involves negotiation and not further litigation.

"I think both parties want to resolve this issue and it's just a matter of coming together to find common ground that is going to meet everybody's needs," Molino said.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Photo: Memorial to former owner of Caito's Liquors

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, The Yngodess Shop

The family of Samuel J. Caito placed a memorial today to the former liquor store owner in front of the YNGodess Shop on Main Street, Downtown Batavia, the location of his former shop.

His father, Augustino, opened the store right after the end of Prohibition in 1933. It was the first post-prohibition liquor store in Batavia.

Samuel owned the store until 1985.

He was also a teacher at Notre Dame and Batavia Middle School.

Click here for his full obituary.

Monday, December 29, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Construction on 30-unit apartment complex Downtown could begin in February

post by Howard B. Owens in Bataiva, downtown, housing

Sometime soon after the first of the year, Vito Gautieri expects to get word from at least one bank on funding for his planned apartment complex atop of Save-A-Lot at 45-47 Ellicott St. in the City of Batavia.

Gautieri is planning a four-story structure with 30 quality apartments with rents ranging from $800 to $1,100 per month.

He expects to begin construction on the "Casa Mia" complex in February. Completion will depend on arrangements with another contractor, but could come as early as the Winter of 2015.

"It’s a nice project and we’re working like mad on it to see if we can get it going as soon as the financing is done," Gautieri said.

If it comes through, Casa Mia will be a nice boost for the Downtown economy, said Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corp.

"Our marketing reports have told us there is a need for quality, urban housing in Downtown Batavia," Pacatte said. "There is a boom in Rochester and they're taking full advantage of the demand from millennials and empty-nesters for more quality apartments. We're excited about it. It brings more disposable income Downtown, more shoppers, more diners, which is what we're looking for."

Gautieri has not applied for any financial assistance from the BDC nor the GCEDC, he said, though he may seek a tax break through the city's 485(A) program.

The BDC has worked to spur development of several apartments on Jackson Street and Jackson Square, all in the $800 to $1,000 per month price range, and every unit was rented as soon as it hit the market.

That, and the marketing studies, gives Gautieri a high degree of confidence that his 30 units will fill up quickly.

"There's a lot of advantages to living downtown for young people and the elderly," Gautieri said. "It will be a good compliment to the Save-A-Lot and within walking distance you've got seven or eight restaurants. That should really make it attractive for people."

He anticipates from 70 to 80 people, including children, will live in the apartments.

Sav-A-Lot occupies only half of Gautieri's property there. He's been unable to find businesses willing to rent the other half of the building, so he's planning to convert that space into covered parking -- 32 spaces -- for the residents of the apartments.

The building was originally constructed by Gautieri for Montgomery Ward and the second floor was intended to be a warehouse, so it was engineered to hold a lot of weight.  

That construction is what enables Gautieri to now add two more floors of apartments.

The second floor will be flats. As soon as funding is approved, crews will get busy opening windows and erecting interior walls.

Gautieri is negotiating with companies in Buffalo and Clifton Springs for pre-fab apartments for the planned third and fourth floors.

If an appropriate deal can be brokered, he anticipates finishing the project by the end of next year.

If his own crews have to build the structure, then it will take well into 2016 to finish.

The apartments on the fourth floor -- Gautieri doesn't call them penthouses, "there are no penthouses in Batavia," he said with a chuckle -- will rent at the higher rates, but the first tenants will be able to customize their spaces.

The project is exciting, even if the BDC isn't directly involved, Pacatte said, because more people living Downtown will drive economic growth, help fill retail spaces and bring in more people.

Studies show that each downtown housing unit drives $19,000 in demand for retail goods and services.

"Investment into Downtown that responds to the market findings will be another win for our efforts toward community renewal," Pacatte said. "The Jackson Street owner investments in recent years have already proven successful -- reaching 100-percent occupancy within weeks of becoming available."

The Ellicott Street project isn't Gautieri's only apartment plan Downtown. He's also planning a project for his property at 45 Liberty St.

The project will consist of small, single-occupant apartments aimed at young people just starting out in life or elder people on fixed incomes with minimal residential needs.  

"There's companies doing some of these in Rochester and they're rented before they even start construction," Gautieri said.

He's also planning to convert one of his office buildings on Liberty, where he already operates storage units, into storage units.

Friday, December 26, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Karen's Yarn, Paper, Scissors wins Downtown holiday window display contest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown

Karen's Yarn, Paper, Scissors, at 39 Jackson St., Batavia, won this year's window decorating contest sponsored by the Business Improvement District. The business receives a $250 cash prize.

Second place was WBTA, 113 Main St., and The Insurance Center, 50 Main St.

The judges were impressed not only with the creativity of Karen's display, but the use of paper, which is, of course, related to her business.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Photo: Snowfall arrives during evening commute

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, weather

The predicted snowfall for this morning didn't really materialize, but it's coming down pretty good right now, with a prediction of up to two inches by 7 p.m.

Here's 60 seconds of what it was looking like at Main and Center a few minutes ago:

Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 7:15 am

Photos: Christmas in the City 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, Christmas in the City, downtown

Hundreds of people lined Main Street in Downtown Batavia on Friday night for the Christmas parade that was the highlight of a successful Christmas in the City for 2014.

To purchase prints, click here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Batavia readies for Christmas in the City

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, business, Christmas in the City, downtown

City workers were busy with tasks Downtown today getting things ready for Christmas in the City tomorrow evening, including making sure the snowflakes on the light poles are ready to illuminate correctly.

Tomorrow's events:

4 to 8 p.m., Photos with Santa
97 Main St.

Lighting of Downtown Christmas Tree, 5 p.m.

Horse and Wagon Rides ($1), 5 to 9 p.m.
Tickets available at Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, 8 Center St. Proceeds benefit the Business Improvement District.

Trolley Rides to the Wonderland of Trees at the Holland Land Office Museum, 5 to 9 p.m.
Jackson Street Parking Lot (across from Valle Jewelers)
Trolley will continue throughout the night to bring people back and forth to the museum and Jackson Street parking lot. Trolley runs approximately every 15 minutes. The Holland Land Office Museum (HLOM) will be offering free refreshments for the event as well as gift baskets and discount sales in the gift shop.

GO ART!, Frosted Panes exhibit
The Genesee Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!) is pleased to announce its annual holiday show on exhibit through Dec. 19th in Batavia. This year's theme, "Frosted Panes," exhibits 43 pieces by 14 local artists on display in two GO ART Galleries -- the GO ART! Main Gallery in Seymour Place and at the Genesee County Senior Center on Bank Street.
A FREE Meet-the-Artists Reception will be held in conjunction with Batavia's Christmas in the City.

Batavia Concert Band, 6 p.m., City Centre

Holiday Parade, 6:30 p.m.
Parade will take place on Main Street starting at Liberty Street and ending at Jackson Street. More than 40 participants will entertain you with music, floats, singing, a juggler, fire trucks, and more! Santa will choose a child from his "Nice List" to ride with him in the Horse & Wagon!

The following Downtown businesses will be hosting special events as well:

Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle -- 8 Center St.; Enjoy holiday specials, drawing/prizes, coupons, and their famous chili during the Christmas in the City festivities. Tickets for the Horse & Wagon rides may purchased inside of Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle. For questions, call (585) 343-0548.

Amy's Fluffy Friends -- 238 Ellicott St.; Have your pet's photo or group photos taken by Along Photography. Only $5 for a photo shoot! Amy's will also be offering a raffle with doggie treats. For questions, call (585) 343-0052.

Charles Men's Shop -- 200 E. Main St.; Stay warm and enjoy holiday discounts and warm refreshments! For questions, call (585) 343-2086.

City Slickers -- 59 Main St.; Celebrate the season with City Slickers' awesome deal with a Buy 1 Entree, Get the 2nd at Half Price. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a local band playing for the evening. Be sure to also purchase your "Dinner & a Movie" gift certificates as stocking stuffers! For questions, call (585) 345-6788.

Edward Jones -- 7 Jackson St.; Get out of the cold for a little while and enjoy a hot drink and cookies courtesy of Edward Jones. For questions, call (585) 345-1773.

Karen's Yarn, Paper, Scissors -- 39 Jackson St.; 10% holiday discounts on scrapbook paper and yarn! After the parade, stop by Karen's to get a free balloon animal courtesy of Jason the Juggler.

Marchese Computer -- 220 Ellicott St.; With coupons and refreshments, learn more about their holiday specials including computers starting at $349.99! For questions, call (585) 343-2713.

Sweet Pea's Cupcakery Cafe -- 23 Jackson St.; Offering free samples of cookies. Perhaps you'll want to come back to purchase some for Santa for Christmas Eve? For questions, call (585) 344-5627.

T-Shirts, Etc. -- 111 Main St.; T-shirt coloring for kids! Holiday specials include a Buy One, Get One at 50% off. Also, be sure to visit their guest vendor, Butterfly Studio. For questions, call (585) 345-1993.

UMTOO -- 317 Ellicott St.; Will be open until 9 p.m. and will have Christmas refreshments, Christmas stories (traditional and historical), and Christmas songs by local singers who will engage people to join in singing. For questions, call (585) 993-2325.

Valle Jewelers -- 21 Jackson St.; Will be offering holiday specials for that evening only. For questions, call (585) 343-3372. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Photos: Recreating Norman Rockwell on Main Street for the holidays

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown

Local artist Brandi Bruggman this week is recreating two Christmas works by Norman Rockwell on the windows of Steve Hawley's Insurance Center on Main Street. The festive windows will be among those Downtown displays in the BID's annual Christmas window display contest.

Premium Drupal Themes