Submitted by Howard Owens on December 7, 2013 - 8:33am
Friday night was the first night of Taste of the Holidays. The festivities included a chance for visitors to the tent on Jackson Street to sample food from area restaurants and visit with other vendors. Bus rides to the Holland Land Museum Office to see the Wonderland of Trees were also part of the event.
The event continues today from noon to 3 p.m. and will include carriage rides and a scavenger hunt.
Children can also visit Santa today in City Centre.
Submitted by Howard Owens on December 2, 2013 - 3:38pm
A private contractor is working on a water line on Center Street today. The line broke Saturday afternoon. The line runs into Center Street Smoke House and for most of the day, the city has been able to provide water to the restaurant. The restaurant is expected to be open for business this evening.
UPDATE: Water service was fully restored at 5:30 p.m.
Submitted by Howard Owens on November 7, 2013 - 10:47am
The view of Batavia a space alien might get, as revealed by an image from Google Maps, tells pretty much the whole story of the community's economic struggles, Tim Tielman told members of the Genesee County Landmark Society last night at their annual meeting.
Right in the center of the city, Tielman said, is this big mass of gray. It's a dead zone, he said. It isn't built for the human animal. It's built for cars. That's no way to design a city.
It hasn't always been that way, of course. Tielman displayed a parcel map of Batavia at the end of the 19th Century. Downtown was filled with structures -- brick commercial buildings and hundreds of houses.
That's a city, he said, designed for human scale and one that is culturally and economically vibrant.
Tielman has worked tirelessly as a preservationist in Buffalo for decades. His list of accomplishments is impressive. Larkin Square, Canalside, the Lafayette Hotel, the Ellicott District, the H.H. Richardson Towers and the Webb Building, among other "saves" and restoration projects.
His work has been recognized in a John Paget documentary, “Buffalo: America’s Best-Designed City.”
The same kind of revitalization going on in Buffalo now could be Batavia's future, Tielman said.
If it's going to happen, it will be up to the preservationists, the people who understand human scale.
"One of the biggest issues every city faces is dead zones," Tielman said. "Batavia has dead zones up and down its streets. Dead zones are devoid of commercial activity. You chain too many dead zones together and you destroy your local community."
When you build your commercial district around the car, the district losses its appeal to pedestrians, and it's people walking and interacting that creates commercial activity and a sense of community.
"It isn't cars that make a place a commercial success," Tielman said. "It's a success (based) on how well the human animal can get about certain places. It's what appeals and what stimulates them to walk."
Batavia used to be that kind of city. From Harvester on the east to the Old Courthouse on the west, the old maps reveal, it was a walkable city.
Tielman used a Google Maps view to show Batavia today. Our picture above is from the county's GIS map. Below is a county aerial photo of the city from 1934 (a period, Tielman said, when Batavia was at its peak culturally and economically -- the 1920s through 1930s). Tielman used a turn of the century parcel map.
There's no reason, Tielman said, Batavia can't become that kind of city again.
He recommended the approach being used with Canalside now -- start small. That's how Joseph Ellicott started.
Canalside is the terminus of the Erie Canel at Lake Erie. Early development was small businesses in tents and small buildings. The larger, commercial brick structures came later. Tielman's suggestion is to start the commercial activity at an affordable pace, and it will grow.
He suggested the Genesse County Economic Development Center has it's economic development priorities backwards. The $1.7 million in tax breaks given to COR Development to lure large national chains to Batavia could have been used more productively to help start 50 small businesses downtown.
He called small businesses the "farm system" for greater economic growth. Communities that lose their ability to encourage and attract entrepreneurs stop growing.
There was a time when each small community was unique and the competitive advantage each had was that you had to be from the city to know how to get around the city and prosper in the city, then urban planners started coddling the national chains, creating a sameness in each community so the chains would be comfortable opening businesses there. That's helped destroy the small businesses that used to make cities and towns vital.
Tielman helped lead the successful fight against Bass Pro building at Canalside.
Rather than trying to attract national chains, Tielman suggested, planners and economic development agencies should be creating environments were local small business owners can thrive.
"Retail is important in a city," Tielman said. "It's not a primary economic activity, but it's important to bring people out, to have people in the streets, people who bump into each other and make it lively. Dense cities, dense streets, create economic activity."
When people visit a city, they want to see other people, smiling people, he said.
"If they see glum people on the streets, or worse, no people on the streets, but just tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street, they're not going to want to come back," Tielman said. "They're not going to want to move there. They're not going to want to move or start a business there."
And these days, Tielman noted, people don't even need to visit your city to form an impression. They can use Google Maps and Street View.
Tielman used the Google Street View image below to illustrate his point.
Tourists, prosective residents, and most importantly, site selectors for semiconductor companies, are going to look at a picture like this and conclude Batavia isn't a very attractive place to be. There's no signs of life. There's no economic vibrancy.
Handing out tax breaks to bring in a Dick's Sporting Goods doesn't fix this problem.
Tielman pulled up this Google Maps view of Batavia again and noted the one area of Old Batavia still left, the block between Jackson Street and Center Street, south of Main Street. It's the only part of Downtown that is still densely built.
"This is the kernel from which you can hit the reset button on Batavia," he said. "You can start here and work backwards toward that which you once had."
Submitted by Howard Owens on November 1, 2013 - 3:57pm
The absolutely best thing Amy Worthington ever did for her business was move it to Downtown Batavia, she said.
In locating Amy's Fluffy Friends on Ellicott Street near the intersection of Liberty, she has given her business more visibility and the Business Improvement District has given her more avenues to promote her shop and get involved in the community.
"I participated in the Wine Walk, the Sidewalk Sale, the OktoberFest with the Rotary Club and I'll be part of Taste of the Holidays," Worthington said. "They've been reaching out to businesses to get more involved, and I'm all for that, to bring more feet to Batavia."
Worthington moved her dog grooming business from Corfu one year ago today because with her son starting school at Jackson, she wanted her business to be located closer to her family. Most of her clients were from Batavia and they told her, she said, that if she was in Batavia, they would make more appointments.
"And I wanted to be where I called home," she said. "This is where I grew up."
The move has been a stunning success.
A year ago, she hadn't even cracked 150 clients. Today, she has 375. That's an impressive 150-percent growth in business in just 12 months.
The success has allowed her to expand a bit. She's also started selling some retail items, such as collars and leashes.
Clients have requested more services, so now she does teeth cleaning, she said.
Worthington said she's blown away by how well the move worked out for her.
Submitted by Howard Owens on October 29, 2013 - 8:54am
Batavia has one less vacant building and a new business coming soon! Local entrepreneur Tim Walton has plans to open a cold kitchen eatery and bar at 35 Jackson Street. Crazy Cal's, will add a fun atmosphere for everyone to hang out, eat or have a drink.
"We want to be able to give something that isn't really here in Batavia." Walton says. "If you're hungry, we are going have a fast service cold kitchen, which is Specialty sandwiches, soups, salads and a few other food items as well. If you're thirsty, we have a bar to get enjoy a beverage from the unique drink menu and if you just want to hang out, we will have music, TVs to watch the sports games, pool tables and other games to play as well."
Just where did the name come from? "Cal is short for California. I wanted to open a place that you would expect to see along a boardwalk at the beach. It's not beach-themed, but you go on vacation and see these fun places to hang out and have fun, and that's the atmosphere of what I wanted to bring here."
Walton is no stranger to the bar and restaurant business. The last two years he has been able to gain management experience at several bars and clubs in Buffalo including Bayou, LUX, and Privato Lounge.
"The experience allowed me to learn event management, promotions, liquor laws, staffing management and everything else that is needed to run and manage a bar," he said.
Most recently, Walton has also been able to gain restaurant and food management skills from The Lodge, a high end restaurant in Buffalo. He has also done local shows and events at City Slickers, T.F. Brown's and Center Street Smokehouse and the list of shows includes The Zac Brown Tribute Band, Buffalo Bills, MTV and more.
Crazy Cal's which is aiming to be open by the holidays, and will be open at least five days per week, has already attracted much interested from the public.
"It's getting a lot of excitement," Walton said. "I've already spoken to a few teams and church groups that are interested in doing fundraisers here once it opens, too, so it's definitely exciting. It's something that will be good for the city and can benefit everyone."
The business is expected to create a minimum of five to 10 new jobs as well.
Submitted by Howard Owens on October 28, 2013 - 4:04pm
Photos and information submitted by Chelsea Dillon.
With the permission of the Business Improvement District, Reality Check Students (a Genesee-Orleans County Youth Bureau program) decorated pumpkins to include in Halloween displays Downtown with facts about smoking. The program leads up to the 38th Annual Great American Smokeout. The smokeout is Nov. 21, when smokers are encouraged to give up cigarettes for 24 hours.
Submitted by Howard Owens on September 14, 2013 - 10:06am
The City of Batavia released a request for redevelopment proposals to reinvest at one of the City’s strategic Batavia Opportunity Area (BOA) sites. The one-acre parcel is located in the heart of downtown. Market research reports a demand for new office space and downtown market-rate residential.
The RFP deadline has been extended to Wednesday, Sept. 25.
Please review the attached proposal or visit the Web site for more details. Questions? You may contact our office or the City Manager’s office at 585-345-6330.
Submitted by Howard Owens on August 20, 2013 - 2:54pm
At Monday's meeting, the City Council rejected on a 6-2 vote a plan to spend $35,000 to build a dumpster enclosure on School Street.
City administrators have been looking for a way to clean up the collection of dumpsters used by nearby businesses and sought approval to use VLT money (money from slot machines at the Batavia Downs Casino) for the project.
Council members said that money should be spent elsewhere or saved.
"That money should be used for other things," said Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, "like reducing our budget or the fact that we need new sidewalks or resurfacing our city streets, just helping our taxpayers all the time instead of businesses all the time. And I have nothing against businesses, but nobody helped me pay for a dumpster."
Pier Cipollone also said taxpayers should benefit from the VLT money, not private businesses.
"The VLT money will end up in the budget," Cipollone said. "It will end up in a contingency fund that will offset sidewalk construction, infrastructure improvements which would, in the end, decrease the tax levy."
City Manager Jason Molino agreed to try and rework the enclosure to reduce its cost by $10,000 eliminating any direct contribution by either business owners or taxpayers.
The measure defeated Monday night also called for spending $30,000 to mill and resurface the parking lot around the proposed dumpster enclosure.
(Based on story by The Batavian's news partner, WBTA.)
Submitted by Howard Owens on August 17, 2013 - 7:12am
It's the biggest day of the year for the City of Batavia with the arrival of Summer in the City.
This is the 10th year for the Downtown event, which opens at 11 a.m. and goes until 9 p.m.
There will be over 45 vendors. Food concessions will be serving: BBQ, hot dogs & hamburgers, fried dough, pizza, and ice cream and lots more delicious treats. Artists & crafts persons will have a variety of artwork, jewelry and clothing for sale.
The entertainment lineup runs throughout the afternoon and evening. Downtown will be rock’n with Terry Buchwald is on stage from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. performing as Elvis and also doing a country music show. Hit N Run takes the stage at 6 p.m. and performs until 8 p.m.
There is also a kids' zone and classic cars.
At 6:15 p.m. is the 32nd Donald R. Carroll 5K Race and Walk, starting on Bank Street.
City firefighters will be holding a free child passenger safety seat check at the Fire Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 18 Evans St.
The following street closures are in effect now through 11 p.m.:
Bank at Alva Place
Bank at Washington (Closes at 3 p.m. / Reopens at 7:30 p.m.)
Main at Upton Monument
Main at Liberty / Summit
Jackson at Ellicott
Center at School
Court at Ellicott / Parking Lot Entrances /Bank Drive- Thru
Jefferson at Intersection Tonawanda Valley & Wendy’s Parking Lots
Wendy’s -- Main Street Entrance
Other events going on today: The East Pembroke Mud Races, a 5K run at Frostridge and Hogs for Paws at Stan's.
Submitted by Howard Owens on August 14, 2013 - 6:25pm
Batavia's new frozen yogurt shop, Yo Twisters, on Jackson Street, officially opened late this afternoon, and as soon as Mercedes Rivera, left, and Tesla Phelinger heard the shop was open they headed right down.
They had sampled the frozen yogurt before and couldn't wait to try it again.
At Yo Twisters, when a customer walks in, he or she is directed to the back the store where the frozen yogurt machines are -- 15 of them. You can mix and match any flavors you like, and then top with any of a large variety of toppings. You then pay according to the weight of your cup.
Submitted by Howard Owens on August 6, 2013 - 7:39am
Yesterday, Buffalo Bills Head Coach Doug Marrone put his team through a long and physical practice. It was the first day of scrimmages. By the time it was over, players were tired and running late, but still, several did show up as planned to City Slickers for the taping of Sports Cube TV.
Above former #1 draft pick Marcell Dareus during his interview.
Also joining the party were Aaron Williams, Migel Bradham, Zebrie Sanders, Marcus Dowtin, Crezdon Butler, Jamie Blatnick, Kortnei Brown and Dominque Ellis.
Submitted by Howard Owens on August 3, 2013 - 12:50pm
Monday night, City Slickers will be the place to be. Several Buffalo Bills players will be in Batavia at the restaurant for a live filming for Sports Q Television, a Buffalo-based company. The event which starts at 9:30 p.m. will feature two DJs, and up to 30 Buffalo Bills players that will be arriving shortly after in a limousine, courtesy of Mancuso Limousine (sponsor). The filming will take place on the stage and will be open to the public to enjoy and watch, and will be followed up with an after party.
The names of the players can't be released because of contractual arrangments.
"There will be even more guys coming out. Some of them we can't announce until they show up, others we are just waiting on confirmation," said event coordinator Tim Walton. "We have invited the whole team, so anyone can show."
City Slickers is no stranger to hosting the Buffalo Bills. Walton has recently put on events that included Buffalo Bills players Stevie Johnson, Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard, TJ Heath and Crezdon Butler. The Bills will be traveling from St. John Fisher College, where they have been staying for training camp. They have Tuesday off due to the PGA Tour.
This event is 18+ with proper ID and will run from 9:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Everyone is encouraged to wear Buffalo Bills gear and to come out for dinner before.
The restaurant, which is not usually open on Mondays will be opening at 4 p.m. and offering a full dinner menu.
Submitted by Howard Owens on July 30, 2013 - 8:32am
It's an ambitious plan, one that takes in 366 acres in the heart of Batavia and targets at least five major areas for redevelopment, and it got a some favorable responses at a special public meeting Monday night.
"There have been a lot of plans done over the past 15 years and they have been shelved," said local businesswoman Mary Valle. "Now, we are ready to move forward. There are a lot of exciting things going on in the county and the city. I do believe the people are ready to support it and more forward."
Perhaps the most dramatic redevelopment proposal involves knocking down part of the downtown mall and extending Jackson Street north to Alva Place.
The plan would open up some of the mall concourse, improve parking and traffic circulation and improve development potential in the area, officials said.
An artist's rendering shows a new three-story, L-shaped building at the corner of the extended Jackson Street and Main as well as a new three-story building on the east side of the new Jackson Street, next to the existing Bank of Castile building.
"I like the idea that we are doing something," said Councilman Pier Cipollone. "I would prefer to see more retail come into the mall. I really like the idea of opening up the concourse.I would actually like to see the entire concourse opened up and create an open area walkway. I understand the notion of an indoor winter area, but I still thik it would make more sense to just open it up and give all those businesses access from the outside."
The plan also calls for redevelopment in and around the Della Penna building on Ellicott Street, to stretch down Evans toward Mill Street and along the railroad tracks almost to Jackson Street.
Included in what's known as the Batavia Opportunity Area is the Harvester Center -- which has already undergone some redevelopment with the Masse Place project -- and what the plan calls the medical corridor, which is the area east of Bank Street.
The plan builds on Batavia Central Corridor Urban Design, Marketing and Development Plan completed in 2006 and the recently completed Community Improvement Plan.
The planning phase is covered under a $260,000 state grant, the Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program.
The presentation, with artist renderings, is supposed to be posted on the Batavia Opportunity Area Web site some time this morning.
Story via The Batavian's official news partner, WBTA.
Submitted by Howard Owens on July 27, 2013 - 9:45am
A program to bring more higher-end apartments to Downtown Batavia is starting to produce results.
Yesterday, visitors were able to view two new apartments at 17 Jackson St. owned by Dr. Edward A. Sielski that were renovated as part of Batavia's community plan.
A $60,000 Main Street Improvement Grant -- funded by the state, administered by the Business Development Committee -- helped pay for the $270,000 project.
The second and third floors of Sielski's building -- his dentist office is on the first floor -- were converted to a pair of 1,000-square-foot apartments. Each is two floors with a kitchen and living space on the first floor and bedrooms, a bathroom and washer/dryer combo on the second floor.
The back apartment overlooks Jackson Square.
There are several more downtown apartment projects in the works under the auspice of the program.
Julie Pacette, economic development coordinator for the BDC, said studies have shown there is pent-up demand for higher-end apartments in Downtown Batavia.
The target market is the professional person or couple earning $60,000 to $75,000 a year who wants to live in a more urban environment. They don't mind walking up stairs and want to walk to the public market, the grocery store, theater, restaurants, bars, post office and gym.
Sielski said he's already received several calls about the apartments without even advertising them.
For the open house, one of the apartments was furnished by Max Pies with decorations from Valle Jewelers.
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS: The total project cost was $270,000 ($100K more than originally reported). This does not include architectural fees). That's 22 percent of the project cost. The NYS Main Street Grant Program allows grants up to 75 percent of project costs. The first apartment completed under the program was in the Valle Jewelers building, owned by the Valles, and rented immediately. The rents for these apartments is expected to be $950 to $1,000 a month.
Dr. Sielski with his family, from left, Neil, Lauren, Dr. Sielski, Claudia and Elise.
Submitted by Howard Owens on July 18, 2013 - 5:28pm
This sign is in the door of the former Salsa & Curry location on Jackson Street, Batavia.
The owners are not ready to discuss their plans, but as you can see, they're getting ready to open a frozen yogurt bar, hopefully by the end of the month. Workers were busy today installing the counter.