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Sunday, July 6, 2014 at 12:58 am

Photos: Ramble Music Art and Music Fest 2014

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, Ramble Music & Arts Fest

It would be impossible to get better conditions for an outdoor music festival than the blue skies, mild temperature and gentle breeze we experienced in Batavia on Saturday.

Two stages jammed with tunes and hundreds of music fans turned out for the annual event.

Sue Cappiello Copp and Anne Crotzer were collecting donations in support of Paul Tydelski, a local business and music booster, who has been ill.  The guitar, signed by Ramble musicians, was donated by Roxy's Music and will be given to Tydelski as a gift.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Photos: Conversion of old Carr's Warehouse displayed during open house

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Carr's, downtown

There was an open house this afternoon for the new mixed-use complex in Jackson Square.  

The former Carr's Department Store Warehouse is now four apartments and a downstairs office space.

One of the apartments is already rented. Thermory, a company that installs thermo-treated wood decks, has moved into the office space.

The building was purchased by developer Paul Thompson and partners, who invested more than $500,000 of their own money as well as leveraged $115,000 in state grants to complete the conversion project.

Features of the building include exposed original beams, industrial-grade wood floors and brick walls.

Friday, June 27, 2014 at 11:14 pm

Photos: Ireland well represented on first night of 2014 Jackson Square concert series

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, downtown, entertainment, Jackson Square, music

The annual Jackson Square concert series kicked off Friday night with a return engagement by Stone Row, who first played the series nine years ago.

The electrified Irish band entertained the crowd with traditional and contemporary numbers.

Opening the show was a string quartet from the Genesee Symphony Orchestra playing traditional Irish tunes.

For a line-up of this summer's shows, click here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 7:39 am

Two Ghost Riders bands liven up Main Street on a Friday night

The Ghost Riders and the Ghost Riders Drum and Bugle Corps put on a unique show Friday night on Main Street.

The bands performed right on the sidewalk next to Larry's Steakhouse (the show's sponsor) and music fans, maybe about 300 hundred of them, gathered around standing or finding seating as best they could.

The music was great, of course.

The Ghost Rider's great pedal steel player Jimmy "Steel" Duvall.

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Photos: Cutting masonry on Center Street

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

When workers from Tompkins Insurance move into their new second-floor offices at Main and Center, they will have Doug Rebmann to thank for the bit of extra sunlight spilling into their space.

Rebmann has been working this week cutting through masonry to create two new window openings as part of extensive renovations to the second floor.

Tompkins expects to move its customer service center to the location in mid-September.

Monday, June 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm

On narrowest margin, council approves $1,900 for Downtown flowers

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, BID, city council, downtown

WBTA contributed to this story.

It took the City Council 20 minutes to debate whether the city should reimburse the Business Improvement District $1,900 for flowers.

In the end, the resolution passed 5-4, but not before some sharp words where shared in the council chambers.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian looked around the room during the debate and wondered why Don Burkel, BID director wasn't there, "so we could rip his ass."

The request for the reimbursement didn't quite come from Burkel, however, it came from Councilman John Canale, who invited Burkel to submit a request for reimbursement. Canale saw it as a symbolic gesture to show common cause between the City Council and the business community. 

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs said the city already does enough for Downtown. The sidewalks are clean, the medians are beautiful and city crews hang the flower baskets.

"The fact is, we just saw this for the last time in our last packet and I'm like, 'oh, what's this,' " Briggs said. "The fact that a few council people were talking about it beforehand, planning it, then why didn't we know about it in a committee report? Why weren't we told about it. I got it in my packet and I'm like, 'what's this?' They didn't come to us at budget time. If you want this done, come to us and let's talk about it, but for me to find it in my packet and then decide it, no."

Councilman John Deleo also opposed the idea.

“I promised voters I would be financially responsible with their money,” Deleo said, “but flowers don’t rise to that level.” 

“It’s not just about making Downtown pretty,” countered Councilwoman Patty Pacino, “it is about making Downtown attractive to new and existing businesses.”

The BID fronted about $3,900 for the hanging baskets.

"I supported Vibrant Batavia because I wanted to bring pride back to the city," said Councilman Pier Cipollone, who spoke at length about the need to restore pride in Batavia. "If more people have pride they'll have a better feeling about being Downtown."

Also Monday: 

The city spent a total of $10,700 during the last fiscal year defending itself against a lawsuit filed by the City Centre Mall Association.

The figure was obtained by resident John Roach through a Freedom of Information Request. Roach complained that the bills he obtained were not “itemized.”

City Manager Jason Molino countered that Roach only requested a total amount for mall litigation and if an itemized accounting was requested, it could be provided.

The legal services summarized in the 2012-2013 fiscal year were incurred before the city filed a countersuit against the Mall Association earlier this year.

Friday, May 30, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Photos: Center and School closed for repaving

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Center Street, downtown, infrastructure, School Street

Center Street and School Street (between Center and Liberty) are closed today for repaving.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 6:45 am

Councilman proposes spending $1,900 to help pay for BID's hanging baskets Downtown

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

Ben Franklin famously warned, "If we don't hang together, by heavens we shall hang separately."

City Councilman John Canale thinks it's time the various agencies working in the City of Batavia do a better job of hanging together.

To that end, he's asking his fellow council members to authorize a little extra spending: About $1,900 to help the Batavia Improvement District pay for the colorful hanging baskets lining Main Street again this year.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of division of agencies in the city that are all working for the betterment of the city, but nobody wants to get on the same page," Canale said.

The BID stepped forward and paid $10,000 toward the cost of garbage dumpster containers off School Street. Now the city can reciprocate by pitching in for the flower baskets.

City crews hung the baskets at the behest of the BID on Friday, in time for Memorial Day.

Canale acknowledged that the city funding Vibrant Batavia has been a sore spot for some, and the city pitching in on the hanging baskets can smooth things over a bit.

"The BID doesn't have to do all the things they do," Canale said. "They don't have to put up flowers to make our Downtown more beautiful and more attractive to future businesses or businesses that may want to relocate. I think it would be great for the city to partner on a project like this."

Flowers Downtown are part of the city's economic development efforts, Councilwoman Patti Pacino said.

"Whether people choose to believe it or not, STAMP is enormous," Pacino said. "The ag park. These are all new people who don't live here, haven't lived here, and I'm going to guess they're married and have children. I'd like them to come in and see this is a good city to raise children in and live in. Flowers in the city, it sounds like such a small thing, but it makes it that much more interesting, that much more available, and that much better to come here."

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs suggested the city already does its share by watering the baskets.

Asked after the meeting about the city's contributions to hanging flower baskets Downtown, City Manager Jason Molino said, "The city does a lot of participation and cooperation with the Business Improvement District because we value improving our Downtown and our business community, and that helps the community as a whole. This is another one of those circumstances where we're going to partner with them to do more in the future."

The council will be asked to vote on the proposal at its next business meeting in two weeks.
Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 10:29 am

Source of gas smell at Main and Jackson a mystery so far this morning

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown

City fire officials and National Fuel and National Grid workers are trying to unravel a mystery this morning -- what's the source of a gasoline smell emanating from the ground behind the old Genesee Bank building.

A business owner on Main Street reported the gas odor this morning. It was filling the air in that business and in the basement of 90 Main St., but not the surrounding building basements.

Meters have also detected the substance around where a new utility pole was installed last week.

One possible explanation is that decades ago -- before there would have been permits required -- there was a fuel tank in the area. The odor could be coming from residue of an old tank. But that's just speculation at this point.

UPDATE: It turns out a maintenance worker had spilled a small amount of gasoline in the area  a day or two before and that caused the odor to build up in the building.

Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Conversion of former Carr's Warehouse into apartments nearly completed

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 14 Jackson Square, business, downtown, Jackson Square

By the end of the month, 14 Jackson Square -- an address that never existed until recently -- will come to life in a new, and reinvented way.

The former Carr's Department Store Warehouse will contain three two-bedroom apartments (a fourth should be ready by the end of June) and a downstairs office space.

Paul Thompson and his partners will have invested more than $500,000 in the project, with the help of a state grant of $115,000, to convert the three-story structure into a mixed-use space.

The project fits a few of the city's goals to reinvigorate Downtown, said City Manager Jason Molino. It creates more residential space Downtown, more new office space and it converts a building that was doing nothing for the city into something vibrant.

"It takes a building that was always a warehouse and turns it into a useful and meaningful space Downtown," Molino said.

Thompson said his Byron-based company was interested in the project because they have some experience in redeveloping mixed-use spaces. It was a way to provide employment for his workers during the winter, and based on his experience with rental properties in the city, there's a strong demand for apartments designed to appeal to young professionals.

Study after study shows, young professionals want to live in environments where nightlife and shopping are in walking distance and there's a sense of urban life to the neighborhood (related story from USAToday).

This project brings the total of new apartments Downtown to nine, said Julie Pacette, coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp. All of the previous apartments rented to young professionals within days of becoming available.

By assisting Thompson and his partners, Pacette said, a property that was off the tax roles for a few years is now in private, property-tax-paying hands.

Thompson said the project has helped him expand his company. His staff of 14 is now a staff of 20, though not all of the new hires are directly related to this project.

Related: For those interested in new urbanism, the Congress for New Urbanism meets in Buffalo, June 4 though 7.

Paul Thompson

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