Batavia hosts forum to showcase redevelopment possibilities

The Daily News

BATAVIA — City management hosted a first-time Real Estate Developer’s Forum this week that showcased redevelopment opportunities in the Batavia Opportunity Area.

The Forum was well attended, with more than 60 guests from across Western New York interested in learning more about the city and surrounding areas, City Manager Jason Molino said.

Potential investors and developers were invited to look at infill and redevelopment sites that have proven to become lucrative development projects state-wide.

“The response we received from this Forum has been very encouraging,” Molino said Wednesday in a news release. “Not only was there excitement and interest from what the city has been working on in recent years, but there was an overwhelming reception to the positive activity within Genesee County overall. Investors throughout Western New York are realizing Batavia has a vibrant future ahead.”

Included in the Forum were stats and figures related to the continued growth projected for the area along with presentations demonstrating successful redevelopment projects in Batavia, Genesee County and Buffalo suburbs.

Speakers highlighted many incentive programs and creative financing measures to demonstrate how underutilized properties can be transformed or restored into high-value real estate for the community, Molino said. The event ended with a bus tour of downtown, BOA priority redevelopment sites and the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

“This event was intended to put Batavia on the radar for investment. We believe it worked,” Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte said. “Everyone left knowing we are getting ready for growth in the next 10 years.”

Pacatte referred to Moody’s analytics economy.com projections that Genesee County will outpace the employment growth projected for the Finger Lakes Region in the next 10 years. Those growth rates predict approximately 2,600 new jobs by 2022.

“We need to be sure the city is ready to capitalize on this anticipated growth,” she said.

Steve Hyde of Genesee County Economic Development Center said his group was excited to see “the continuation of adaptive reuse and redevelopment projects in the city.”

“We are confident that this will compel developers to explore additional opportunities for investment now and in the future,” he said.

The gathering was a “terrific chance to learn about the BOA,” said

Vincent Esposito of Empire State Development. The strategic and coordinated efforts of the BOA will “greatly enhance” continued redevelopment prospects here in Batavia, he said.

In 2011, the city was awarded $266,508 from the Department of State to determine the best opportunities for redevelopment within a 350 acre area downtown.

Objectives of the program include redevelopment of underutilized, vacant and Brownfield properties, clean-up of select contaminated sites, continue revitalization of downtown and advance neighborhood stabilization.

Over the past 12 months a steering committee has developed priority reinvestment opportunities with conceptual renderings, preliminary engineering, market data and outlined incentive packages for motivating owners and developers to begin new projects within the city.

For more information, go to www.bataviaopportunity.com.

Editorial: Developing Opportunity in Batavia

The Daily News

In January 2007, City Manager Jason Molino told City Council members that it had taken five years of poor budgeting to put the city into a $3 million fiscal hole, and it would take five years of good budgeting to get the city out of that hole. It’s 2013, and the city has recovered financial health. Now, Mr. Molino says, it’s time to change gears. It’s time now to develop a future.

That is the impetus behind what Mr. Molino and Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte are calling the Batavia Opportunity Areas project. The project, based on market studies and analysis of housing and neighborhoods, outlines three major areas in the city where improvements would have the greatest impact. Included are 366 acres of historic, commercial and industrial property which planners believe underutilized. Some of the property has hazardous materials that need to be cleaned up before the site can be put to new use. In other cases, old buildings may need updating so they can be put to modern use. Other property is vacant, and just needs someone with vision, cash and motivation to build something new.

The idea grew out of the Brownfield Opportunity Area program which provides incentives for cleaning up and reusing property that has been contaminated by former businesses. But it goes a few steps further, in looking to encourage development of non-contaminated properties.

In brief, the three sub-areas include downtown Batavia bounded by Ellicott Avenue, West Main, Bank Street and Richmond Avenue; the adjacent Batavia Central Industrial Area bounded by Main Street, Harvester Avenue, Ellicott Street and Liberty/Summit streets; and Evans Street Commercial Area, stretching from the Tonawanda Creek and Ganson Avenue toward West Main Street. A map of the area is available on the city’s website, www.batavianewyork.com (click on Batavia Opportunity Areas).

The plans are ambitious, no doubt about it. They call for revamping of the Della Penna property, construction of new buildings in all three sub-areas, demolition of parts of the Harvester Center and City Centre, a new fieldhouse, even a brewpub. Parking is reconfigured and traffic flow altered — one big change would be the extension of Jackson Street northward to lead into the City Centre mall parking lot.

What are the chances that all of these plans will come to fruition? That is the first question bound to pop up. But it misses the point. The point is not what exactly will happen, but the direction the city is headed. The Batavia Opportunity Areas project lays out a vision. Planners have looked at what the city has and what the city needs, and have formulated a plan that fulfills those needs. It is not a plan set in stone. It is a plan that can be revised — it is more suggestive than definitive. It is meant to show developers what could be done, with hopes that will stimulate developers to either adopt those ideas or come up with their own.

The economy may not be booming yet, but it is improving. Mr. Molino said this region is already feeling the ripples of economic stimulus coming from the Agri-Park. Batavia is in developers’ sights. If the Genesee County Economic Development Center must focus on “shovel ready” industrial property, so, too, the city needs to make sure areas ripe for redevelopment are ready. The city has come a long way to get to this point. With the BOA plan, the city has shifted gear. It has engaged a future.

Batavia sees an ‘Opportunity’

City leaders have audacious plan for major redevelopment in downtown area
By Joanne Beck of The Daily News

BATAVIA — City leaders have some pretty big plans that will require time, money, serious interest from developers and grant funding.

If all gets done, a portion of City Centre would come down, Jackson Street would be extended north, there would be more mixed use sites at the Della Penna and Harvester Avenue business properties and, overall, underutilized sites would get an aesthetic overhaul.

It’s an audacious plan, but at least it’s a starting point, City Manager Jason Molino says.

“One year from today you’ll have four new apartments in the Carr’s warehouse building that will be rented … you’ll have hopefully either some construction beginning or remediation beginning or plans to begin at the Della Penna building, and hopefully we’re in a place where we’re progressing in our discussion with merchants and the downtown owners of the downtown site, as well as at Harvester Center,” Molino said during a presentation Tuesday at The Daily News.

“I think in a one- to three-year mark from now you’ll see probably the most redevelopment happen in downtown, absent of Bank of Castile being built, since Urban Renewal. That’s exciting too.”

These plans stemmed from a 2010 grant to flesh out an economic strategy for underutilized properties in the city. Borrowed from the name Brownfield Opportunity Area, which focuses on vacant, defunct and sometimes environmentally unsound properties, the city has the Batavia Opportunity Areas project.

The goal is to identify the most important parcels in need of help but with capacity to be valuable. That was part of the first two steps of the state program. First there was a prenomination step to do research and studies to help identify viable properties, followed by nominating them to the state for grant funding. The final phase is to implement the plan.

It’s the first “real economic strategy” for the city in a long time, Molino said.

“These are the areas we want to focus on and this is where we want to move. I think it’s exciting,” he said.

The BOA consists of 366 acres of historic, commercial and industrial sites. A Steering Committee of city, county and state leaders includes Molino, Planning Board Chairman Edward Jones, Business Improvement District Executive Director Don Burkel, Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce President Lynn Freeman, county planner Jill Babinski and Julie Sweet of New York State Department of State and Bart Putzig of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

One of the properties is well on its way, Pacatte said. The former Carr’s warehouse just received preliminary approval for a National Grid reimbursement grant and the Batavia Development Corp. is close to transferring the title of that property to Paul Thompson of Byron and his company, 13 Jackson Square LLC. Genesee County Economic Development Center has already approved a low-interest loan of $100,000 for the renovation project.

Next up is the Della Penna property wedged between Ellicott and Evans streets. The city is in progress with foreclosure proceedings and has put out a request for proposal seeking developers. They’ve got until Sept. 16 to submit a plan for consideration.

The city’s plan is to repurpose most of the existing Della Penna buildings, which have been determined to be structurally sound. A portion of one building would be demolished as the property is prepared for office and mixed use. There would also be a streetwall of trees to bring the road closer to the buildings. Remediation would have to be done to do some ground clean-up, Pacatte said.

These types of sites get “extra points” from the state for their goals to clean up the environmental mess left behind by former businesses. Those points come in handy when applying for state grants, she said.

“If we can get more grant money, we can peel back another layer of the onion so the developer can understand what he’s getting into,” she said. “It’s a tricky thing.”

Another project focuses on the ice arena and areas behind the county courthouse. That would leave current greenspace intact to serve as a nice outdoor spot for an ampitheater or pavilion.

A new fieldhouse, that some developer will hopefully want to build, would be next to the arena. This plan corrects some of the circulation issues behind the courthouse, she said. Sporadic parking and the nearby creek make for “a funky underutilized area.” There would be access for canoes and kayaks and potentially a bridge built over the creek to connect the bike trail that is in progress.

Over on Harvester are other commercial properties to be reworked into office, residential and warehouse space. Plans call for considerable demolition of buildings, as only 400,000 square feet is usable out of 800,000 square feet. Property owner Tom Mancuso of Mancuso Business Group has been involved in the plans and has agreed with proposed changes there, Pacatte said.

“One of the perceptions is that there are some very dark corners in this property,” she said. “We want to open it up some so it’s more inviting and friendly and clean and fresh, so you can get some more daylight into the property.”

The Steering Committee may also like to see the establishment of a brew pub in the area, she said.

Perceived as the most challenging project, City Centre has many players involved. It is the one site where there are several individual property owners, and all under one roof.

A medical corridor would be carved out and expanded in the area to the right of City Centre while Jackson Street would be extended into the parking lot on Main Street. Part of Cary Hall would be demolished to make room for a ground floor retail area with a shoe or uniform store or place to sell health care apparatus.

The Centre construction would affect Zip-Tor, Hillside, the former Homestead Event Centre, three doctors’ offices, rural housing and a yoga studio. Center Stage Dance Studio and Miracle Ear are already in progress with moving elsewhere, Pacatte said.

All merchants involved have shown interest in the plan, Molino said.

“There’s a warm reception, they want to understand all of the details,” he said.

The renovation would bring customers right to J.C. Penney when they walk into the main entrance. The former Gentleman Jim’s restaurant would be to the left and Pacatte would like to see something happening at that site. Perhaps a Bath & Body Works or other similar business, she said.

As for ongoing litigation with mall merchants, this plan does not change that, Molino said. City staff continues to be in discussion with the Merchants Association and hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he said. A lawsuit has been ongoing for years now, with each the city and merchants wanting the other to pay for big repairs such as the roof.

“This has been a challenge, especially with the absence of a plan,” he said. “Before, when you don’t have a vision, it’s easy to point fingers. It takes time to build a relationship. We’re going to have to work at it.”

Other possibilities are a boutique hotel in the downtown area and hydro, wind, solar or geothermal capabilities for any of the projects.

City staff has invited developers from Western New York to take tours of these sites to generate some interest. City Council is expected to vote on a final plan by late October.

Batavia Development Corp. applied for a $2.7 million grant for a “greener cleaner Batavia” to put towards remediation efforts, with the intention to “move some of these projects forward,” Pacatte said.

She should get an answer by November or December.

For more information about this project, go to www.batavianewyork.com and click on Batavia Opportunity Areas.

City Unveils Ambitious Redevelopment Plans for ‘Batavia Opportunity Area’

Submitted by Howard Owens on The Batavian

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.

City Redevelopment Plans Given Airing

Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012

By Joanne Beck of The Daily News

BATAVIA — Although a redevelopment project covers a wide array of possibilities, it is something that will come to fruition, city leaders say.

Some of the key players in the project reviewed its details during a public meeting Wednesday at City Hall.

“It’s an awful lot, it covers a large part of the city,” Steering Committee member Ed Jones said. “We’re not doing another study that sits on a shelf. We’re trying to make something tangible. It’s very overwhelming with a lot of historically challenging sites.”

The Batavia Opportunity Area program focuses on 366 acres of land with either vacant or underutilized properties. A consulting team from the city, LaBella Associates, ELAN Planning Design Lanscape Architecture PLLC, Harris Beach Attorneys at Law PLLC, Modern Energy LLC and W-ZHA LLC will provide engineering, legal and design recommendations based on public input, Elan staffer Lisa Nagle said.

“You all know your community best and you are providng information to us,” she said to a group of about 20 people. “These aren’t easy projects. It will bring these properties back on the tax roll.”

Four areas have been identified as prime locations for redeveloping and/or possibly connecting to other sites for a more centralized downtown. They are City Centre, which includes the concourse, parking, aesthetics and its varied uses; the Medical Corridor of United Memorial Medical Center’s Bank Street facility, YMCA, the parking lots and Senior Center; Harvester Avenue areas of parking lots, Masse Place, the Batavia Industrial Center and surrounding neighborhood; and the Della Penna building and nearby properties which might make for a suitable Creek Park, Nagle said.

After the presentation, participants were asked to visit four stations to list assets, impediments and opportunities for each area. People listed location, size and the openness as strong points for City Centre. The biggest detriment was “ownership,” realtor Andrew Young said.

“That’s messed up,” he said. “You’ve got to get them to agree to do anything about it.”

Pastor Marty Macdonald added that “nobody has vision” at the downtown site, and that there has been a lack of leadership.

“It’s been that way since Day One,” he said.

Opportunities exist, they agreed, including a community center, hotel and open air concourse. Even though the city owns the concourse — the hallway that runs throughout the Centre — each individual property is owned by private citizens. There will be a continuous effort to “knock on doors” and try to engage merchants and landlords to work together, Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte said. No one from the Centre was at the meeting.

Pacatte is hopeful that this project will create a new feel for areas such as the former mall. She believes that instead of having strictly retail or professional sites there that a purposely developed mixed use strategy can work well. She and City Manager Jason Molino also suggested a possible connection between the City Hall building and over to Bank Street. It may lend well to being a “wellness corridor,” she said.

“I’m super psyched about this process,” she said. “We’ve got a brain trust that’s the consulting team. I think it’s going to be very practical with engineers and attorneys it’s a huge step in the right direction. It’s a plan, but instead of here’s what you should do, we will also know how it should happen and here’s the money to make it happen.”

That money is to come from Brownfield tax credits, a reimbursement program after a project has been completed, said Richard Rising of Harris Beach.

His understanding is the program will be in effect at least until December 2015.

For more information or to offer input on this project, go to www.batavianewyork.com.

Batavia Opportunity Area forum Wednesday

By Joanne Beck of The Daily News

Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012 12:00 am

BATAVIA — A redevelopment effort that began a few years ago will continue with a public forum next week.

The Batavia Opportunity Area program will most likely attract property owners and commercial and industrial investors with ideas for currently vacant sites in the city, Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte said.

“The BOA is a strategic real estate centric approach to breed new economic enthusiasm,” she said Thursday. “The project team of experts will be producing concept plans for specific properties based on practical market research and analysis.”

The public is invited to attend at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council Board Room, second floor, City Hall. Attendees will get a chance to review program information, meet the project team, ask questions and give input for future use, City Manager Jason Molino said.

The city first applied for a grant to pursue this in 2009. In spring of 2011, city leaders learned they had been awarded $266,508 from the Brownfield Opportunity Area Program. Often related to remediation clean-ups for pollution and contamination, the Brownfield program includes any property that is “underutilized,” Molino said.

During a council meeting this summer, Molino asked to use the grant money for LaBella Associates to narrow a scope of properties from 59 to 20 and conduct a site assessment and environmental review to help determine what would be the best use for each site.

The old Della Penna property on Ellicott Street is one example, he said, and City Centre is another.

One goal for this meeting is to identify “locally acceptable development ideas” and packaging incentives (such as grant money) that will motivate the redevelopment investment, Pacatte said.

Focus areas include downtown and the industrial corridor between Harvester Avenue and Liberty Street and in the Evans Street neighborhood.

Grant money went for the project team, which includes ELAN Planning Design Lanscape Architecture PLLC, Harris Beach Attorneys at Law PLLC, LaBella Associates, Modern Energy LLC and W-ZHA LLC, Pacatte said.

This meeting will be conducted with the Batavia Opportunity Area Steering Committee, which  includes members from city management, Batavia Development Corp., the Business Improvement District and Genesee County’s Chamber of Commerce and Planning Department.

Community input will be “acknowledged in the concept plans” and shared with the public and during an invite-only developers forum next spring, she said.

“Ultimately, having thoughtfully designed and professionally prepared site specific concept plans should help those property owners and investors in finding funding resources to make the redevelopment happen,” she said. “In turn, the community benefits by have the investment injection and inspired community revitalization.”

For more information, go to www.batavianewyork.com.

City announces open house to introduce Batavia Opportunity Areas

The Batavian

The first public open house to introduce the Batavia Opportunity Areas (BOA) will be held at the city’s Council Board Room at City Hall, One Batavia City Centre, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5. An interactive forum will be facilitated by ELAN, an award-winning firm specializing in community revitalization.

Those in attendance will be provided with information on the program, given an opportunity to meet the project team, and review information about the program. Members of the community will also have an opportunity to ask questions and provide input.

The meeting will be conducted in conjunction with the City of Batavia Opportunity Area Steering Committee, which includes members from the City of Batavia, Batavia Development Corporation, Batavia Business Improvement District, Chamber of Commerce and Genesee County Planning Department.

The purpose of the Batavia Opportunity Area program is to advance the redevelopment of under-utilized, vacant, abandoned, or contaminated commercial and industrial sites within the city. The focus areas include Downtown Batavia, the industrial corridor between Harvester Avenue and Liberty Street, and the Evans Street corridor.

This effort builds upon existing plans, including the city’s recently completed Community Improvement Plan, to advance redevelopment of strategic sites and areas within the city. The outcome of the BOA program will help the city as well as businesses and property owners in the area with obtaining grants and financial incentives for redevelopment.

For more information on the Batavia Opportunity Area program, visit the city’s Web site at www.batavianewyork.com.