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.