Architect shares vision for possible future for the Wiss, and the Village of Le Roy
The Wiss Hotel building in Le Roy can be saved, village renewal expert Rick Hauser told about 50 people gathered in the village hall last night to hear his presentation.
The foundation is straight. The walls are straight. It needs a new roof and nothing in the interior can be saved, but it's got "good bones," he said.
And the two-floor apartments on the second and third floors would be pretty awesome.
The total cost of the renovation? About $1 million, financed by the formation of a limited liability corporation that would raise $400,000 in equity and borrow another $600,000.
"In my experience, nice apartments are hard to come by, and in my experience, and again, that's all I'm going on, as well as the supply and demand in Le Roy, and that's more anecdotal -- there's a shortage of apartments," Hauser said. "These kind of apartments get good rent and rent for the full amount. They become your anchor tenant. You are going to fill the apartments."
The first floor would consist of four or five retail or business spaces, in the draft plan created by Hauser, CEO of InSite: Architecture.
Hauser has been consulting with people in communities like Le Roy for a number of years, but the best example of his work can be found in Perry, his hometown, where he has helped community residents rehabilitate several old buildings and turn them into profitable, attractive, productive mixed-use complexes.
The property values of those buildings have gone, in general terms, from the tens of thousands up to $150,000 and even $250,000.
Every building has gone from a deteriorating eyesore to an attractive, money-making venture.
The first part of Hauser's presentation included pictures of the accomplishments of the Perry community in revitalizing their downtown area. He also shared how a Main Street, LLC works.
It involves getting 30 or 40 local residents to invest in the LLC, either making a monetary contribution or in-kind (a plumber doing the plumbing work in the building, an electrician doing electrical, etc).
This isn't charity. The investors can potentially share in profits.
They could also realize any tax benefits.
The biggest tax advantage would be realized if Le Roy could successfully get its downtown designated a National Historic District (Le Roy is totally appropriate for such a designation, Hauser said), then 40 percent of investments in building preservation becomes a tax write-off for investors.
If $400,000 of the $1 million restoration cost came from investors, each one would realize a 100 percent, potentially, write-off on their share of the investment.
The project isn't without difficulties and risks, Hauser said. There will be critics who try to stop it, creditors will want tenants before loaning money, tenants will want improvements before they commit and no improvements can be made until the LLC has some loans in place to help get the project started.
However, Hauser said, the trick to solving this "chicken and egg" problem is to treat it like a flywheel -- get a little momentum going and build on it. If a bank says, "yeah, we can loan you some money if you have a tenant" find a tenant willing to commit if financing is in place, and keep building piece by piece from there.
Part of Hauser's suggestion for the Wiss is for the LLC to borrow $200,000 from the village at no interest.
The estimated demolition cost for the Wiss is $200,000. Rather than spend that money with no possibility of return on investment, Hauser is suggesting that the money be committed to something that will turn the Wiss into an asset that will help spur economic growth and generate more tax revenue for the village.
When a group of people make this kind of investment in their community, Hauser said, they become the champions of the village that help drive economic growth. They shop more in the village and encourage others to support local businesses. They have a greater stake in the economic vitality of the community.
"When you ask people to put their money where their house is, it's self interest, but it's self interest writ large," Hauser said.
Asked if the Wiss was worth saving when it's not really an obvious architectural beauty, Hauser said he never really looked at the building that way. It's a potential asset to the community because of its size, scale and location. It's more valuable where it stands than as a vacant lot.
"Saving an old building is a tool for economic growth," Hauser said. "It creates jobs. It creates business opportunity. It brings nice apartments that attract people who have stable incomes and is a catalyst for other initiatives that make Le Roy a better place to live. I don't really care about the architectural beauty of the building."
"Part of Hauser's suggestion for the Wiss is for the LLC to borrow $200,000 from the village at no interest."
The village is not a bank, and should not be loaning anyone any money.
"The biggest tax advantage would be realized if Le Roy could successfully get its downtown designated a National Historic District (Le Roy is totally appropriate for such a designation, Hauser said), then 40 percent of investments in building preservation becomes a tax write off for the investors."
Shouldn't that designation be made before the project is undertaken? Has that process begun? How long does it take? Isn't that government tax money we're talking about?
I also question the parking for the apartment tenants. Mr. Hauser suggested that 3 additions to the rear of the property will be razed to make 5 parking spots for 5 apartments. Aside from the logistical problem of tenants having more than one car, is that property subjected to any environmental reviews? I believe that is going to be an issue that may raise cost estimates. Also, what about asbestos remediation? Those buildings are probably chock full of it!
I attended last night, and the one impression I took away was this: Mr. Hauser made it seem as if Leroy has nothing to offer currently, and that is certainly not the case. I wish him good luck with his vision, but I am reluctant to support any public financing from the government.
If folks in LeRoy want to fix up a property to help revitalize the village, why not start with The Creekside property? That actually has some potential.
Bud, would you rather just piss away $200K to tear down the building and be left with a vacant lot that generates no tax revenue and and no economic benefit?
Or perhaps some chain in that location that sucks dollars out of the community and has a lower assessed value and less economic impact?
The village is in possession of this property now. I certainly wouldn't want my village government to "piss away" anything, ever. I also would be opposed to any drive thru type establishment on that corner. It would be a traffic nightmare, (like the one at 5 and 63 that is proposed) and would just worsen the situation. I would like to see them collaborate with the NYS DOT, and make the corner of routes 5 and 19 more suited for the level of traffic it sees. And if that means demolishing a decrepit old building that sits on contaminated soil, then that's what needs to happen. I was not exagerrating when I said the corner of that building is 3 or 4 feet from that intersection, and large trucks frequently have an issue with that corner. That intersection could be redesigned to include real turning lanes, right on green arrows in all 4 directions, and a much safer situation than the one that exists there currently.
The village hasn't seen any money from that parcel in years, so the tax revenue loss isn't there. I chuckled last night when Mr. Hauser said we could see the tax revenue from the property increase 4, 6, maybe 8 times. It's zero now, so what are we multiplying?
Let me again say, I am not naysaying Rick or his idea on a personal level. I wish he would get in touch with Bill Farmer( if he still owns it), and work on the Creekside. His half completed idea has been lying dormant for years, and is much more appealing as a location to save than the Wiss. All just my opinion, thank you.
I feel that as a community we need a jumping off point and The Wiss is a logical place to start. The Wiss is owned by the village, Creekside is private property.
I am a part time resident at Silver Lake. I have watched the Perry downtown transform under the leadership of Rick Hauser and the citizen's of Perry. Mt Morris is another success story due to a lone investor.
LeRoy has too much to offer to be left to die on the vine. It would be absolutely tragic to see that building razed.....and beyond tragic to see some chain occupy that corner so more dollars fly out of town to far away stock holders. We need to steer our own destiny.
I watched what the citizen's accomplished with the pool. Our downtown is worth the investment and sweat equity. With Stella's Bridal on Main St and a couple of gift shops, The Jello museum, great locally owned restaurants and a picturesque creekbank, -- what's wrong with LeRoy as a wedding destination? Economic development is like dominoes, but it may take LeRoyans to take a chance to bring it to fruition.
Big ideas but no $$$ to back it up. Put some businesses/apartments in there.....nice idea,but where to hell would you park? I really wouldn't want to park around Bacon St., and the other parking is behind Mcdonalds- place has been an eyesore for years. Let Mr. Developer cough up all the money for their "vision",or tear it down and put a Tim Horton's there-I'm sure that would generate more tax revenue than a couple businesses that wouldn't last.
Tim Horton's is the last thing that downtown LeRoy needs. With that idea, you can kiss Java's on Main and Don Antinore's business good bye. Java's and Don live and pay taxes in the community. Bob, we need locally owned businesses, not chains!
Bob, the idea of forming a Main Street LLC means that citizens who WANT to invest, invest.
Parking for five cars in the back will take care of some of the parking issues in a would be apartment setting and municipal parking a couple steps away is not all that inconvenient. My daughter lived on Monroe Ave in Rochester. She parked off the street. It was a small sacrifice she made to live in a trendy neighborhood.
Communities support their businesses in a variety of ways. Sometimes they install infrastructure for them or give them different types of tax breaks or change zoning for them. Sometimes there is a limit to what they can and should do.
The idea of borrowing the demolition funds was never meant to be set in stone. This type of lending has been done in other communities and that is probably why it was used in the feasibility study. It seemed like a good idea. Consequently, it was included in the offer to the Village Board.
Obviously, if this part of the offer is not acceptable, the investor group has to figure out some other source for these funds, and then see if the project is still viable. That was the point of looking into the project in the first place - to see if the idea was realistic from a dollars and cents aspect.
I think the LLC idea is good in a general sense. I think it is great to be able to have a way that average people can come together as a group to get something big done. Also, as others have pointed out, it goes back into your own community, instead of some faceless corporate entity's bank account.
I read a really good quote today
"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can." Sydney Smith
If somebody gave 2 sh*ts about this property 25 years ago when it was still open and not as run down as it is now,it would be a decent building now. Unfortunatly,the previous owners didn't care about building and let it fall into disrepair. People make suggestion of tearing this dump down,everybody comes out of woodwork with their ideas and visions-here's my vision-tear it down,Leroy is not"trendy".Make the corner more safe w/better vision lines,and add a few parking spaces to boot for the businesses that are established.
If Skaneateles, Naples and East Aurora are "trendy" and "trendy" means weekend destination which means new revenue to businesses like Vintage and Vogue, Locally Made and The Hobby Horse then wouldn't "trendy" be good for LeRoy?
LeRoy has all of the ingredients. A picturesque community with a beautiful creek bank and an already established and vibrant historical society that includes the ever popular Jello Museum. Tearing down our Main Street is not the answer, in my humble opinion. We need to expand on the assets that we already have.
You cannot make a valid comparison between those three villages and LeRoy. Skaneateles and Naples are both not only in the middle of the Finger Lakes but the heart of Wine Country as well. East Aurora has several museums and parks, in addition to "Vidler's 5 & 10", which on its own accounts for 1,000's of people per week traveling there.
The Naples Grape Festival draws in excess of 35K visitors annually. What is the "trendy" explanation for "Oatka Fest" getting smaller each year, with fewer vendors and less attendees? The creek behind the low head dam in the village is pretty enough but unless something is done about the Canada Geese that reside there year-round, it's not really usable. During the summer months, there's barely a trickle of water once the creek flows past MIll Street. How is that a tourism draw?
I certainly can appreciate civic pride but it needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of realism. The group should take whatever steps are necessary to complete the Creekside Inn Project before worrying about creating yet another possible albatross in the village. (Renovations start on The Wiss - the soil contamination is far worse than anyone anticipated - project costs skyrocket - interest fades - taxpayers are left holding the bag.) On the other hand, if the group comes up with 100% private investment, have at it.
Well said, Lorie.
Many of us remember when LeRoy and the other small towns were bustling.....completely filled with local businesses where all the $$$ and benefits stayed local. All the residents shopped there, everyone skipped along happy, and blah, blah, blah. If that worked out so well, why did it all deteriorate into what is is today?
Knock it down. Tim Horton's! Vote on it.
Jerry, I don't think any one thing is accountable for the change. Gas was cheap; everyone had a car and felt no obligation to shop local. Big stores advertise big, and people tend to respond to hustles. Shopping in a bigger city pretended an air of distinction. Small town stores had limited inventories, and the big stores offered product diversity. Big stores could under-price and over-stock smaller competitors. A shopping outing was viewed as a family activity. The TV families (corporate sponsored 'entertainment') role-modeled a certain lifestyle that audiences adopted. The level of expendable cash was high, and families had no qualms buying stuff they really didn't need so they could showcase the latest gimcrack. A whole culture of independent mobility and materialism was swallowed hook line and sinker by the middle class. The suburban mentality of homes, here; job, there and shopping centers, somewhere else was built from the ground-up after World War II. Consumerism was shoved down our throats.
Now that Wall Street has everyone by the short and curlies, non-urban America can look back at its past and wonder who killed their town.
Jerry, it all went away because people took it for granted. They thought it would always be there, even if they started shopping at Walmart or eating at Applebees.
There's no arguing the economic benefits of vibrant downtowns. The empirical data is quite clear. It's essential to get it back if you want to live in a healthy, wealthy community.
If you prefer to see your community decline further, then yeah, knock it down.
There's really two choices here ... growth or decline. Preservation represents growth. Knock it down represents decline.
Howard, I don't agree it went away because people took it for granted. It went away because people aren't dumb...things were cheaper at Walmart and the food was better at Applebees. Very few will pay higher prices locally for nostalgic purposes.
Notice all the old horse hitching posts are gone from Main St's everywhere? I'll bet that was a controversial thing at the time.
The choices are not just growth or decline. The only choice is change.....like it or not.
I'm voting myself back up a tick. ;-)
Except, Jerry, things aren't always cheaper at Walmart, the service isn't as good, and spending your money at Walmart is like robbing from your own community, and the food isn't better at Applebees.
People made very bad choices based on propaganda not on facts.
A building is either in decline, due to lack of maintenance, or being properly cared for and still viable. The same with communities. The change for change sake mentality is what led to urban renewal in Batavia. It's that kind of thinking that more often leads to decline.
The choice is decline or growth. Vacant lots, chains and non-local shopping and dining represent decline. To chose that is to chose against your own self interest, no matter how attractive and shining it might seem. To really care about your community means supporting local owners and preserving your heritage, which gives a community character, attractiveness and meaning.
Le Roy, Batavia, all of WNY sit on a valuable treasure -- a grand past that can be the foundation for a Renaissance. Tearing down old buildings just because you can is not way to spark renewal and growth. When part of the past can be given a clean, fresh start -- that is a step towards prosperity. Anything else is throwing the towel in on failure.
Kevin, you can absolutely make a valid comparison between Le Roy and any other location you care to name that has shown growth and success, including Medina, which is showing itself as another great example of a community betting on its existing assets and making them better.
Le Roy has tremendous assets to build on. The only thing that will limit its potential is boxed-in thinking.
A healthy dose of realism for you right here: You can accomplish anything you set your mind to and work at.
The only way to accomplish big goals is to aim for bigger goals.
As for soil contamination, it's only an issue if the building is torn down. Leave the structure up and it's not a factor.
Everybody keeps saying take care of the Creekside first. Yes, the Creekside is a great asset that should be completed, but it's just a bookend on the downtown. The other bookend could be the Wiss. If that is gone before the Creekside is completed, it greatly diminishes the potential of the entire village.
"Le Roy has tremendous assets to build on. The only thing that will limit its potential is boxed-in thinking. A healthy dose of realism for you right here: You can accomplish anything you set your mind to and work at. The only way to accomplish big goals is to aim for bigger goals."
Really? Lorie says one of LeRoy's greatest assets is the creek, it's a natural tourism draw. How do you propose to make the Oatka flow at a usable level during July and August when most outdoor tourism dollars are spent in Upstate NY? I'd really like to know because I've been trying to deal with the exact same problem for 30+ years in my own business and the fact of the matter is ("boxed-in thinking" aside), if it doesn't rain, naturally occurring waterways don't flow. On the other hand; Skaneateles - Skaneateles Lake / Naples - Canandaigua Lake / Medina - Erie Canal. Those are waterways one can build a tourism base around.
Well, we're 180 out on this one Howard, so be it.
I don't live in LeRoy, but its decline seems to have started, or accelerated, when Kodak, Bausch and Lomb, Xerox and other big companies in Rochester started to close or lay off workers. Many of those workers lived in LeRoy where the cost of housing was lower than comparable neighborhoods in Monroe County. Many of them moved out of our area for other work, retired or took lower paying jobs. That loss of income really hurt LeRoy. And of course, LeRoy lost some local good paying businesses. The odds of getting that income group back is slim.
John, actually the NYS Thruway (and the interstate system nationally) started the decline of small town America. I agree with you; there is no getting it back. It will transform into something else. I'm certain everything changes and nothing lasts forever.
What is common with almost every successful revitalized main street is a niche or even a couple of niches. We can't turn the clock back to the Friday night downtown shopping experience common in LeRoy in the 50's and 60's when the police actually had to direct traffic and a family would have to make several trips around the block to find a parking spot. That's over and I think losing the living wage, blue collar jobs that were so prevalent in LeRoy also contributed to the demise, like all of our villages across the industrial north east, but that's another line for debate.
So who are the customers in 2012? I believe that many of these customers are from other towns and maybe even other states. And they have to have a reason to come here. My out of town yearly day trips consist of a fall pilgrimage to Naples for the grape pies and to shop at Joseph's Wayside market (I skip the grape festival) and usually a Christmas trip to East Aurora where I visit Vidlers of course, but also the art galleries and the Roycroft museum. We always eat at the local restaurants -- Redwood in Naples and Tantabaums in E Aurora. I'm sure the destinations are different for everyone, but this is probably common for most of us. We all take these little day trips -- but there needs to be a reason to go.
The debate for today is how do we revitalize and find that niche for LeRoy. I actually think the niches already exists and I mentioned it above. Our creekbank (which doesn't dry up in summer because it is damned) adds natural beauty and a peaceful visual and our vibrant historical society (particularly the Jell-o Museum). The out of town buses can be seen almost every single day in front of the LeRoy House.
Now add the sprinkle of entrepreneurs who have staked their claim on Main St already. We have three wonderful gift shops and four locally owned restaurants -- not counting the D and R and The Ganson on Rte 19. I shopped in all of the gift shops today, along with hundreds of other local shoppers.
And we have Stella!
Call me a crazy dreamer, but this is what I see as a possibility. I see that one little business -- Stella's Bridal as the beginning of that destination idea -- another niche to compliment the Jell-o museum. Weddings! We have people coming into town from all over the place to shop at Stella's. What if we had venues for receptions? We already have a premier caterer with the D and R Depot.. And we have outdoor pictures on the creek bank. If you are passing through LeRoy on a Sat in the summer you have probably seen wedding parties in all their regalia on the creek bank for pictures. We also have one of the largest limousine services in the state -- S and S Limo's.
We have the potential. We just need people to believe. And we won't create a niche by adding another chain to our Main St.
The LeRoy Business community absolutely should embrace tourism as a revenue driver if that is what the consensus believes will benefit them most. However, the best chance for success would be with a Master Plan in mind and having it acted upon in a methodical manner. Most importantly, development of the plan should be built around a continuation of currently proven assets rather than starting a course of action built around an idea that someone believes might work. That is one of the biggest differences I have seen, and continue to see between the approaches in Genesee County vs. Wyoming County. There seems to be a never-ending quest to re-invent the wheel here.
Using the example of turning LeRoy into a wedding destination my first question is; why? Stella's is a nice enough store but I don't see how having a Bridal Shop in the village correlates to implementation of your grandiose idea. To the best of my knowledge there are no Bridal Shops anywhere in Wyoming County yet it is highly rated as a wedding destination. There are countless reception venues; The Glen Iris Inn, Hillside Inn, Beaver Hollow Conference Center, Bryncliff Resort, Hidden Valley, Wolcott Farms, Breezy Hill Party House, Silver Lake Country Club,.......I'm sure there are more but those are the ones that immediately came to mind. Aside from the various Fraternal Lodges in LeRoy the only reception venue is LeRoy Country Club. None of the restaurants in the village are large enough for a reception of much size plus parking would be an issue. Perhaps Nancy Nickerson could buy The Ganson House (it's been for sale for a while) and turn that into a Party House. I had read that the Casino was for sale as well but that obviously is too small. Turning the Wiss into street level storefronts with loft apartments does nothing in this regard which brings us back to The Creekside. That certainly has wedding reception venue potential and it's by the creek you want as part of your plan. I could go on but I think my point is pretty clear already.
LeRoy's proven niche is obvious. It seems to me that continued development of motorcoach tourism is a far better fit for LeRoy. Adding more specialty shops to compliment those already being visited would fit into this plan. As I stated before, if the Wiss can be brought back to its former glory solely via private funding only, go for it. Will the newly formed LLC be able to count on several thousand dollars of financial support from both yourself and Howard?
Yes, Jerry ...
I think Lorie is on the right track.
It's easy to say, "well, we lost all those jobs and what it wasn't isn't coming back."
It's harder to say, "we can build something special on the foundation that's already here." It's not going to be like it was before. That's not the point. That doesn't mean it can't be something economically sound that makes Le Roy / Genesee County a better place to live and work.
I'm not expert on the topic ... but I've read enough to know and have heard enough expert speakers speak on the topic to know ... the empirical evidence weighs heavily in favor of revitalization, new urbanism, mixed use downtowns, more compact development instead of sprawl. The communities that do that successfully thrive. You don't even need an Oatka Creek or Erie Canal to make it happen. You just need the willingness to make it happen.
I believe in the possible. I don't accept decline or status quo as inevitable.
One more thing Jerry. There is no way, no how that Applebee's has anything on the menu that's better than LB Grand spaghetti.
There was also a practical side to the big malls and shopping plazas. All the stores you wanted are one place, with lots of parking. While you might not park near the door, you did not have to park around the block. The hours were usually better also and they were open on weekends.
...Far out-weighing the practical side, siphoning local wealth to: J. C. Penney, Plano, Texas; Abercrombe & Fitch, New Albany, Ohio; Aeropostale, Wayne, New Jersey; Sears, Hoffman Estates, Illinois; Dicks Sporting Goods, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania; Macy’s, Cincinnati, Ohio; The Bon Ton, York, Pennsylvania; Radio Shack, Fort Worth, Texas; Kay Jewelers, Fairlawn, Ohio; Zale’s, Irving, Texas; Journeys, Nashville, Tennessee; Old Navy, San Francisco, California; The Gap, San Francisco, California; , Hot Topic, City of Industry, California; Foot Locker, New York, New York; Banana Republic, San Francisco, California; FYE, Albany, New York.
With mall vacancies mirroring the unemployment rate, prophesies of doom and gloom cite ecommerce and recession as eroding the viability of suburban shopping. There is good news. Restaurants are safe. Amazon.com cannot sell anyone dinner- yet. Abandoned malls make great mushroom and Talapia farms.
As far as being open on weekends... You are citing an era when blue laws still existed- if not enforced by law, many shoppers observed a 'no shopping on Sunday' mentality. Women were not part of the workforce to the degree they are today. They could shop during 'regular business hours.' I'm sure the weekend sales hours would have evolved to match demand. You may also recall that many stores also had delivery service. In the 50s and 60s one could call in an order to a shop and a delivery boy (in some cases) would deliver groceries, etc. to the customer's home. Talk about convenience!
To all the dreamers, I say dream on! Howard, I say again, I remember LeRoy Main St. when it was really rolling. And it's gone now. And it's not coming back as you'd like to see it. You say people took it for granted. I say not. And while you all are dreaming about a revitalized Main St., take a drive around any street in LeRoy...or Batavia...or pick a town. It's all on the decline. That style of living is over with...done. The oxygen supply has been cut off. Yes, it bothers me too as that's where my roots are. But no use crying about it. Many of you want to see the old days return.....it won't happen. Go ahead, down vote me.
Jerry, when I started The Batavian, there were plenty of people who told me local small businesses would never buy advertising on a start-up, local, online news site. There's no need to list them by name, but I remember them all, some of them are here in town. While different products and projects, the general tone and nature of those comments are right in line with the sentiments you express. "It hasn't been done" (though it has (in both cases)), "therefore, it can't be done." We have 120 local businesses sponsoring The Batavian now. I'm not one who buys into the negative attitude of "it can't be done." Getting it done starts with the motivation to get it done.
The original issue is not if downtown LeRoy can come back, but if the old hotel should be part of it, and should the LeRoy taxpayer be on the hook for it.
Howard....I wish we coould have this conversation in person because I think this method misses a lot. You appear to be aligned with "growth or decline" (no other choice). I am trying to tout (apparently unsuccessfully) transformation. The Batavian is winning because you are part of the transformation process and very wisely offer a venue applicable to what people want/use today. If you tried to start another print media, you'd be under by now. Again...I remember the good ole' downtowns and miss them as much as anyone who also remembers them. Again...I ask you to address the declining nature of the entire region up there, not just Main Sts. Houses are getting older too and fewer people keep them up. Someone above mentioned amazon.com. Online shopping is also transforming our downtowns. They are what people want/use today v. going to some local downtown merchant for a smile and friendly service. So...we can't just fill the downtown stores then be angry (and judgmental) when too few shop at them.
All of you that think I'm out to lunch on this issue, go ahead and pony up several thousand dollars each and save the Wiss! Don't just voice altruism. Don't wait for someone else to do it then whine when it doesn't happen. Own it...it'll take more than emotional optimism to save it. Blah, blah, this is my last comment on this topic.
Lorie...I like LB Grandes spaghetti too!
Just look at urban renewal on Main St downtown Batavia. That worked didn't it! Some of those old buildings could have been renovated also but some short sighted people decided to just tear it all down. Look at all the local businesses that were closed and jobs lost. Now look how many businesses and jobs are on Main St. First it was the opposite corner and you got a Walgrens. If the Wiss gets torn down what's the next building to go? If there is any potential for a group of investors to save it then save it. I like driving through old villages and seeing the old buildings downtown not chain stores and reataurants.
Urban renewal was not the main reason downtown Batavia is the way it is. It was building an ugly mall where every store was individually owned. And, it is still the biggest problem the mall has.
John, urban renewal is what brought Batavia an ugly mall. It is a perfect example of what happens when a perfectly serviceable good old downtown is torn down in the name of "progress" and "change."
I am not saying that the mall isn't the result of urban renewal. But they did not have to build it. They could have done better.
A very poor decision was made after the old buildings were removed and we are still stuck with results. The mall is a failure as we all know. Another opportunity was missed when not enough owners would agree to sell their mall property years ago to the developer who wanted to buy it
Anyone who thinks that tearing down centuries old buildings will result in boom-construction of commercial buildings designed to last as long as the originals, become similar icons of community progress or encourage the kind of lifetime community investment attributable to those who built the original structures is deluded. It's more than sweat equity; it is a whole different perspective- one that will never be forthcoming from the owners of any chain store/restaurant. All of the former structures that embodied Batavia could have been renovated to last as functional, multi-use, aesthetic attributes of the city. The same cannot be said for a cookie-cutter building designed to house a chain with foreseeable obsolescence. It is wasteful to tear down a building built to last centuries and replace it with a building with a life-expectancy of thirty-years. Any city with abandoned chain-department stores (which haven't been reclaimed for non-commercial use) is a testament to such folly. On the flip-side look at the multitude of urban commercial buildings, century-old, that are refitted as luxury apartments and in-demand store-fronts. You needn't drive far to see cities very similar to Batavia that have regenerated their business districts, say, Geneva, Seneca Falls, Ellicottville and Canandaiqua.
I wonder if any of the people weighing in on this topic have ever walked through the downtown of a city like Edinburgh, where structures aren't a mere century old, but five and six centuries old, and bustling with life and economic vitality.
Just because a building is old or plain doesn't mean it doesn't have value. Progress isn't measured by how many buildings we knock down, but how often we find reuses for what has always served us well in the past.