The first of many committee meetings to develop a plan for the city to put to use its $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award was held Tuesday evening at City Hall.
A group of 20 people representing different areas of the community were asked to be a part of the committee. Ed Flynn, a member of the Planning and Development Committee, said it is a cross section of the community, in terms of businesses, agencies and residents.
“This is an opportunity for the community,” Flynn said. “It is also a responsibility for the community. It’s a lot of money. That’s why we’re putting together a Strategic Investment Plan so that we have some kind of strategy to take that $10 million and make sure there is some kind of impact on the community.”
The six-month schedule for the plan is aggressive, Flynn said. There will be multiple committee meetings, and public meetings before the final draft is submitted.
“We need to push this and get it done by the end of March,” Flynn said.
Batavia was one of 10 communities awarded the $10 million as part of the statewide DRI competition. The goal of the grant is to transform downtown neighborhoods into vibrant communities where the next generation of New Yorkers want to live, work and raise families. The winning communities are awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key catalytic projects to advance the community’s vision for revitalization.
“It’s not just jobs, it’s not just investments, it’s not just public spaces, it's all of those things together that create a vibrant downtown,” Flynn said.
Projects need to be submitted by Dec. 8 to be considered. Flynn said he will hold a Nov. 21 information session for business owners, nonprofit organizations, and others interested, who want to submit a proposal.
While not every idea submitted will be funded by the grant, Flynn said they will look at multiple projects for the 90-acre boundary in Batavia.
“There might be some other projects that we might recommend to not be funded by the grant,” Flynn said. “But they may be useful for the future revitalization of downtown Batavia, so we will keep them in the plan.”
Multiple projects for different places in the community were introduced for Theater 56, Jackson Square, the City Center, and the Masonic Temple.
Projects on the plan should fall into one of four categories: Public improvements, significant private development projects, revolving loans and grants, and branding and marketing.
On Batavia’s application, the project will focus on arts, culture and entertainment, healthy living and wellness, and prosperity for all. The committee members discussed goals they would like to stick to decide what to focus on when choosing projects.
Steve Hyde, the president and chief executive officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said the focus should not be on what will create jobs.
“What we want is to make these investments to create vibrant spaces and vibrant places,” Hyde said. “If we can make those investments to do that, the jobs will follow.”
After editing the original vision statement, the committee decided the new statement is, “Batavia is all-in to reshape its urban core by embracing and building upon its rich entrepreneurial history, fostering cultural appreciation and creating a healthy, vibrant community to benefit all.”
Erica O'Donnell, a resident in Batavia, said she is one of those "terrible Millennials," but she would like to see more projects to attract young families with children.
"We have a unique opportunity, being between Buffalo and Rochester, to draw Millennials here," O'Donnell said.
The next public meeting has not been scheduled yet but will be posted on the Batavia Downtown Revitalization website along with other updates, here.