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October 5, 2018 - 6:45pm

Development expert says Batavia needs density, vibrancy downtown to attract young workforce

posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, news, notify.

richardsongcedc2018.jpg

It's almost like saying, "build it and they will come," but that is exactly what WNY real estate expert Bob Richardson, of Buffalo, told staff and board members of the Genesee County Economic Development Center during a presentation at the Med-Tech Center on Thursday.

"It's a hard pill for us real estate people to take," Richardson said. "We've always been real estate centric -- location, location,location -- but now we have to be workforce centric. It's primarily about having highways and access points.

"The question businesses ask is 'can I fill the jobs I need to fill?' The balance of this generation, the Millennials, make decisions differently than previous generations. Their decision-making process is about where can they find the lifestyle they want to determine where they want to live. They chose to live where they want to live and then figure out where they're going to work."

For a community like Batavia, Richardson suggest, the city's downtown needs to be come more vibrant, more active, and that comes from density.

He flashed a map of downtown on the screen and said Batavia has too much surface parking. There needs to be more buildings, more busineses, more apartments, and with that Batavia will become a more attractive place to live, work and play.

Today's young adults, he said, are more interested in renting than buying a home, and they're looking to do that in a place with density and a lifestyle conducive to social activities.

For that to work, though, rental prices can't approach double what a purchase price of a single-family home might be because then renters are more likely to become buyers. Without renters, it's harder to build the kind of vibrant urban core that will attract a young workforce.

Building new is more expensive than adaptive reuse and Batavia still has spaces available that could be converted to apartments.

A dense downtown would bring more people into the center of the city, Richardson said, and as e-commerce destroys the big box business model, it's a chance for small retailers, who can provide a great shopping experience, combined with an online experience, to reassert themselves and fill up those downtown storefronts.

As an example of Millennials picking lifestyle over career, he pointed to Northern Colorado, where universities graduate 9,500 people a year in STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math -- fields. Those graduates could move anywhere in the country but they choose to stay in Northern Colorado because they love the lifestyle.

There are 37,000 people in Northern Colorado with degrees in STEM careers who don't have STEM jobs.

"They're waiters, waitresses, bartenders and dishwashers," Richardson said. "They want the lifestyle and don't care because they want to live there and it's a cool place."

To be a community that attracts STEM companies, you need a higher supply of STEM workers than available jobs, he said.

"In the City of Batavia, you can't really wait for the private sector to lead on this," Richardson said. "You have to have a vision. You have to have an urban plan that starts to address the issue. You've got to pave the way."

jeff saquella
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What's this guy wacko?..Batavia doesn't need to get any more crowded than it already is. I liked it alot better when it was more quaint with less people. we're not buffalo or rochester. Has he ever driven down main street during rush time? Does he realize that with more growth that they would have to do something about the increased traffic congestion? Bad idea but that's just my opinion.

Howard B. Owens
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Drive down Main Street during rush time? There is no rush hour in Batavia.

Mr. Richardson's analysis is right in line with what Tim Tielman said here in 2013

https://www.thebatavian.com/howard-owens/batavia-can-regain-its-economic...

Prior to urban renewal, Batavia's downtown was dense and had greater vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

You can't have high pedestrian activity, necessary for a successful business community, without high density. There has to be enough activity to make it worthwhile to come to town. Every urban planner will now tell you density is critical commercial success for city centers.

jeff saquella
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Your right howard....there is no rush time in batavia. It seems no matter what time of day it is there is congestion in the streets. I've been driving for a living for over 40 years and there is definatly an increase in traffic congestion.

Ed Hartgrove
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"...Batavia has too much surface parking. There needs to be more buildings, more busineses, more apartments, and with that Batavia will become a more attractive place to live, work, and play."

Didn't this young lady mention that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94bdMSCdw20

Hmm... Who knows? Maybe the Batavia of the future will contain hundreds of 400 Towers-like buildings. And, the "unlucky" inhabitants - those who don't earn their living through ecommerce, or, live above their career choice of being a salesperson at the ultra-uber-boutique - can take either the high-speed train, or, this group's mode of transportation to the STAMP project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4WiyxXpyZc

After all, The Times They Are A-Changin' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7qQ6_RV4VQ

John Roach
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Jeff, as a point: There are fewer people in Batavia now than in the 1970's. There use to be about 17,500 in the City. Now it's around 15,000 and projected to drop another 9% in the next 10 years.

david spaulding
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I patronize Batavia via the stores (not Walmart) restaurants, DMV, concerts. etc. and I find Batavia to be just fine the way it is. Almost everything you want or need can be found in Batavia right now. The future will come no matter how you plan for it.
Here's some free advice, save your money you have a jail to build....

Mary Jo McConnell
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The traffic in Batavia is awful. We need a traffic go around for trucks. The congestion is so bad I avoid main st. and drive all side streets to get from one end of the city to the other. Parking is a nightmare. If I can not find a reasonably close place to park near my destination, I do not bother to go there. We need less traffic that never stops, but just passes through. This crap that we MUST have all this traffic because they might just stop at one of the local shops is just a way to keep the BID open.

Howard B. Owens
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There is no traffic in Batavia.

I've lived in cities where there is traffic on surface streets. There is no traffic in Batavia.

Every parking space downtown produces no tax revenue, generates no sales tax, provides no wages, nor rent. Each parking space is a economic black hole. Wasted space.

I trust none of the people saying Downtown is fine the way it is never complain about poverty in the city and related issues of crime and more people on social services. You can't have it both ways -- accepting economic stagnation and chirping "keep in classy Batavia" or "Batavia ain't what it used to be" every time a crime is reported.

David Neth
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Pass-through traffic is what kills cities, not revitalize them. And the parking? There's way too much. People are so quick to say that urban renewal killed Batavia. And you know why it did? They exchanged the density for parking. (https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/12/6/stop-shoehorning-suburbia-...)

Educate yourself before you comment.

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