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July 13, 2015 - 9:31am

Batavia's Millennial challenge

posted by Howard B. Owens in Millennials, population, batavia, business, redevelopment, downtown.

The U.S. Census Bureau put out a press release and the national media ate it up: There are now more people living in the United States who are classified as Millennials than there are Baby Boomers.

The Democrat & Chronicle got into the act by pointing out Millennials now outpace Baby Boomers in Monroe County.

There’s been no similar coverage in Erie County, but Buffalo has enjoyed a reputation for the past couple of years as one of the major cities young adults are helping to revitalize.

So where does that leave Genesee County?

Not on par, it seems.

While nationally, there are 83.1 million Millennials, comprising a quarter of the U.S. population, and the number of Baby Boomers has slipped to 75.4 million, the post-war cohort still rules the roost in the Batavia Micropolitan Area.

According to the Census Bureau Web site, there are 15,422 Baby Boomers locally compared to 14,670 Millennials.

Is Genesee County’s lagging Millennial population a trend that's important?

Absolutely, say those with the jobs related to the area’s development and growth.

“You definitely want to have Millennials in a community,” said Felipe Oltramari, the county planning director. “The next generation will create the jobs and opportunities for future generations to be here. As they become players with purchasing power, we want to make sure they are living here and they’re bringing more buying power and creating more jobs and running our community. From an economic development perspective, and social perspective, you want people here from all sorts of generations.”

The window of opportunity to anchor a small town with Millennials may be closing shortly, according to William Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

And it’s a critically important issue for the future of small cities.

“Most people settle down by age 35, and usually don’t move from one metro area to another after that,” Fuller wrote in an article for Governing.com. “And the demographic group behind the Millennials is a lot smaller. Just like Baby Boomers, the preferences of the Millennials will drive our society for two generations. They’re making location decisions based on their idea of quality of life. And they’re going to make all those decisions in the next few years -- by the time they’re 35.”

The good news, according to Fuller, is even if time is short, the goal is obtainable for small cities.

“Even Millennials … want to live near their families and near where they grew up, meaning that if you can create interesting places, they’re likelier to stay,” Fuller wrote. “And you don’t need the endless hip urban fabric of New York or D.C. to compete. You just need a few great neighborhoods for people to live and work in. For most cities, that’s an achievable goal.”

Interesting places, amenities, activities, culture and the opportunity to interact socially, these are the things planners say Batavia needs to retain and attract Millennials.

“I try to drive this point every time I speak,” Oltramari said. “This generation moves first and then finds a job. If you look, there are jobs here and available, but they want to be where their peers are.”

So how do we create an environment where Millennials want to live?

A key word: density.

According to research by Nielsen:

“Sixty-two percent indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants and offices. They are currently living in these urban areas at a higher rate than any other generation, and 40 percent say they would like to live in an urban area in the future. As a result, for the first time since the 1920s growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them.”

Tim Tielman, a Buffalo preservationist and development consultant, observed at a Landmark Society talk in 2013 that Batavia is hampering its ability create the kind of economic core that attracts Millennials and like-minded residents with its over-abundance of downtown parking.

"One of the biggest issues every city faces is dead zones," Tielman said. "Batavia has dead zones up and down its streets. Dead zones are devoid of commercial activity. You chain too many dead zones together and you destroy your local community."

When you build your commercial district around the car, the district loses its appeal to pedestrians, and when people walk and interact, commercial activity soars, the feeling of community is pervasive, and social and civic capital grows.

"It isn't cars that make a place a commercial success," Tielman said. "It's a success (based) on how well the human animal can get about certain places. It's what appeals and what stimulates them to walk."

More and more, City Manager Jason Molino said, he’s hearing people talk about walkability. Increasingly, it’s what all communities are after, and something — along with the companion concept bikeability — that Batavia is lacking.

“People want quality-of-life amenities,” Molino said. “People will commute a little bit if you don’t have the jobs in this area if they have the amenities.”

Molino got an immersive experience in the kind of lifestyle amenities that help bring vitality to an urban area. On a vacation day, he and his family visited a couple of the shopping districts in Buffalo and then stopped for dinner at Larkin Square. It was Food Truck Tuesday (video).

Larkin Square, part of what is now known as Larkinville, an area once known as the Larkin District, which is considered Buffalo’s first commercial district, was a rundown industrial warehouse neighborhood. Spurred by a $2 million public-private investment in 2009, the Larkin Building and surrounding cityscape was redeveloped and revitalized. It’s become a hot spot in Buffalo for retail, food and entertainment activity. Tielman was a consultant on the project.

“Two things were obvious to me,” Molino said. “You had people coming to the square right after work, Millennials coming right after work, but you also had the senior population and families — people interested in this kind of quality-of-life amenity with vendors, live music, a pavilion and seating area, and a grass area, and 20 food trucks, all reasonably priced.”

There’s an interesting intersection these days between what Millennials want and Empty-nesters want, Molino noted. They want to get away from the demands of suburban home ownership and the lack of a closely knit community fabric and they seek out walkable neighborhoods with plenty of retail, dining and entertainment options.

That’s what he saw throughout his vacation day with his family in Buffalo.

Steve Hyde’s spent some time recently in Larkinville as well and came away with the same observations.

“It’s a fabulous, vibrant place,” said Hyde, who is the president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC).

Hyde has been spending more time recently working with the City of Batavia to help secure funding and support for the city’s Batavia Opportunity Area, also known at the Brownfield Opportunity Area, or BOA.

The BOA plan is focused specifically on redevelopment of properties that are stalled in the revitalization pipeline in the Downtown area, such as the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street. Moving these projects forward would help advance further Downtown revitalization.

A look around town at all the underused and often dilapidated space might make revitalization feel like a daunting task, and though time is short to attract Millennials, Julie Pacatte, the economic development coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp., isn't feeling any pressure, at least in the sense that revitalization needs to occur before Millennials age out of relocating.

"I think we're fortunate that by the time people reach 35, they tend to move back here with their families," Pacatte said. "They want that smaller-town environment, where they know who's who and they like that feeling of community. We're fortunate it in that way, so no, I don't feel the pressure. I do think we have an opportunity to attract younger people sooner into our community and we're excited about that opportunity. I don't feel the pressure of it, but I certainly want to see something happen in a shorter time frame, in the next five years, in terms of turning some of these sites around."

Since the trend in cities across the country is toward density and mixed use, with greater demand for apartments in downtown areas, Batavia has backed several initiatives to convert underused or unoccupied space in Downtown into apartments, and Pacatte has been right in the middle of it.

She said the new apartments Downtown have certainly proven attractive to Millennials.

Molino agreed.

“All of our marketing studies show there is a demand for this kind of housing in Batavia,” Molino said. “People want to come to our area. It’s a core, central area.”

Part of the plan for Downtown is also creating more office space. Businesses that are founded by Millennials or that hire Millennials need space to relocate and grow, Pacatte said.

"A priority for us is drawing more people Downtown to live, work and shop," Pacatte said. "Millennials are the right target market for our Downtown plan."

While Hyde’s job is to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Genesee County, Molino’s focus is a little broader. He wants to see Batavia become a better place to live.

He believes Batavia is ideally suited to be a less-expensive alternative to Buffalo and Rochester for Millennials and Empty-nesters, even when they work in the larger neighboring counties.

“With mobility being what it is these days, if you draw a half-hour circle around Rochester and Buffalo, they’re going to intersect in Batavia,” Molino said. “If people at that half-hour distance as a reasonable community, where can they find those amenities? That’s going to be what sells communities to Millennials and Empty-nesters.”

Hyde said what has already been accomplished in Batavia is attracting Millennials. He knows because his daughter, who works in Rochester, and a roommate, who works in Buffalo, rented one of those Downtown apartments.

“They love it,” Hyde said. “Everything is in walking distance. There are restaurants and bars and things for them to do. We need more of that Downtown.”

A place for Millennials to land in Batavia will increase the impact of STAMP (Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park) if the GCEDC is successful in attracting the kind of high tech, nano tech, advanced materials, solar and bio-manufacturing the park is designed to accommodate. The companies that set up shop in STAMP are going to hire a lot of Millennials who will make good wages and want a lifestyle that is social and active.

Hyde believes Batavia needs to be ready for them, or miss the opportunity to secure future growth.

“We can be a bigger center of economic opportunity,” Hyde said. “We can create a hip, smaller center city with lots of lifestyle choices.”

The BOA is tuned to provide just that kind of boost.

"The opportunity is in front of us," Pacatte said. "We have to make our Downtown more attractive and through these BOA sites, we will really be able to transform the Downtown experience."

Chelsea O'Brien
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Similar articles have come out recently, and every time I read them I think the same thing "Batavia doesn't want young people. It wants older people."

City Council continually makes decisions that go against what young people want. They continue to make sustainable, ethical living difficult. They continue to pass more laws making home ownership more difficult. The Code Enforcement officer chooses to go after homes trying to make improvements instead of zombie home or landlords/tenants who continually cause problems. There are archaic parking restrictions and no one pays attention to sidewalks unless they're being ripped up and replaced. Budgets are built on the City's needs, not the people's needs. (A great example of this is how Molino wanted to pay for the aging water infrastructure).

Established community members continually push for things they way they have always been done. New ideas are rarely if ever accepted. The stupid mall is still there with its leaking roof and ugliness.

Want to get millennials involved? Go back to Batavia's roots: build community around main street and businesses there. Start with a focus on affordable housing and low cost of living.

Older people are great because they have an established family and incomes. But they don't have the same earning (or community service) potential 30 year olds do.

Mike Weaver
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Three words.... Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Want to attract millenials? Attract employers in growing industries that pay well. We all want to see redevelopment in Batavia's core, but you aren't attracting millenials with walkability. You are attracting them with good, middle class jobs.

Howard B. Owens
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Mike, did you read the article?

Mike Weaver
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I did Howard. If being halfway between Buffalo and Rochester was that big a selling point we'd be awash with mellenials.

Chicken and egg? STAMP needs millenials first but millenials won't come without good employment prospects. In my opinion, good jobs don't go to where the people are, the people go to where the good jobs are. Get the employment squared away first.

Howard B. Owens
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The story says the opposite. See Felipe's quote

Mike Weaver
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I don't agree with the quote. I don't think Millenials show up in our city without jobs to attract them.

Dave Olsen
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I agree with the premise that a corporation will want to invest in an area where the potential workforce is likewise invested. The educated and rooted workforce was one of the conclusions Gen. Co. was sold on for doing the STAMP project. Mr. Hyde and the EDC however adhere to the typical crony-corporatist Republican track of telling us "its not enough, we need us some supply side trickle-down action" I disagree. I think the people we have here are second to none and the tax incentives are just mere handouts. But, I digress..... Encouraging a sustainable community of achievers and civic minded young families is a great idea and do-able. Seeking them out and listening to what they want and like is smart. Trying to copy another area - not so much. It takes imagination and the tired 30 year old plan of redistributing the tax burden to attract new business and nothing for the existing ones doesn't make the grade and won't. The burden needs to reduced fairly and equitably. Focusing on making government more efficient and reducing taxes accordingly will get the attention of the "millennial" because we would necessarily have to get innovative to do so. It would also attract creative new business. Crony-corporatism is outdated and only helps those who are connected and suckling the gu'bment teat. How can you expect to attract young upwardly mobile ambitious,productive,creative people and the "empty-nest" self-sufficient middle age folks when you are constantly stealing from their pockets? I am not the only one who sees this. We can do better.

Brian Graz
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Batavia should be like Larkinville. Really?!!! How about this... Buffalo has a black man for mayor, it's 9 member city Common Council has three black folks and one hispanic. The city's essential services of police and fire departments have a notable number of minorities working there. How does Batavia stack up against that?

Buffalo's black population has doubled since 1970. It's hispanic population has increased 5 fold in that same period. So if increased population and "density" is the goal, as expound by the enlightened planners... Perhaps the place to start would be to bring some "racial diversity" to the mechanism that runs Batavia.

Mark Potwora
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Where do they come up this BS.All three of them Molino,Hyde and Pacatte have been in there jobs for awhile and nothing has changed . Downtown Batavia has a lot of empty store fronts. The old Carrs building as the main one the Mall is still a dump. Hyde tells all of what a great job he is doing after he hands out tax breaks but then we see Alpina layoff most of there people, Graham's take tax breaks and has layoffs to name a few.
Batavia has a high tax rate,with to many manage personal.

It's these reason people don't move to Batavia.Batavia does not a walk ability problem,they have a government is the answer to every thing problem.

Raymond Richardson
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"It's these reason people don't move to Batavia."

Maybe the reason people don't move to Batavia is too many Batavians can't use the proper pronouns there, their and they're.

Who knows!

Dave Olsen
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Or maybe its because if one dares to have an opinion that is contrary, some smug know-it-all will criticize their grammar, instead of expressing a counter-point.

I doubt either are the reason

Peter O'Brien
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I chose a house here because it was huge for the money. Sure it wasn't perfect but when buying a house on your own while making $15/hr, you can't get everything.

Since then, all I have learned about Batavia is that ideas to save me money will cost me more the next year.

The only things that attract people like me here are the Muckdogs and Beertavia. How much is that worth? Not enough.

I moved out here knowing I had a daily 70 mile round trip to make. I had to switch my doctors. I sacrificed time with friends and family. The payoff has been a small group of friends and an ever increasing tax burden. My life is harder because I chose to live here. That is the sad simple truth.

There is no magic simple plan that will get people of my ilk to want to move here. Walkability is a joke. I want to drive when I go places. I hate walking. The harder it is to drive someplace the less I want to go there.

Maybe someday Batavia will get its head out of its donkey. But I doubt it will be with the these three knuckleheads in charge.

Mike Weaver
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Peter, like you, I chose to live here because I could get alot of house for the money. Of course there are downsides to that. Housing values are depressed for good reason. 70 mile commutes is certainly one of them. Mine is pretty similar. 50% rental properties is another.

I don't understand how someone could think Batavia isn't already very "walkable". We walk nearly everywhere downtown. Batavia is too small to not be walkable. In my opinion, the only thing keeping Batavia from being great is good jobs. Rental properties would decrease as housing demand went up, property values would increase, and more of our population wouldn't have to leave Genesee County between the hours of 7am and 5pm. If the area were to attract the next Moog instead of the next Alpina this community would start to look more like East Aurora and we wouldn't have to spend government time and resources to do it. It would happen organically.

Brian Graz
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I've lived in this community basically all my life [64yrs]. It was a good manufacturing place to live when I was a kid. The city of Batavia had so much history, great stores, restaurants, bars, and night spots. I heard there was even a couple red-light houses. Scenes of Batavia Downs parking lots emptying tying up traffic for more than an hour, window shopping on main street, and catching the bus to Rochester or Toronto, or the train to Cleveland or NYC, are all just memories of the once great small city of Batavia. Then a few stupid, wealthy shop owners colluded with the "enlightened" planners, and almost in an eye-blink, beautiful downtown Batavia was razed and ruined... turned into a scene from The Twilight Zone. It has never recovered. Nor will it. Try as you may you 21st century "planners"... Batavia's glory is gone. The only reason folks like me are still here is because, for some it's hard to break an old habit... for others [like me] it's hard to overcome the fear of starting over, even though there are many, many places that would serve our needs and abilities much better than here. Neither excuse is a good or healthy reason to stay. Dammit, why am I still here?

I guess I'll grab a cold drink and contemplate N Carolina, Texas, Florida, maybe Tennessee... just as I do night after night.

Tim Miller
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Brian....really concentrate on Texas, Florida, and Tennessee, please.

Jim Rosenbeck
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Local government efforts to romance Millennials into discovering the city of Batavia as an attractive place to live seems like more grasping at straws. The best planners in the world would be hard pressed to find the panacea for the problems that we have created for ourselves. The one lesson (going back as far back as urban renewal) that we should have learned is that government involvement and the commensurate expense of it primarily stimulates an exodus from the city. The lack of well coordinated city and county planning continues to haunt us as bureaucrats put up buildings willy nilly from one end of town to the other. For example we have a City Centre housing about a dozen employees. That facade is monument to government excess. At a cost of millions of dollars to tax payers, our city leaders attached our future to the biggest albatross downtown; the mall. City and County Buildings in various states of usage and disrepair dot the landscape throughout our city. There seems to be little hope to change this self destructive mindset as we currently plow forward to abandon the current police station. Our government has done just about everything in it's power to turn what was vibrant Batavia into a Ghost Town. All the feel good rhetoric and talk of romancing millennials does little more than redirect our attention away from the real problems in our community. Everyone knows why people and businesses are more likely to build in the town of Batavia than the city. The taxes are lower in the town. The town doesn't have it's main corridor blighted by under used and ill conceived government buildings that discourage traffic. Yet we continue on this path with more of the same. Ideas such as abandoning the current police station and adding yet another ill advised tax payer funded structure to our shrinking tax base make me question why we refuse to learn from our past mistakes. Every time we take yet another property off the tax rolls and find some government use for it, we increase the cost of living in Batavia for the ever shrinking tax base. When will be honest and recognize this as the fundamental problem? To compound these issues, we have the local taxpayer funded shell game called economic development. Millennials are not idiots. They can read between the lines and understand that GCEDC doesn't create quality jobs. It simply helps redistribute tax payer money to wealthy business owners. As long as we continue to believe in salvation through taxation, the millennials will not be fooled. If we build it with their money, they will not come. I don't blame them. Don't believe the rhetoric.

Dave Olsen
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I have both my thumbs up for your words Jim. I can only use 1 one on the Batavian :>)

Kyle Couchman
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I think the biggest contributor to this city's demise is the elimination of being a transportation hub. We had not just industrial transportation, but commuter. In talking with old timers (by this I mean 75 to 91 yr olds and up) You could at one time board a trolley go to a station and go to anywhere from Buffalo to NYC. Hell Lincolns funeral train went right through Batavia as well.

Nowadays its a hardship to get a bus to Buffalo or Rochester. I think becoming a transportation hub once again might be a key piece of the puzzle to get us back on track and "vibrant" again.

I had to mention this as it's something I noticed in researching local history that never get's directly mentioned. But peripherally it does figure into alot of issues nontheless. (For instanced the "destination" decision that was involved in getting the old Lowes property revamped by GCEDC)

Raymond Richardson
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"Nowadays its a hardship to get a bus to Buffalo or Rochester."

I can remember my grandmother telling me about taking the blue bus from Rochester to Batavia every morning at 6 A.M, when she went to Batavia to care for my great grandmother, back in the 40s.

There was a daily from Rochester to Batavia and vice versa early in the morning, and then again at around 7 P.M.

Lori Silvernail
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We don't need to be a transportation hub, that's just silly for this era. The few people who don't have cars find their way around here, and probably don't work in Buffalo or Rochester.

I agree with Jim Rosenbeck that we do not need to build a new Police station and take another property off of the tax rolls.

Millennials won't stay here or move here, IMO. They're in the bigger cities where the jobs and nightlife are.

I don't know if we still have that motto, "Batavia, Community of Opportunity" but if we do, it should be abolished to history. Well, unless the words "For Tax Evading Big Box Stores" is added to the end of it. Sadly, this won't last a lot longer, even for them. Batavia truly IS becoming a city of rental properties, minimum wage jobs, feral cats, and city parks overtaken by creeps.

Kyle Couchman
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Thats a rather generalized view Lori. What I'm sure you meant to say is that people with vehicles don't care about being a transportation hub. However while you are right that people around here without vehicles do manage, they dont like to. Why would people just have to work in Rochester or Buffalo? We dont have sports stadiums, or many museums or zoo's and such. Other than the upcoming Foxprowl convention what sort of events are there here? These are the things that Millenials like to do. Just because you have a vehicle and can drive doesn't mean its always convenient. Look at how long it takes to get out of Darien Lake after a concert, or out of the Ralph after a Bills game.

Your response is just the dismissive type I was referring to.

John Roach
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Two other things not mentioned here are yet (1) the Thruway. A lot of car traffic that at one time would have come through on either Rt 5 or 33 go past us now by the I-90. Batavia was not the only small City to have this happen to either. A very recent example is Corning. The Southern Tier Expressway now lets you pass Corning without having to go through it. The business decline is very noticeable.. And (2), Malls. Lots of people say how much they hate malls, but they still go. When you can find plenty of easy parking, and a lot of stores offering a wide variety of goods, with mostly convenient and predictable hours of operation, open 7 days a week, that is a big draw, and did not help downtown Batavia.

Lori Silvernail
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Actually, Kyle, I meant it exactly as I said it, but thanks for trying to speak for me, lol. Of course people with vehicles don't need Batavia to be a transportation hub. And of course people travel out of town for things other than work. I think my comment probably made sense to most people.

I doubt there are a huge number of people living here who don't have cars and need transportation in and out of the city for work. And I also doubt many who do have cars would take advantage of a bus ride to the larger cities for entertainment purposes. While public transportation is one issue we may have, it will not bring or keep Millenials here.

And you are free to call me dismissive, it doesn't bother me. I stated my opinion just as you have. When people disagree on something, it doesn't necessarily mean they are being dismissive. I've been around The Batavian long enough to know "dismissive" when I see it, lol!

Jim Rosenbeck
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If Batavia was a destination point for people then private business would be lining up to provide that service. Providing additional transportation alternatives to a destination that can't attract people on it's own merits, seems like a waste of the dwindling number of tax payer's dollars. Unfortunately, city and county leaders have been missing the mark for a couple of generations. If we use the continuing exodus of young people and jobs from the City of Batavia as a measure and avoid the temptation to be distracted by the government program/initiative of the day, we arrive at a pretty clear conclusion. Local government has been unsuccessful at stimulating population growth or creating good jobs in this community. In fact it could be argued that the very public policies that were supposed to generate growth have been the greatest reason for the demise of the City. Short sighted decision making, willy nilly municipal/county planning and the creation and expansion of failed government programs have all led to an ever increasing tax burden on the ever fewer remaining taxpayers. Yet so many continue to believe that the answer is just to add one more service or program to an already out of control budget. It is the wrong approach and we don't need to look any further than Main St. for the proof

Howard B. Owens
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I learned a new phrase last night: CAVE People.

CAVE == Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

Lots of negativity. No solutions.

Lori Silvernail
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I have lived in Batavia (actually, even in the same house) all of my 58+ years. I know that much of the deterioration of the quality of life in this city can be attributed to a general change in societal norms. As I was growing up, I would have said that I lived in a middle class neighborhood. I don't see it that way anymore, and heaven forbid I should be a CAVE and explain why I feel that way. And no, I don't have the solution any more than anyone else does.

Kyle Couchman
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Your right Lori, but consider if you will a dedicated bus to and from The Ralph for Bills games, there is a Bus that would be not only packed to capacity but could probably make a few trips back and forth in the time it takes the average fan to get in and out of the stadium's area in their own vehicle. I know LOTS of drivers that would choose that option over driving themselves.

Howard B. Owens
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I find the idea that we can't improve the quality of life in Batavia rather stifling. Negativity is such a bummer.

I've covered two communities that others gave up for dead.

First, was Ocean Beach, in San Diego. Crime-ridden, empty storefronts abound, heavy on social service dependent residents, lots of homeless, dirty sidewalks. When planning for its transformation was underway, there were people around who said, "this will never work."

It did. OB today is a vibrant, commercially and economically successful community with a commercial district teeming with shoppers every day of the week. BTW: There is practically NO parking in OB, yet people still find a way on to Newport Avenue in numbers that far exceed available parking.

El Cajon -- urban renewal started while I was there as a journalist and wasn't far removed from as stupid and damaging as urban renewal in Batavia. A whole city block was decimated and huge amounts of taxpayer money was used to bring in a large, big-box supermarket chain with a huge parking lot between it and Main Street. Ugly, not walkable, destroying the character of downtown. All of the local merchants hated it.

The challenges for El Cajon were enormous. A hot and smog-ridden valley with no natural amenities, crime infested, huge apartment complexes next to downtown filled with the unemployed and unemployable, a median income well below the rest of San Diego County. I didn't expect El Cajon to ever recover.

Starting around 2001, the community pulled together a new plan, one based around new urbanism models. That block that was nothing but parking if front of an empty former big box store is now a row of mixed use buildings along a city sidewalk. Facades have been cleaned up. Elements added to make the downtown more walkable and pedestrian friendly. Today, downtown El Cajon thrives. It's nothing like the El Cajon I knew as a youth -- much stronger economically -- and light years away from the El Cajon I once covered.

Larkinville and Canelside in Buffalo are undergoing similar transformations, pursuing plans that were degraded by many when first proposed.

The only thing that limits the ability of Batavia to transform itself the belief that it can't be done.

Being against things gets you nowhere. A vision, a positive outlook, a belief that change is possible and productive is what brings about economic renaissance. The continued drumbeat of "it can't be done" does nobody any good.

Dave Olsen
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I'm curious Howard, in those 2 California towns you describe, how much government involvement did it take to get the transformation going? Was it central planning and tax abatement or did one or 2 companies /developers come in and start buying up cheap property and kick starting the change organically? I offer a solution - get government the F%#* out of the way and stop choosing winners and losers. Let happen what will happen. Cut back the cost of just being here, reduce government, embrace efficiency, lower taxes accordingly and people will come and stay and the good jobs and retail will follow. I believe it can happen, but the way its being managed right now, is not the way home. IMHO that is.

Howard B. Owens
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In Ocean Beach, where I was around for the beginning of the process, the local business owners and property owners hired an architect to come up with a revitalization plan. The plan centered on facade rebates, which was funded by a community development block grant (federal money, actually urban renewal money). It was a 2-1 match. Put in $2, get an additional $1 in grant money to redo your building's facade.

The merchant's association also had fundraisers, including selling paving bricks, to raise money to spruce up the street itself.

I was reading up on El Cajon a bit last night and should probably study up on it more, because I wasn't around for the start of the more positive direction, but it looks like a combination of community involvement and government and quasi-government agencies (interestingly, one of the women -- she owned a frame shop then -- who helped drive the transformation in Ocean Beach was director from about 2000 until 2011 of the El Cajon Community Development Corp.). There was a BID-like organization set up that was funded through taxes on the downtown property owners, but seems to have had much more say and sway in actual redevelopment than our current BID seems to have. There were also state and federal grants used, though I don't know the extent and to what degree and city government appears to have been very involved. There was also an academic organization involved at one point as consultants. At least that's what I gather from my brief reading up on the topic last night.

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Howard B. Owens
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As for government burden on business, etc. New York and California run a neck-in-neck race in that regard.

There are communities in California that rise above it, just as there are communities in New York that rise above it.

It's up to the community to decide what it wants to be -- forward-looking and action-oriented or retrograde and pessimistic. Move with a vision or die on complaints.

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Kyle, I think your idea of a bus run to the Bills games is very good and viable. Want to go halfsies on a bus with me? :-)

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Reply to comment #32, Howard, I agree completely with your statements and supply-side economics are not forward looking, its old failed hat.

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Howard, Cave People...really? I find your thinly veiled insult sad. You really could strive to be better than this. "Citizens Against Virtually Everything"...you are neck deep in your own hyperbole. If it weren't for the exchange of opinions on these issues why would traffic even come here?

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Jim, I didn't invent the term.

It's a pretty big leap from my expressing my sadness at the unrelenting drumbeat of negativity toward new ideas and implying that somehow people are prohibited from expressing their opinions. Say whatever you like, but do you think that you're opinion should be exempt from any sort of counterpoint?

I've said it many times, Batavia is on the cusp of its future. It can either be a future of economic prosperity or decline. It's your choice. Shooting down every idea put forward is no way to be prosperous. But you're more than welcome to shoot away if that floats your boat.

And the vast majority of people come here to read the news. Comments drive very little traffic.

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Dave, I'm not sure where supply-side economics enter into my comment #32. I'm saying the state's political environment doesn't help or hinder a community's revitalization efforts. The community's environment is the overriding factor. That has nothing to do with the economics of the matter. It has to do with attitude.

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Howard, while i was replying to comment#32, I was referring to the local practice of giving tax breaks to the investors and developers to build in the hopes that will re-vitalize the city here. That is classic supply-side or trickle down economics. You have cheer-led that proposition many times, so I took a little leap. And you're right, the state is sure as hell no help.
In response to #36. I don't really see the "Shooting down every idea put forward" I see the opposition to the same idea used over and over again.

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Howard, I don't believe you offered any counterpoint with your cute acronym "CAVE"...Citizens Against Virtually Everything. That is really little more than a weak attempt to be humorous while avoiding offering any response that would be even remotely on point. To be clear, i don't oppose everything...as you hyperbolically suggest. I believe there is a role for government. i just don't believe in the path we are currently on. Those of us who oppose the continued growth of local government as a strategy for improving life in Batavia are more likely the optimists in this city. We believe that change is possible and present a plan that we believe would work. Statists for whatever reasons, seem to believe that more of the same old, same old is acceptable. I remain steadfast in pointing out the facts. Batavia is losing population. Batavia is losing quality jobs. Taxes grow ever higher on an aging citizenry while county and city government spending on underutilized or vacant buildings continues unabated. Citizen funded programs to create jobs like GCEDC remain questionable at best is achieving their goals. BTW, how are those jobs at Alpina working out? The mall remains a problem that City Hall would prefer we not think about. so, where is the media on these issues? Am I to believe that the best you have to offer is "CAVE"? I have presented you with the historical evidence of failed policy decisions. Debate it if you will. Defend local government if you disagree with me. But CAVE? Really, you should have better than that to offer.

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Jim, where did you get the idea City Hall does not want us to think about the Mall? Do you mean the litigation or the Mall itself. If the litigation was settled, what role, if any, would you want the City to play in the Mall?

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Jim, I've offered up plenty of substance beyond the CAVE remark, none of which you've addressed.

But face it, the is an overwhelming strain of negativity toward change around here. Fortunately, it's not a majority view point but it's unrelenting consistency is grating.

Sorry, I think your a great guy and though my remark was not aimed at any individual, including you, but a reaction to the entire chain of thought to that point -- I'm not convinced your offering a postitive and constructive way forward. I just hear complaints. More reasons not to do something instead of ideas on how to do things.

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BTW: one thing overlooked ... the issue of Millennials is rather peripheral to the issue of redeveloping downtown. The Millennial and empty nester trends just represent market opportunities. The need for greater density downtown is needed with or without Millennials. It just makes a lot more economic sense in the current cultural environment.

Downtown is a big economic black hole. Some 56 percent of all the land area downtown generates no tax revenue, no sales tax, no jobs. The majority of that 56 percent is taken up by parking lots that contribute nothing to the local economy.

The overabundance of one-story buildings or single-purpose two- and three-story buildings also fail to generate the kind of economic impact the land area should.

The time is ripe to revitalize downtown. The models of success are out there. We know it can be done. Saying it can't be done or trying to throw up roadblocks to proposals and ideas and initiatives does nobody any good. There will be plenty to debate as proposals come forward, but arguing against doing anything, of listing all the reasons you think it can't work and shouldn't be tried, strikes me as counterproductive.

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reply to #41: I'll tell what unrelenting consistency is grating: being told over and over for decades now, that these economic development experts who come and go, that they have the next great idea, which will cost the taxpayers, but we're supposed to listen and obey because they're the experts. Then when it fails, the taxpayers get stuck with the bill, people and business continue to leave and some new "experts" come in and it starts all over.
I for one, will not apologize for being cynical. I've lived here off and on since 1973. Seen a lot of it, here and throughout Western NY.

Jim Rosenbeck
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John,
One of the top priorities for the city should be to get out of mall business...if that is even possible. Poor decision making tied us to this building when we built a multi million dollar city centre and attached it to a decaying mall. This is the sort of short sighted planning that to me is inexcusable. How many city employees even work in that building...a dozen? In the best of situations we would have built a joint police facility with the county years ago and city hall would still be in the old building. JMO....let's learn from our mistakes instead of repeating them.

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Jim, you did answer the questions. What did you mean when you said that the City does not want us thinking about the mall? When the current litigation is done, and the concourse maintenance issue is settled, what role, if any, do you think the City should take in the mall after that?

Poor prior decision making was not the question

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