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May 30, 2018 - 10:31pm

BDC board looking for expression of support from council to aid in search for new director

posted by Howard B. Owens in bdc, Batavia Development Corp., downtown, business, news.

The Batavia City Council is willing to put something on paper expressing support of the Batavia Development Corporation but it can't make a commitment to funding the economic development agency for five years.

The BDC, through its president, former City Councilman Pier Cipollone, was seeking a five-year funding commitment from the council. Cipollone said without long-term support by the council, recruiting a new executive director will prove to be difficult.

“We need to provide some form of stability in the organization to hire a qualified candidate,” Cipollone said.

The executive director’s position has been vacant since the resignation a month ago of Julie Pacatte.

In making his case for the five-year commitment Cipollone cited the agency’s track record of attracting state and federal grants to spur development and the management of its own revolving loan fund to help local entrepreneurs. 

“For every $1 invested in the BDC,” Cipollone said, “the city has over $30 returned in public and private investment.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski explained that individual councilpersons were prohibited from making financial commitments beyond their individual terms of office. He then suggested that council adopt a non-binding “letter of support” for the BDC and place the item on the agenda for the next council business meeting June 11.

Among the accomplishments for the BDC during Pacatte’s tenure was the creation of several new residential units downtown, which have remained at full occupancy since going on the market, the conversion of the former Carr’s Warehouse into a mixed-use office space and apartment complex, and the opening of FreshLAB/Eli Fish Brewing Company.

The largest project still pending, however, is the Ellicott Station development, in which Savarino Companies plan to convert the former Della Penna and Santy’s properties into apartments, offices, and a brewery restaurant for Resurgence Brewing out of Buffalo. The groundbreaking for that project has repeatedly been delayed.

Cipollone addressed some of the frustrations and concerns over project delays and said it’s a very complex project. Because of the environmental problems at the site, there are multiple funding mechanisms from the state to help alleviate those above-market costs. Savarino is also using a complex private-equity-funding vehicle, which adds to the complexity of closing the funding.

The best the city can do, Cipollone suggested, is wait for Savarino to close funding. There isn’t, at least right now, a better option.

“It’s the only hope I’m aware of,” Cipollone said. “We had put it out to bid, and Savarino was the one viable company. They’ve done similar work in Buffalo where they’ve taken on a dirty site and have done an excellent job with them, so they’re used to dealing with this type of grief.”

In other council business, a draft resolution to fund the restoration of the Redfield Parkway entrance pillars failed to be moved to the next business meeting. Council instead asked interim City Manager Matt Worth to research other options to fund the project that has been estimated to cost between $57,000 and $67,000.

The Batavian's news partner WBTA assisted with this story.

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