Foreclosures are no foregone conclusion for City Centre, officials say
It might be difficult to be a fan of Batavia City Centre, which has struggled with an image problem, about a third of it being unoccupied and with vacant properties and foreclosures that are costing city taxpayers $45,000 a year in mall user fees.
The city pays those user fees to the City Centre Fund, not counting City Hall, which is assessed at $1.45 million and costs $23,000 a year in user fees.
The foreclosed properties and their assessed values are:
- Parcel 2 - $16,970
- Parcel 11, formerly Valle’s Jewelers - $124,000
- Parcels 35 and 39, formerly Advanced Imaging - $139,300 and $6,970
- Parcels 17-20, formerly Gentleman Jim’s, Palace of Sweets, The Hiding Place - $55,300
Batavia Players has a lease deal with the city to rent out parcels 2, 35 and 39 for a total of $45,768, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.
That total assessed value of $342,540 has a zero property tax while in foreclosure.
Parcel 2, formerly Sunny’s restaurant, has been served a petition and notice of foreclosure, Tabelski said. The total assessed value will then be $440,543.
Mall merchants Bob Chiarmonte and Craig Jackson recently said they believed the city wasn’t working to fill those vacant spots and wished that more would be done to get new businesses in there. The Batavian reached out to Tabelski and Batavia Development Corporation Director Tammy Hathaway to find out what they were doing to market the vacancies.
Speaking on behalf of both of them, Tabelski said the vacant properties are shown to prospective buyers by Public Works Department staff and Hathaway. She did not mention any form of action being taken to market the sites.
“The city supports putting these parcels into productive use, and they may become more attractive to businesses as improvements are made in City Centre, including the roof, silos, and lighting,” Tabelski said.
Chiarmonte and Jackson hope that’s true. An entire roof replacement has been completed over the concourse, and the silos (entryways) are in the design phase to improve the look and practicality of the vertical tunnels at each entrance.
“I think upgrading the interior would make a difference; it’s more important than the exterior,” Chiarmonte said.
Case in point: the entryway next to the former Sunny’s. Just look up, and it becomes obvious how much wear and tear the structures have taken with rain and melting snow. Jackson pointed out that, when installed, the silo roof was tucked in lower within the structure, which doesn’t seem to allow an easy escape for water. Stains are easily visible and run down the length of the silo from the roof.
Other improvements, more cosmetic in nature, are to include painting the walls and floors. Ceiling tiles — which were black and haphazardly missing throughout the concourse — have begun to be taken down for a modern, industrial appearance.
There are 34 business-related sites, according to a listed address within the concourse. A total assessed value, excluding foreclosed and other city properties, and a nonprofit organization, is more than $2.2 million. That’s more than $2 million worth of property taxes going into city revenues.
It seems a given that the mall-turned-City Centre’s reputation needs a major overhaul after all of these years of legal turmoil and struggle to retain newer businesses. But then some retailers have made a go of it over the long haul — Jackson and business partner Loretta DelPriore have thrived with Batavia Stagecoach Florist for more than two decades, Chiarmonte’s Classic Optical has been there 38 years, and Erika Siverling’s LeBeau Salon for more than 10 years, plus medical and dental providers with long-term track records.
City officials have shared plans to expand the scope and improve the appearance of the Centre, and tearing it down has been ruled out. That leaves a hint of promise that the bemoaned downtown landmark might just get a revival, and all involved hope that cynics might just become fans.
Top photo: Some of the properties in foreclosure at Batavia City Centre, photo from City of Batavia; City Manager Rachael Tabelsk, photo by Howard Owens; and a silo at the Centre, photo by Joanne Beck.