Batavia Development Corp. President Chaya: 'We've come to be a community of believers'
- The startup and/or expansion of seven Batavia-based businesses that capitalized on microenterprise grants;
- The imminent transformation of the former J.J. Newberry building on Main Street into a brewing company and “freshLAB” restaurant;
- And, of course, the $17 million renovation and redevelopment of the former Santy’s Tire Shop and Soccio & Della Penna Construction site on Ellicott Street into a retail/commercial/residential complex.
These projects, along with a handful of other grant-aided ventures, signal a continuing, successful effort by the Batavia Development Corp. to revitalize the city’s downtown and broaden the tax base throughout the municipality, said the president of the organization’s board of directors.
Speaking Monday night at the City Council meeting, Ray Chaya, a BDC board member for nine years who is “terming out” next month, said Batavia’s positive, can-do message has resonated with regional and state economic development agencies. As a result, grants have been awarded to initiatives to the tune of more than $2 million.
“We’ve come to be a community of believers,” Chaya said, noting that the passing of resolutions by government boards, phone calls from local leaders to regional executives and media coverage were key factors in last week’s awarding of the $1.9 million Consolidated Funding Application grant by the Finger Lakes Regional Development Council for the Ellicott Station project.
He added that the BDC also expects to receive a $500,000 Restore NY grant for environmental remediation of the Santy’s/Della Penna site, and the developer, Savarino Cos. of Buffalo, is in line to receive federal new market tax credits “to help close the gap” and make the project worthwhile.
City Manager Jason Molino said the BDC is looking into “multiple funding sources to offset the cost,” including Brownfield cleanup tax credits and the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity fund – a partnership of the City of Batavia, Genesee County, Batavia City School District and Genesee County Economic Development Center.
“The Pathways to Prosperity addresses the anti-poverty issue and is a feather in the cap,” Molino said. “The way we were able to transfer the property as an LLC to the BDC and then to the developer is the first of its kind on several different levels … and that’s what has drawn attention to it.”
Chaya named seven businesses that participated in the BDC’s microenterprise grant program, which empowered the agency to piecemeal the distribution of $200,000 to qualifying entrepreneurs who participated in the program.
Those businesses are Hidden Door, Batavia Brewing Co., Gams Sweet & Savory, Teddy Bear Day Care, T-Shirts Etc., Amy’s Fluffy Friends and Trash Away. All of the businesses’ expenditures are closely monitored by the BDC and the state’s Office of Community Renewal, with milestones and metrics having to be met per grant regulations.
The Batavia Brewery Co./freshLAB project also has been boosted by several performance-based grants, Chaya said, namely a $500,000 Main Street anchor grant, $60,785 from the United States Department of Agriculture and a $100,000 National Grid Revitalization grant.
Additional tax credits could come if the building – which also will house market-rate apartments on the upper floors -- is put onto the National Register of Historic Place as sought by owners Matthew Gray and Matt Boyd.
Chaya said that bidding on construction is taking place through Jan. 6 and work is expected to begin in late winter. The overall cost of this project is estimated at $1.5 million.
The city also received two other FLREDC grants -- $25,000 for the Downtown Batavia Healthy Living Campus’ feasibility study and $12,500 to the Batavia Business Improvement District for a Downtown Batavia Public Market Study.
Chaya also reported that an Empire State Development grant in the amount of $15,000 is being used to develop a plan for the Harvester Park subdivision.