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January 26, 2021 - 4:21pm

BDC director points to Eli Fish/Newberry project as shining example of agency's value

If you’re looking to see the value in the Batavia Development Corporation, look no further than what was accomplished through the Eli Fish Brewing Company and Newberry Lofts project that rejuvenated the former JJ Newberry building at 109-111 Main St.

That’s was the centerpiece of a PowerPoint presentation by Andrew Maguire, director of economic development for the city-supported agency, during Monday night’s City Council Conference meeting.

Maguire said his mission was to highlight the BDC’s “history of success through various programs and the economic impact they carry, current projects the BDC is working on in the city and future goals and continued economic development.”

Regarding the Eli Fish venture, Maguire called it a “transformative” project and outlined the ways the BDC played a part in its success:

  • Built in 1881, it was the original home of JJ Newberry’s store for more than 60 years. Its assessed value in 2015 was $250,000;
  • Vacant for several years, it needed substantial rehabilitation;
  • It was purchased in 2015 with the goal to rehabilitate the building and create a brewery, restaurant and seven market-rate residential apartments on the upper floors;
  • The BDC secured a $500,000 NY Main Street Anchor Grant for the proposed project and sought other funding sources, including a $100,000 National Grid grant and then secured a $67,835 USDA Rural Business Development Grant for a project inside of this project.

“It was a first of its kind in our area – two restaurant incubators inside of brewery, coined FreshLabs, which offered cooking competition to entrepreneurs and the two winners receiving a grant, loan and incubator space inside the Eli Fish brewery to help them start their business,” Maguire said.

He reported that the project – which turned out costing more than $2 million – began in 2016 after all of the funding was secured, and that the BDC played a “critical role in project setup, capital stack (funding), and project and grant administration to see the project through to completion.”

As a result, the project was completed in 2018 and features a brewery, three restaurants and four market-rate apartments created in the vacant, historic building.

Maguire said the proof of the project’s worth is in the increase of the assessed value to $987,000, while sales tax has increased, tourism has been generated and more than 30 jobs have been created.

The Eli Fish project is one of several being facilitated by the BDC through the NY Main Street Grant, Downtown Revitalization Initiative Building Improvement Fund and Downtown Revitalization Grant, Maguire said.

He revealed a chart showing 28 projects received $11.3 million in grants but generated $54.4 million in private investment. Included are 103 residential units and 96 commercial units.

Maguire said the BDC continues to pursue other grants, such as the revolving loan fund grant, National Grid grants and USDA Rural Development Block grants, and also have attracted NYS Empire State Development Restore New York and Brownfield Opportunity Area Study grants.

These projects have increased the assessed value of the parcels by $5.79 million, Maguire reported, and noted that the Main Street Theater 56 project will generate more than $44,000 of annual rent revenue after moving into underutilized vacant parcels from the City of Batavia.

“These projects and programs create a vibrant city people want to work in, live in and play in,” he said. “… The results we have obtained and the future goals we shall obtain will carry a positive impact on our city’s quality of life for generations to come. It is critical that we do not lose sight of this and we continue to have boots on the ground to help these projects from the starting line to the finish line and continue this process for years to come.”

Afterward, Council Member Rose Mary Christian asked Maguire about the status of the Ellicott Station DRI project on the former Soccio & Della Penna and Santy’s Tire Sales property on Ellicott Street.

He said the developer, Savarino Companies, is “poised to close by the end of this quarter (March) … and plan on construction starting in early spring 2021.”

Christian praised V.J. Gautieri Constructors for their work on renovating the Save-A-Lot building across the street, but called the condition of Ellicott Station “deplorable.”

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