City Council voices displeasure with lack of progress at Ellicott Station as it approves grant to help developer
Batavia City Council members and city management tonight exhibited varying degrees of trust in the Buffalo development company charged with turning the eyesore on Ellicott Street into the multi-million dollar Downtown Revitalization Initiative project known as Ellicott Station.
Council, during its Conference and Special Business Meetings at the City Hall Council Board Room, had the task of considering two resolutions in connection with the mixed-use endeavor on property that once was the home of Soccio & Della Penna Inc. construction and Santy’s Tire Sales:
- Whether to take receipt of a $500,000 Restore New Grant that would support Savarino Companies in its demolition, rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the former National Grid electric building;
- Whether to approve a resolution requiring the developer to enter into an “undertaking agreement” that would protect the city by transferring all or a portion of the obligations of the grant to Savarino Companies.
Although City Manager Rachael Tabelski emphasized that if Savarino doesn’t perform the work, it won’t get the grant, some Council members were skeptical to the point of believing that the project will never get off the ground.
Rose Mary Christian called the Brownfield Opportunity Area in its current blighted condition as “disgusting and deplorable.”
“I don’t have any faith in this company,” she said, while voting “no” to both measures.
Fellow Council member Robert Bialkowski said he had “great concerns” as he voted yes, while Council President Eugene Jankowski agreed, but feared that squashing the grant proposal could jeopardize the start of demolition.
“It’s my opinion that there’s a lot of small, complicated parts to this project of that magnitude,” he said following the meeting. “You have a large project that’s a brownfield, and on top of it you’re trying to put together all of the funding for it. It’s not an easy task.”
Jankowski admitted that he “got his hopes up” early on when the project was submitted, but understands that outside factors such as working with New York State, COVID and cost overruns likely contributed to the delay.
“At this point, we need to give them the opportunity to start construction in November like they said, and I am going to be optimistic that that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”
During the meeting, Tabelski said that Sam Savarino, company president, told her that the final closing with the New York State Office of Community Renewal, which has jurisdiction over the project, is scheduled for the first week of November.
The Batavian received that same information when talking to Savarino prior to environmental testing that was conducted on the property last week.
“I have no doubt that when they start, they will finish (the project),” she said, noting that Savarino Companies has paid the Batavia Development Corp. for the transaction of creating a Limited Liability Company and paid the city for permit fees and extension fees. “The developer does projects all over the state and he doesn’t want to lose the trust of the OCR.”
Unfortunately, after five and a half years since the announcement of the Ellicott Station residential/commercial/entertainment venture, the same can’t be said for some of those serving on City Council.
For the record, Council did vote 7-1 to pass both resolutions related to the grant.
Also, tonight, the board approved a resolution to accept a $7,500 STOP-DWI grant from Genesee County to combat impaired driving through the utilization of specified high-visibility engagement campaigns.