Could a 'package deal' be a solution to current city police, county jail reuse and rehabilitation state of affairs?
A frequent contributor to the Batavia City Council scene is suggesting that a package deal combining the current Batavia Police Department headquarters and Genesee County Jail parcels may be the ticket to attracting a potential developer in light of the city’s intention to build a new police station at Alva Place and Bank Street.
City resident John Roach, during the public comments portion of the board’s Conference Meeting on Monday night at the City Centre, asked if anyone was talking to Genesee County leaders about their plan for the jail at the corner of West Main Street and Porter Avenue.
The county is exploring its options as it faces a state mandate to build a new jail, with a site near County Building 2 on West Main Street Road as the proposed location.
“You might get a better deal as a combined parcel,” Roach said. “Find out what they’re going to do and it could have an impact on what to do with the Brisbane building.”
The Brisbane building that he referred to is the former Brisbane Mansion at 10 W. Main St. that sits next door to the county jail. That building -- which may be eligible for classification as a historic landmark -- has housed city police for many years but has deteriorated considerably.
City Manager Rachael Tabelski, responding to Roach’s inquiry, said she thought it was a “great idea to speak with the county and understand their plans.”
“The front of the jail is certainly an amazing historic building that I hope would be preserved by the county through their transition, but I believe it hosts Genesee Justice and I don’t want to speak for the county and I’m not sure what they’re actually planning,” she said.
Tabelski also said she wasn’t sure if the timelines for a new county jail and new city police station would line up, but it was something worth looking into.
She pointed out the drawbacks with the Brisbane Mansion, notably that there is no American with Disabilities Act accessibility and there are problems with the layout that hinder the ability of the force to conduct day-to-day business.
“We went over the presentation two meetings ago and we looked at the timeline. The city has been wanting to address this for over 20 years,” she said. “We’ve come forward with a proposal and a feasibility study to use the parking lot at Alva and Bank Street.”
The city manager underscored the importance of finding a “reuse” for the building, adding that the city has no intention of moving staff into that structure.
“So, we’d like to pursue a path where we put it out for RFP to a developer to take that on and bring that on to the tax rolls,” she advised. “To do that in the best manner possible, you want to make your property attractive to the marketplace and by understanding all of the historical elements inside the building, and having technical assistance reports done of the structure itself and the historical elements …”
For those reasons, she forwarded a resolution – which was later passed by Council – to allow the Batavia Development Corp. to apply for a 2021 Consolidated Funding grant under the New York Main Street technical assistance program.
“I think it is City Council’s wish and I know it is the certainly the wish of many in our community to preserve that building as a historical element in our downtown,” she said. “… if (the grant is) awarded, we would go ahead and do that study. We had a plan to reuse the building at the time we move the police department.”
Tabelski said that the grant-funded study would uncover whether the building would qualify as a historic landmark.
If so, that could open the door for a NY Main Street grant, which the city has been successful in obtaining for the Eli Fish Brewing Co. building on Main Street and Theater 56 at the City Centre.
On another topic, Roach asked about the status of a road project to rehabilitate Harvester and Richmond avenues, which is scheduled for the summer of 2022.
Maintenance Supervisor Ray Tourt said it is currently in the design phase.
In May 2020, City Council appointed the engineering firm of T.Y. Lin International Group of Rochester to provide preliminary and advanced designs with the expectation that they would be completed by the summer of this year.
T.Y. Lin International Group was involved in the city’s Walnut Street Reconstruction Project, the Ellicott Street streetscape project and all of the Batavia Downtown Business Improvement District streetscape initiatives.
Batavian Robert Radley, PE, is the company’s senior vice president and U.S. East Region director.
Plans call for renovation of Richmond Avenue from State Street to Oak Street and for the entire length of Harvester Avenue (from East Main Street to Ellicott Street). City officials previously reported that 95 percent of the $2 million project will be covered by CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) and Marchiselli Funding* streams.
Tabelski also reported that Jill Wiedrick, the new assistant city manager, will be starting on July 21, and the city is advertising for a permanent Department of Public Works director.
*Given the significant backlog of preservation, rehabilitation and replacement of transportation infrastructure needs that exist at the local level, NYSDOT has initiated a process with metropolitan planning areas and municipalities to revise and align local transportation planning and project selection processes with engineering and economic-based preservation strategies. As part of this initiative, NYSDOT will provide priority consideration for State matching funds, under the Marchiselli program, to federal-aid projects that embrace the Department’s asset management based preservation strategy. Municipally sponsored federal-aid projects considered to be beyond preservation treatments may be considered for Marchiselli funding on a case by case basis. Municipal requests for projects that are considered beyond preservation will be reviewed by NYSDOT’s Comprehensive Program Team (CPT).
Photo at top: Batavia Police Department station (former Brisbane Mansion); Photo at bottom: Front of Genesee County Jail, which currently houses Genesee Justice.