Ellicott Station project status, condition of the property have City Council members speaking out
March 15, 2016.
That was the date when community leaders gathered excitedly at the former Soccio & Della Penna Construction and Santy’s Tire Sales properties at 56-70 Ellicott St. to hear Samuel J. Savarino, CEO of Savarino Cos. of Buffalo, share details of a $20 million development featuring office, retail, residential and entertainment space.
The project has come to be known as Ellicott Station and it is the centerpiece of the City of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative effort in its 366-acre Brownfield Opportunity Area.
Fast forward to today and – although much may be going on behind the scenes – nothing has been done at the site. City officials are still waiting for that shovel to be put into the ground.
The lack of progress has prompted City Manager Martin Moore to write a letter of support to the commissioner of the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal and has some City Council members scratching their heads. Their disillusionment was apparent at Monday night’s Council meeting.
“I’m very disappointed in the developer,” Council Member Robert Bialkowski said. “There’s broken glass, windows missing … the property is becoming worse by the day. It’s an eyesore. What kind of landlord is he going to be?”
Council President Eugene Jankowski agreed that he is concerned, saying that “we have given him enough leeway.”
He also noted that there are many components to be considered and thought that one area of red tape involved funds tied up by HCR.
The board voted, 6-2, in favor of Moore sending the letter to Ruthanne Visnauskas, HCR commissioner. Bialkowski and Rose Mary Christian voted no.
Moore’s letter points out that the project “will positively impact the City by providing mixed-income (including affordable) housing, brownfield remediation and reuse of a blighted site, right in the heart of the City.”
It goes on to state that the site “has been directly noted in the (DRI) as a high priority project that should be fully supported” and that it “aligns with the HCR’s mission to build and support affordable housing.”
The letter ended with Moore writing “I hope that you will seriously consider ensuring that this project proceeds with the support of HCR.”
Following the meeting, Christian said that the inactivity has gone on for much too long.
“He’s (Savarino) received millions already – the property is a disaster – and he wants more money,” she said. “Where is the money that he has received? Is there any accountability?”