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June 20, 2017 - 9:30pm

Savarino speaks of 'challenges' following uneventful GCEDC public hearing

Update:

A planned public hearing at Tuesday night's City Planning & Development Committee meeting was postponed until next month to give Ellicott Station offiicals more time to deal with State Environmental Quality Review and other issues, said Duane Preston, chair of the planning board.

"We did a sketch plan review and overall it seems to be a great project," Preston said.

He said questions from the board focused on the height of the five-story apartment building -- "it will result in a bit of an up-and-down skyline," Preston said -- as well as the amount of parking and the size of a glass front facade.

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No one from the public spoke at a public hearing on Tuesday afternoon at City Hall where $1.5 million in mortgage, sales and property tax abatements for the Ellicott Station project were presented.

The hearing was officiated by Chris Suozzi, Genesee County Economic Development Center vice president of business development. The completion of the public hearing now sets the stage for the GCEDC Board of Directors to approve the tax incentives as outlined in a press release below.

Samuel Savarino, president of Savarino Companies and developer of Ellicott Station, attended the public hearing, along with Julie Pacatte, Pier Cipollone and Mary Valle of the Batavia Development Corporation.

Savarino noted that he would be at the meeting of the Batavia Planning & Development Committee tonight, along with the project's architect and site engineer.

The Buffalo businessman said he has encountered numerous "challenges" with the project, but the biggest one -- getting proper financial aid -- already has been overcome.

"We have surmounted the major hurdle, closing the $5 million gap with help from Empire State Development and new market tax credits to make this happen," he said. "Overarching development costs make it difficult to make the economics work (without state assistance)."

Savarino also pointed out that the site of the former Santy's Tire Sales and Soccio & Della Penna Construction companies also presents flood hazards, is part of the Brownfield Opportunity Area (which warrants remedial work) and sits on top of what is being called a "grand canal" or tunnel that runs from the corner of Ellicott and Jackson streets right through the Ellicott Station property.

A portion of the canal, which is being utilized by the city, is located directly under where one of Savarino's apartment/retail buildings would be constructed.

On a positive note, he said he has encoutered similar problems in his many years as a developer and is optimistic that engineers will be able to work around this water-filled obstacle.

Savarino added that he has lined up investors and lenders, and hopes to start demolition and construction by this fall, with an eye on being "open for business" in the fall of 2018.

The mixed-use development will consist of a retail brewery/restaurant operated by Resurgence Brewing along with 16,800 square feet of office space and a five-story apartment building.

Savarino said rent for a one-bedroom, top floor corner unit will be around $1,200 per month while a two-bedroom unit with two full bathrooms will go for around $1,600 per month. Each apartment will feature a washer and dryer and a balcony, and the 51-unit building will include a fitness center and ground floor parking.

Pacatte said the BDC is looking at Ellicott Station as its "beacon of hope" for the city's bid to receive a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award (see story below).

"We're using Ellicott Station as the anchor for our DRI proposal, focusing on the quality of life piece -- especially on the south side of the city," she said.

Valle, owner of Valle Jewelers on Jackson Street, said that major improvements on Ellicott Street "will raise the bar for all of us" in regards to building upkeep and maintenance.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center will hold a public hearing at 4 this afternoon to consider financial incentives for the Savarino Companies for the redevelopment of Ellicott Station in downtown Batavia. The public hearing will take place at City Hall.

The approximate 64,000-square-foot development will be a mix use of residential, office and retail spaces; a brewery; small beverage warehouse and hops processing facility; entertainment and event area; outside seating; and integration of the new Ellicott Trail pedestrian pathway.

The $17.6 million project is estimated to create up to 60 good paying full-time jobs.

The proposed incentives include $897,293 in sales tax savings, $128,232 mortgage tax savings and $537,398 in property tax savings. 

The project is being done through the “Batavia Pathway to Prosperity” (BP2) program which was created through an inter-municipal agreement between the City of Batavia, Genesee County, the Batavia City School District, the Batavia Development Corporation and the GCEDC.

BP2 was conceived to pool resources in order to invest in distressed areas in the City of Batavia. The BP2 program will be implemented though PILOT increment financing (PIF), referred to as the “BP2 fund,” which is the first of its kind in New York State where all local taxing jurisdictions are participating. 

Supported by the redirection of 50% of new project PILOT payments, the BP2 fund will play a critical role in generating development within the Batavia Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), a 366-acre area within the City of Batavia containing five strategic redevelopment sites.

Rick Hensel
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Me thinks we've heard a similar scenario in the past, with all the benefits the demolition of the old and building of the new will bring. It just went by a different name back then. They called it "Urban Renewal", and boy oh boy did that work really well. Should be a really great deal for the out of town "developer". If it all works out, he'll make money. If it all falls flat, he'll still make out. He'll be covered by grants, loans, credits and all kinds of deals he can fall back on and claim hardship, etc. Many of which are ultimately funded by taxpayer dollars. Win/win for him, it can all work out and make him money or it can all fail and he's still protected and can move on to his next endeavor. If taxpayers are lucky something might work out, but if things go as they usually do, the taxpayers will take it in the butt.

John Roach
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Rick, lets say you're right. But that property has been sitting, not paying any (none) taxes for years. It has a contamination problem and nobody but nobody interested in owning it until now.
The developer is getting a tax break on property not paying taxes at all. What would you suggest?

Howard B. Owens
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The developer has more than $12 million on the line. It's not all a free ride.

Cheryl Wilmet
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I am just amazed at the amount of rent they will be charging. Who can afford that?

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