Everything is coming together at the right time for the City of Batavia to embark on an ambitious revival of the City Centre Mall and surrounding area, according to Ed Flynn, director of planning for the consulting firm of LaBella Associates in Rochester.
“We think the stars are aligned at this point,” said Flynn, during a presentation at Monday night’s City Council meeting at the City Hall Council Board Room. “We’ve got the agreement in place, executed for the City Centre. We’ve got the $1 million in DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. And we’ve got a ton of other projects that are either in the pipeline or in the works downtown that are going to complement each other as they happen.”
Flynn, a Batavian, said LaBella Associates is the lead consultant for the state funded DRI project, working in conjunction with Underberg & Kessler LLP (legal) and Archer (graphic design).
An advisory committee also played a key role in pinpointing how the city will spend the $1 million, along with looking “at other things besides the mall property, and the mall building itself,” Flynn said.
Members of the advisory committee are Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, Public Works Director Matt Worth (recently retired), Water/Wastewater Superintendent Bill Davis, Batavia Development Corporation Director Andrew Maguire, City Council Member Jeremy Karas, Paul Gister of National Grid, Business Improvement District Director Beth Kemp, and Genesee County Economic Development Center President Steve Hyde.
The group’s proposal centered on creating a comprehensive package of information about the mall and the city – “getting that information into one place,” Flynn said – along with defining mall concourse improvements, providing cost estimates, exploring additional funding, reaching out to the public and stakeholders, preparing for future development and satisfying agreements with owners of businesses in the mall.
“We have been working to not only determine the best ways to use the resources of the $1 million DRI grant at City Centre, but also future components of what the interior of our City Centre Mall and the entire campus would look like,” Tabelski said.
Key points of Flynn’s presentation included a plan for concourse renovations and options for mall merchants to enhance the façades of their businesses.
It also brought to light a theoretical component outside of the scope of the DRI -- a three-story, 70,000-square-foot residential/commercial building on the east side of the mall at the corner of Alva Place and Bank Street, adjacent to where the proposed new police headquarters would go.
“That is conceptual based on the market,” Flynn said, adding that developers have inquired about opportunities for housing and, possibly, commercial ventures. “It’s a vision of what could work and what is deemed by the public as acceptable.”
Flynn said the DRI grant would just about cover the cost of concourse work, which would consist of removing and replacing the floor tile (which currently doesn’t match); painting walls, columns and crossbeams; installing low-level lighting, and removing and replacing the silo entryways “that never have been very attractive or functional.”
He noted that the city already has invested about $600,000 to repair the roof – a longtime problem, with that investment completing its DRI responsibility.
Private investment to upgrade individual storefronts (not a cost to the city) for mall business owners are optional, Flynn said, but incentives of up to 75 percent reimbursement may be available.
As far as Bank Street is concerned, Flynn said the mixed-use building has the potential to generate $19 million in private, new investment.
“Obviously, there would be a lot of tax revenue that would be created as part of that, but also with all of the new folks living downtown and some of the commercial activity – it would create a lot of vitality downtown and start to enclose Bank Street, which is pretty wide open right now,” Flynn said.
He also presented figures revealing that there will continue to be plenty of available parking – at least 590 spots -- even with the new building, when considering off-street parking lots and Alva Place and on-street parking.
“I think the takeaway from this is with the project, you’ll be able to satisfy both the DRI and the mall agreement objectives; also, be able to potentially develop some lots … at the City Centre and create some tax revenue … and also that you have enough funding to actually do what you need to do at the mall with the DRI funding,” he said.
At that point, Tabelski reminded Council members that one portion of the roof has yet to be completed – near Dan’s Tire Service – and bids for that work will go out this spring. That piece is part of the agreement between the city and mall merchants, she said.
Council Member John Canale asked about the Downtown Theatre 56 plan to complete its façade work with the DRI money it obtained, but Tabelski said the cost of all the interior work left no money for the outside renovations.
“Our intent is to look at a Main Street grant to complete that façade work,” she said.
In a related development, Council approved a resolution to apply, through the Batavia Development Corporation, for a New York Main Street grant for up to $500,000 to assist Theatre 56 with the completion of its project.
In a memo to City Council, Maguire outlined the BDC’s successful track record of obtaining Main Street, Anchor and Building Improvement Fund grants, and noted that matching funds for the Theatre 56 project would include money from the Batavia Players and its DRI.
Maguire, responding to a question from Council Member Rose Mary Christian about the return to the city in property and sales taxes, said he couldn’t provide an exact figure, but would research it and get back to the board.
Renderings at top of the City Centre Mall entryways and concourse and rendering at bottom of a conceptual building on the Bank Street corridor, courtesy of LaBella Associates and the City of Batavia.