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Batavia Development Corporation

September 26, 2018 - 1:00pm

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The Batavia Development Corporation has decided to “float” a loan to a longtime Batavia businessman who believes he has tapped into the next big thing in healthy relaxation methods.

At its meeting this morning at the City Centre, BDC board members voted unanimously to extend a $30,000 loan to Gary VanValkenburg and his partner, Brandon Buckle, (left to right in photo above), toward the opening of Rest & Revive Float Center at 596 E. Main St.

The site of the new business, which VanValkenburg said he expects to open around Dec. 1, was most recently known as The Bed Room.

In fact, VanValkenburg has been in the bedding business – waterbeds and conventional mattresses – for close to 45 years, following an 11-year stint selling television sets.

He told the BDC board that the bedding business is difficult these days – “everybody is selling mattresses,” he said – and that he realized it was time to find his “niche.”

After being introduced to the “float tank” concept by a visiting professional violinist about three years ago, VanValkenburg said he did some research and is confident in the product’s strength.

“I found a niche. It is on the up curve,” he said. “Over the last three years, (sales) are up by 25 percent. More and more float centers are popping up all over the place.”

VanValkenburg said his center will feature three float tanks – a 4-foot by 8-foot tank, another in a float room and a float pod. He said they are filled with about 10 to 12 inches of water and 800 pounds of Epsom salt.

“You can’t sink,” he said. “It’s more dense than the Dead Sea.”

He explained that users take a shower (a shower is next to each tank) before entering the tank for (usually) 90 minutes and afterward. The tank can be used with the lid open or closed, in a dark room or lit room and with or without music.

“I have arthritis and I tried it, and there was no pain (afterward),” he said. “And it lasted for four, five, six days. It is therapeutic and because there is no gravity, it’s like you’re up on a cloud. It totally relaxes you.”

VanValkenburg said the therapy can help alleviate arthritis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches and other conditions, and could even benefit those with autism.

Buckle said the tanks are sanitary.

“The amount of salt in the tanks makes it a hostile environment for pathogens,” he said. “As far as bacteria, you don’t have to worry about that.”

He said that the tanks are cleaned for 30 minutes after each use, and are on a regular schedule for deep cleaning and maintenance. Each unit has its own ozone generator, he added.

Buckle said there will be a retail component to the business as well in the form of float beds and other health-related products.

The business partners also have secured a $225,000 loan from Tompkins Bank of Castile and a $100,000 loan from Genesee County Economic Development Center to cover the total cost of the project, VanValkenburg said. The BDC loan is for five years with a 4-percent interest rate.

VanValkenburg said the center will be open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. He said the fee to use a tank is $65 but discounts will be available for Rest & Revive members.

In other developments, the BDC board:

-- Reluctantly accepted the resignation of Treasurer Mary Valle, who will be stepping down immediately due to a “conflict of interest.”

Valle said that she, as owner of Valle Jewelers on Jackson Street, and her children, who own the building at the west corner of Ellicott Street and Liberty Streets, plan to apply for some of the available Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds to expand their business ventures.

-- Voted to change the corporation’s designation from 501(c)(4) to 501(c)(3) to make it easier to accept charitable contributions, especially land donations.

-- Authorized President Pier Cipollone and Director Rachel Tabelski as authorized signers to expedite proceedings relating to the Ellicott Station project.

Tabelski said the BDC is communicating with Savarino Companies of Buffalo on a regular basis, but would not say when ground would be broken on the development.

“Every day we gain momentum as each piece is finalized,” she said.

-- Voted to reformat and expand the Building Improvement Handbook for the DRI Building Improvement Fund at a cost of no more than $3,300. Tabelski said the cost is reimbursable through the DRI.

-- Expects the City of Batavia’s commitment of $15,000 to fund Phase II environmental work at the Creek Park site (behind Falleti Ice Arena) to be transferred soon.

The goal, Cipollone said, is to consolidate three existing parcels – one owned by the City, one owned by Genesee County, and one owned by the Town of Batavia – into one property that can be offered to potential developers.

March 7, 2018 - 2:36pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia Development Corporation, freshLAB, EDEN.

Update -- 5:50 p.m. with Judy Hysek's comments

The Batavia Development Corporation Board of Directors this morning approved a $30,000 grant/loan package for Judy Hysek’s EDEN vegan restaurant, the second start-up business at freshLAB in the former JJ Newberry building on Main Street in downtown Batavia.

“Judy’s very distinctly different concept, complete business plan, unwavering pledge to regional ingredient sourcing and commitment to start a restaurant earned her the freshLAB opportunity,” BDC Executive Director Julie Pacatte said.

The restaurant will be situated with Eli Fish Brewing Company, which was the first start-up as the anchor tenant.

The announcement was welcome news to Hysek, who went through a six-month process – starting with the first-ever freshLAB Foodie Challenge in September and followed by a five-month restaurant ownership Boot Camp taught by a variety of respected industry representatives.

“Julie had left me a voicemail saying I was selected and I think I started shaking a little when I was listening to it,” said Hysek, who noted that her husband, Chris, and she have been wanting to start something of their own for the past three or four years. “I’m honestly very honored to have been selected as all of the other contestants are very talented and hard-working.”

BDC officials will be approving a third business for the space, with an anticipated announcement in the coming weeks and opening expected in May.

Pacatte said that dozens of community volunteers participated throughout the process, which also involved more tastings, menu critiques and business plan evaluations.

“A local selection committee reviewed freshLAB expectations along with all related experiences, scoring, feedback and business plan presentations to determine that Judy’s EDEN vegan restaurant was a great fit for our freshLAB restaurant incubator,” she said.

Hysek said that she had been running a small nonprofit gift shop in Rochester for a few years and when they moved back to Batavia, they wanted to do something here.

“We took a small business class at GCC and met Barb Shine last year. She mentioned the freshLab back then and we thought it might be a possibility,” she said.

“Then a few months later we took a tour of the Harvester building and met Julie Pacatte, who also encouraged us to look into the Foodie Challenge for the freshLab space. So we gave it a shot, received some really great feedback and a ton of encouragement and support, and here we are.”

Hysek said the menu features “Not Dogs” made from marinated and grilled carrots that take on the taste of their toppings.

“It’s a much lighter alternative to a regular hot dog and these don’t leave you feeling bogged down,” she said. “My favorite toppings are spicy brown mustard and carmelized onions, but we’ll have a lot of other toppings for customers to choose from as well.”

She said other choices include “great tasting bar food” such as poutine, cauliflower wings and nachos, as well as house-made cheeses, weekly and seasonal specials, a couple of dessert choices, house made Kombucha, lemonades, and fresh pressed juices.

The entire menu is vegan (no animal products).

The tentative timeline for EDEN begins this month with the purchase of specialty equipment, BDC-sponsored training with Chef Tracy prior to opening and the café set-up, with tentative opening and ribbon cutting on April 22 (Earth Day).

Hysek said her family, including her husband, father and brother, are very supportive. She said she plans to be open noon to 9 p.m. every day except Tuesday to start and take it from there. Her goal, after 18 to 24 months at freshLAB, is to move into a more permanent space in Batavia and further expand the menu.

Eli Fish Brewing Company opened for business this week.

December 5, 2017 - 8:22pm

Batavia City Manager Jason Molino admits that a communication breakdown has resulted in the confusion surrounding a proposal to redevelop the Old Engine House on Main Street with help from a Restore New York Communities Initiative grant.

“Maybe we all could have done a better job communicating,” said Molino, speaking by telephone tonight.

Ever since Molino’s memo to City Council dated Nov. 22 – a report that apparently wasn’t read by all council members prior to their Nov. 27 meeting (Thanksgiving came in between) – there have been numerous public comments criticizing the process.

Some of those comments placed the blame on the city manager for “jumping the gun” and others questioned the selection of Thompson Builds of Byron and Churchville as the developer.

A public hearing on the proposal to renovate the former restaurant into a commercial/residential building and to apply for a $1 million Restore NY grant to help fund it was scheduled for Monday afternoon, but was abruptly cancelled after Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell said the County Legislature wasn’t ready to declare the property as “surplus.”

This, as would be expected, cast a negative light upon all parties involved, especially Molino for bringing the project to City Council.

“(Cancelling the public hearing) caught me by surprise,” Molino said, noting that Gsell told him that the legislature needed more time to review the plan.

Currently, the Engine House, which is owned by the county, is the home to public defender offices and a facilities management shop.

Molino said he was aware that the county had been looking to surplus the property for some time – “a couple years,” he said – and that Julie Pacatte, coordinator of the Batavia Development Corporation, had referred a couple investors to the county.

“I know that Jay had people looking at it as well; multiple people already looked at it,” Molino said.

Molino said that Pacatte came to him with news that Thompson Builds was interested in renovating the building to have a commercial venture on the first floor and apartments on the second floor – and that he was excited by the prospect of putting the property back on the tax rolls.

“That was a few weeks ago,” Molino said, after the City submitted a letter of intent to apply for the grant and was accepted – matters that weren’t communicated to City Council.

“I could have done a better job of advising Council,” Molino said, adding that he also should have received confirmation that the county was ready to relinquish the building.

As far as the procedure to dispose of surplus property is concerned, Molino said the county had several options, including an auction, request for proposal (RFP) or “appraised value and straight deal contract.”

He said the City’s role was simply as a “pass-through” since the county was not eligible to apply for the Restore NY grant.

Molino said he knew of two interested investors, including Thompson Builds, but said that it was Pacatte who “worked with Thompson to develop it a bit more.”

Pacatte could not be reached for comment tonight.

For the record, Thompson Builds has done work at Genesee County Building 2, VA Medical Center, Genesee County Airport and Liberty Pumps in Bergen, and did major work at the Big Tree Glen apartment complex on West Main Street Road.

When it was pointed out that Pacatte reports to him, Molino acknowledged that “maybe I should have been involved more.”

Despite the setback, Molino said he hopes that City Council would consider applying for the grant in 2018.

“We need to come together and gear up for next year,” he said, “by communicating with the county on the disposal of the property and with the investor. By getting everybody on board, we should be able to move forward.”

January 26, 2016 - 7:33am

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Two parcels of property that are part of the city's brownfield opportunity area are advancing in the redevelopment process.

The City Council approved resolutions Monday night that will make it possible for the Batavia Development Corp. to take over ownership in order to prepare the property for sale to a private developer.

The transfer is contingent on a successful tax foreclosure process.

Both properties, at 40-52 Ellicott St., the former Dellapenna property, and 56-70 Ellicott St., the former Santy Tire's location, along with other businesses, have been elligible for tax foreclosure for some time, but the city has let the properties sit in limbo to avoid becoming responsible for the expense of environmental cleanup.

City Manager Jason Moliono wouldn't confirm that property title transfer to BDC signals that Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacette has identified a specific private owner for redevelopment of the properties, but the resolutions passed by the council indicate a developer is waiting in the wings.

The resolutions both say, "the BDC has agreed to accept title to said property and work towards executing agreements with a preferred developer for redeveloment of the site consistent with the accept Brownfield Opportunity Area Step 2 Nomination Plan ..."

The BOA covers all of the city's central corridor and is 366 acres. It affords an opportunity to provide developers with assistance in revitalizing abandoned, blighted and underused properties.

The BDC has been working for years to establish the designation, identify properties for redevelopment and market those properties to potential developers.

There's no information available yet on who the developer might be, what is planned for the property, or when the next steps will be announced.

August 22, 2013 - 10:10am

A total of $450,000 from the state's NY Main Street Grant Program is starting to show results in Downtown Batavia.

The bulk of the funding -- $400,000 -- is being used to assist downtown property owners with interior and exterior renovations, including facades.

“You can see some of the facade renovations already being made to Alberty Drugs, YNGodess and Del Plato Law Firm and Williams Law Firm," Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte said. "They are all part of the Main Street Grant Program, in which the owners of the three properties are spending about $160,000 and they’re receiving about $57,000 in grants for the renovations."

Some of the projects that have been done involve new apartments and building improvements.

Two apartments were recently completed on Jackson Street, as well as one above Valle Jewelers.

Four new apartments will be built at the former Carr’s Warehouse on Jackson Square. Owner Ken Mistler has also committed to developing two apartments at 97 Main St. The Batavia Development Corporation recently approved sprinklers and HVAC units for them.

Of the remaining $50,000, the dumpster project on Center Street was given half for streetscape improvements, which would include rebuilding the trash bin enclosures and repaving the parking lot.

But the City Council has not voted on whether to proceed with the dumpster project, and since $25,000 of the grant money is already earmarked for it, Public Works will have to find another way to move it forward.

The remaining $25,000 is committed to splitting the administration office space of Stuart Brown Associates and Batavia Development Corp.

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