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Soft opening launches WNY Plate at downtown takeout

By Joanne Beck
Zeke Lynn with WNY Plate
Zeke Lynn shows off a Western New York Plate at Everybody Eats during the takeout restaurant's soft opening Saturday at Batavia City Centre.
Photo by Joanne Beck

Liliana Perl and her family drove to Batavia just to try out a signature Everybody Eats dish at City Centre on Saturday evening. After all, the Elba resident had heard about the new takeout restaurant and wanted to give it a try, she said.

She and the family filled the tables and seats that were just outside the kitchen and enjoyed their meal even though most dishes were to-go orders. They had the Western New York Plate: a derivative of the garbage plate, but with a chef Zeke Lynn touch of pan-fried hash browns, macaroni salad, a hotdog, meat sauce, mustard and ketchup.

Was it worth the drive?

“That was amazing,” Perl said. “It was very, very good, the best in town. We are garbage plate fiends. We love a good garbage plate.”

Lynn first announced in August that he would be moving into the space at 29 Batavia City Centre after cleaning up the space and setting up the kitchen. 

Now, with a new stove and griddle installed, he had a couple of test days earlier this week selling sandwiches and a minestrone soup, despite the very unseasonably hot temperature (that became the joke about serving hot soup in 86-degree weather).

The restaurant had a soft opening on Saturday, featuring bolognese, a dish of homemade beef and pork ragu that’s slow simmered and served over fettuccine pasta, and his WNY Plate loaded with potatoes, mac salad, meat sauce and a choice of hotdog, burger or cheeseburger.  

They will be there again from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday, with the pickup entrance opposite Wendy’s. To order, call or text (585) 813-7969.

Lynn and his partner, Sam Lang, have worked in restaurants “our whole lives,” and look forward to catering to the appetites of their local customers, Lang said.

“Every week, we’ll focus on specials and then bring in some new stuff. We really feed off of feedback, good or bad. We really want to know what people want,” he said. “We’ll have a steak night coming up soon. The hardest part is we don’t really want to lock down one thing. And we’ll be offering cooking classes; they’ll be coming in the future.”

He and Lynn felt that the Bolognese and WNY Plate are two of their best dishes, so that’s what they began with. They will be adding other menu items as they go along, according to customer requests and input. 

They plan to serve lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and add a dinner menu from Thursdays through the weekend. 

To find out the weekly menu, go to Everybody Eats

Sam Lang, Zeke Lynn, Donato Fiorentino, Logan Kellogg and Jacob Lang
The Everybody Eats team, with Sam Lang in front, Zeke Lynn, Donato Fiorentino, Logan Kellogg and Jacob Lang. 
Photo by Joanne Beck

No doubt about it, Almost, Maine promises a 'beautiful' show this weekend

By Joanne Beck


Think of a tiny hamlet up north, not quite reaching Canada, filled with regular town folk but with no governing rules because nobody ever got around to officially organizing. It’s filled with geese, and moose, snow-sprinkled deer, and scenery so photogenic you’d swear it’s Maine.

But as you will soon learn, it’s Almost, Maine, Batavia Players’ next show to debut this weekend.

“The whole premise of the show is that it takes place over 10 minutes. And the place that's called Almost Maine is based on an actual place. So it's nine different vignettes that take place in the same town with nine different couples. It's kind of a cool premise, like a snapshot in a small town, to me is kind of like a cool premise,” Director Patrick Burk said. “So it goes from everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. There's extremely funny parts, there’s extremely dramatic parts, there's challenging parts, there's social redemption parts. It's really a great, great play.”

The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday on the concourse stage inside Batavia City Centre.

What better way to spend a cold winter night than to learn about the intermingling of those nine couples, introduced to the audience through each separate scene? Though the entire production is 90 minutes, each scene reenacts the same 10-minute point in time from varying perspectives, which fascinated Burk when he first encountered the show.

It makes a spectator wonder, ‘why didn’t he know that so-and-so did that?’ a question that is answered when one realizes that the scene is happening at the same exact time as every other scene, Burk said.

“There's connections between the scenes because, obviously, like in any tiny town, everybody knows everybody else. So there's references to the other scenes. And there's a lot of names that switch back and forth with the scenes, with the couples talking about different issues. It's a beautiful, beautiful play, it really is. But it's kind of a strange way to be looking at things because you're trying to figure out, well, why didn't she know that?” he said. “And it's because it happens at the same time, so she wouldn't know. It's not like one scene follows another scene. It all happens at the same time. So it's a very strange premise, but it's beautifully done. And I think the cast does a phenomenal job of that.”

Part of the beauty is that people fall in — and out of — love, hearts get broken, love happens in the strangest of ways, and residents of Almost, Maine -- cue the dramatic music -- “will never be the same,” according to the show’s description.


The set is rather basic since it is based outdoors, with a bench, chairs and a table, and costumes of winter apparel. There are 19 characters and 16 actors — some have two characters each — and Burk has been impressed with how actors embraced their roles so fully to unfold completely within each 10-minute segment.

“It is very, very popular in high schools. I think the characters are amazing,” he said. “I kind of looked at it as a fairy tale. Could this be true?”

He was equally impressed with how well actors collaborated with one another, given they were from several counties, including Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Niagara.

That, coupled with the ability to perfect the role and be familiar with those of others in case of illness and absenteeism, has worked out well, he said.

“We just came off of our Christmas show, with a cast of 40 people, we were really pushing the envelope, and then coming back with this — and we’ve only been rehearsing for three and a half to four weeks,” he said. “I really do hope people come and see it. It's a tremendous show. And it's absolutely beautiful. I know, I say that frequently when we do things, but it really is a beautiful show. It really has a huge appeal, I think to a wide array of people. And I think people will see things, and the characters, of family and friends and themselves, and people that they know.

"And I just think it's extremely well written, and our actors in this particular show, the 16 of them are absolutely amazing. I can't say enough about it,” he said.

Almost, Maine was developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project in 2002 and received its world premiere at Portland Stage Company, where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. It opened Off Broadway in the winter of 2005/2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre and was subsequently published by Dramatists Play Service. Almost, Maine has been produced by more than 5,000 theater companies in the United States, making it one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade.

Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors. To purchase, go to





Photos during rehearsal include actors Shaun Coburn, Jacquie Morrison, Justin Chortie, Brianna Jones, Maia Zerillo, Seth Coburn, Richard Ferris, Sophie Houseman, Stephen VanValkenburg, and Kristen Gelia. Photos by Howard Owens.

City Centre property appraisals approved as a step toward downtown growth

By Joanne Beck

Batavia City Centre is in a “really good place” for the city to consider selling off vacant properties, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.

She endorsed the move during this week’s City Council meeting as a first step toward relieving the city of unnecessary assets. Or maybe it’s a second step, after securing an appraiser to review the properties and provide estimated pricetags for each.

Tabelski asked council to first approve the expense of $5,400 for the appraisal services of Rynne Murphy before she can proceed with putting the properties on the selling block.

“There are several interested businesses that are looking at properties inside City Centre mall,” Tabelski said. “Currently the city would like to take steps to divest of the City Centre properties, however, more important we want to see them in productive use, such as the theater in which the city is continuing to rent space to.”

The city will not cease its responsibilities for the 46,000 square-foot mall concourse, and will continue to maintain that space, she said.

Tabelski was asked why the city can’t go with the assessed values available online, and why an appraiser was needed.

“We need the market value according to the Charter,” she said, backed up by City Attorney George Van Nest.

The city Charter mandates use of an appraised value versus what has been assessed, they said.

The Charter includes several statements about selling city-owned property, including this from Section 66:

“Where there is a strong showing of competitive developer interest for large or unique parcels, the land shall be sold employing a request for proposal process,” the passage states. “A price shall be obtained from a licensed independent appraiser prior to the negotiation stage.”

A total amount of $440,789 in VLT money was received by the city, and the $5,400 would come out of that, Tabelski said, and be put into a Community Development fund. Performing these appraisals and proceeding with potential sales and/or leases of vacant properties is part of a mall redevelopment strategy to “bring vibrancy to the mall,” she said.

Parcels 2, 35 and 39 have recently been rented by Batavia Players during the group's theater construction.

Council also approved Police Chief Shawn Heubusch’s request to spend $125,000 of reserve money to purchase police vehicles by the end of the year. He typically would put in for the purchase during budget talks in March, however, a dealer advised the department that supply chain issues are likely to bog down the process.

“We’ve been informed that if we don’t order them by the end of the year, we won’t get them next year,” he said.

Go here for previous coverage on these issues.

File Photo of City Manager Rachael Tabelski, by Howard Owens.

This Saturday is last one of the season for Mall Market at City Centre

By Joanne Beck

There will be many items available for purchase this weekend -- from ground lamb, winter squash and sugar waffles to holiday hams, furniture and jewelry -- during the last Mall Market of the year at Batavia City Centre in downtown Batavia.

The market is set to run from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the mall concourse. 

The following vendors are planning to be there with their goodies::

  • Garner Farms: holiday hams and breakfast sausage, pasture-raised chicken cuts and other pork cuts.
  • Porter Farms: winter squash, ground beef, ground lamb and gift cards.
  • Tastefully Simple: spices, sauces, mixes and gift items.
  • Designed Gracefully: beautiful clay jewelry
  • Max Pies Furniture: furniture and flooring
  • Flint’s Maple: maple products, gift boxes and dog treats
  • Dilcher’s Concessions: cotton candy and sugar waffles
  • Tree Hugger Hard Cider: artisan ciders

Additional vendors may register as this week progresses, Batavia Development Corporation Director Tammy Hathaway says.

"We also will have two delightful guest pooches (from Flint’s Maple) in Santa hats who love attention, and to have their photos taken," Hathaway said. "Should anyone be interested in vending this Saturday, or participating in the Mall Market after the new year, please contact me at any time."

For additional information, go to Mall Market

City seeks to appraise vacant parcels in Batavia City Centre for prospective transactions

By Joanne Beck


Batavia city management is seeking approval to spend $5,400 for an appraiser to determine the value of several vacant properties within the City Centre.

As part of the 2017 agreement between the city and the Mall Merchants Association, the city has responsibility for the 46,000-square-foot mall concourse and related expenses and has foreclosed on several defunct properties, namely parcels 11, 11A, 17, 18, 19 and 20.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski, in response to an “influx of business owners looking to purchase or lease” these properties, wants to know the value for each in order to proceed with negotiations to sell or lease them, she said.

“To prepare these properties for lease or sale, I recommend that the city engages in the appraisal services of Rynne Murphy to determine the market value of the property," Tabelski said in a memo to the council. “I recommend that the City Council approve a budget amendment of $5,400 to use (video lottery terminal) funds for appraisal costs of city-owned parcels (2, 11, 17-20 Batavia City Centre).”

The request will be up for discussion during the council’s conference session set for 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

A total amount of $440,789 in VLT money was received by the city, and the $5,400 would come out of that, Tabelski said, and be put into a Community Development fund. Performing these appraisals and proceeding with potential sales and/or leases of vacant properties is part of a mall redevelopment strategy to “bring vibrancy to the mall,” she said.

According to Genesee County's online assessment records, parcel 2 is a hallway with an assessed value of $5,000; parcel 11, formerly Valle Jewelers several years ago, has a total assessed value of $124,000; and 17-20, known in the heyday of the mall as Gentleman Jim's, is assessed at $55,300.

Parcels 2, 35 and 39 have recently been rented by Batavia Players during the group's theater construction.

Other agenda items include a presentation from the Batavia Development Corporation and a request from the police department to spend $125,000 of reserves to purchase police vehicles by the end of this year.

City Chief Shawn Heubusch has asked, via a memo to Tabelski, to head off ongoing supply chain issues by securing the vehicle purchase in December 2022. Otherwise, the arrival of such needed police cars may not happen until early 2024 or later, he said.

“This obviously puts stress on the already aging fleet, escalates repair costs to those vehicles ordered after the city’s fiscal year begins in April 2023, he said.

Both items are expected to be moved for a vote during a business meeting to follow. Other matters up for vote are to schedule a public hearing for a Round 7 Restore NY grant application, to authorize engineering services for a Bank Street water system improvement project, and to appoint members to various city committees or boards.

There is time allotted for public comments during the conference session. Speakers may sign up prior to the meeting.

File Photo of a portion of the concourse in Batavia City Centre. The property on the left was formerly Gentleman Jim's, a diner that sat alongside the Palace of Sweets. Photo by Joanne Beck.

Traditional music and ghostly lessons mean only one thing: A Christmas Carole, set for this weekend

By Joanne Beck


After performing twice before in the same Batavia Players show, Heather Ferris is now taking the baton, so to speak, as director of what’s become a holiday favorite for the group each December.

This year’s “A Christmas Carole” has not only made Ferris attentive to the script, but also to every other aspect of production — from auditions early on to the finishing touches of dress rehearsal.

“I definitely enjoy the directing versus being on stage. I’m a little shy. Sometimes getting on stage for me is, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be a little scary. But being able to direct, I feel like I can let my creativity come to life through the actors that are on the stage. So it's more of a creative outlet for me than actually being on stage,” she said prior to rehearsal Tuesday. “I just start thinking about how far we’ve come. My youngest cast member is 3 years old, and then I've got cast members all the way up into their 70s. And just to see them kind of blossom, and just really bring characters to life, for me, it’s just so fun to watch that. And so I get really excited for them when they're bringing it all together.”

Scrooge and his ghosts debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the makeshift theater at Batavia City Centre.

This isn’t a first-time directing for Ferris, who is co-directing this one with her husband Richard; however, it is her first experience off-stage guiding the action for the beloved Christmas classic.

“It’s a fun show, it’s very family-friendly,” she said. “You expect the change that Scrooge comes through, and see the spirit of Christmas come alive through him. To see how the story that was written almost 200 years ago can be so much like what we deal with today … money doesn’t always make you happy. It’s a feel-good story, and you go from bah-humbug to a time where people are happy; it makes you feel good at the end.”


Written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, the story features Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly, penny-pinching curmudgeon whose ultimate life lessons come to him through ghosts of Jacob Marley and of Christmas past, present, and future. After learning about each phase and its impact on people and the community, Ebenezer’s moral compass and hardened heart are transformed.

Of course, before that idyllic ending takes place — just as with the storyline itself — there are the typical challenges with such shows, especially with a cast of 32 and half of which are youngsters, she said. School activities, sports practices and work schedules all must be juggled amidst a rehearsal timeline that began in October.

And even though the pandemic has rested in most everyone’s rearview mirror, there has been illness to deal with amongst the troupe, she said. But now, with a full dress rehearsal upon them for Wednesday night, it is, as they say, show time. And Batavia Players is ready to entertain, said Ferris, a retirement plan consultant.

“Tomorrow is really just making sure that our lighting is good, our sounds are good, that we have all the costuming in place and things like that,” she said. “So it's literally just the finishing touches, the little things that make the production a whole production.”


Although by day she crunches numbers and deals with accounting for clients, Ferris, a resident of Medina, can let her innovational nature flow in the after-hours of theater.

“It really allows me to have that creative outlet,” she said. “It’s a way to get away from my everyday challenges, and let that stress melt away.”

Filled with familiar music and traditional Christmas carols, the show is also augmented with pianist Kathy White and Kristin Gelia on violin.

Tickets are going fast, and folks are encouraged to get them sooner than later, said Patrick Burk, aka Ghost of Christmas Future. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at or possibly at the door for some dates, Burk said.




Photos of rehearsal Monday for "A Christmas Carole" by Batavia Players at Batavia City Centre. Photos by Howard Owens.

City Centre by design: taking new approaches to an old structure

By Joanne Beck


Four designs for entryways into Batavia City Centre were unveiled this week to mall merchants and City Council members.

The designs vary from one another at each of the four locations — including near the former Sunny’s, Hawley Insurance, and Le Beau Salon.  One design builds on the red brick exterior with doors and windows to let in the sunshine; another one leads into a glass vestibule and has a large hanging basket of flowers nearby; a third one features multiple hanging flower baskets with a sloping structure above it, resembling a slight roller coaster effect; and yet another entrance goes a bit wild with low maintenance greenery, and a bench.

Craig Jackson of Batavia Stagecoach Florist spoke on behalf of fellow merchants.

“They thought it looked pretty good,” he said. “The one near Sunny’s is a little fancier. It’s a fairly decent design of entryways to make the place look a little better.”

There was also some relief that there would be no more silo-style entrances, he said. Silos were originally built as separate areas from the mall, and they have collected a lot of water spots and damage over the years from a poorly designed roof.

"Basically, you're seeing a design still with a vestibule, but a very welcoming entrance into the space,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said during City Council’s meeting this week. “Hunt Engineers has been working on this for the last six months.”

As soon as Hunt finalizes the design and related documents, the project will be put out for bid, she said.

“Ideally to begin by spring,” she said.

The city has $1 million of grant money set aside for the project.

"Right now, we believe that the entire million dollars will be dedicated just to redoing the silos at this point with construction costs. But we want to put in some other alternates in the project such as flooring and painting," she said. "The existing mall maintenance crew has been taking down ceiling tiles, and we're looking to see if we can repaint those ceilings similar to what we did here at City Hall. So just multiple different ways to spruce up City Centre." 

Aside from new ideas for mall facelifts, city officials have been trying out a mall market on select Saturdays. They are encouraged by the gradual increase of vendors and foot traffic. Jackson has noted an uptick of customers during these Saturday mornings, he said.

“I’ve gotten more traffic in the store because of it,” he said. “It has brought people in here on the weekends … about 10 to 15 more customers and they're buying things, that’s good for us.”

Current mall maintenance staff work on Saturdays, and are available to assist vendors with set-up, Tabelski said. There has been no overtime so far, and the whole market idea is “a beta test,” she said, which is an opportunity for real-time vendors and shoppers to use the market and test it out to uncover any issues before more fully launching it.

Vendors bring in their own tables and supplies, and the concourse can accommodate up to a 10-foot-high truck of goods to fit inside if necessary.

“We think it’s going well, we definitely want to see more activity with vendors and shoppers,” Tabelski said.

The next market is scheduled from 8 to 11:30 a.m. this Saturday, and nine vendors are registered to participate. Vendors include the core staples of Porter Farms, Tastefully Simple and Garner Farms, plus Dilcher’s Concessions, Gracefully Designed, Flint’s Maple, and Wright’s Homestead.

The market is also scheduled for Nov. 26, Dec. 10, and Dec. 17.

For those people that have criticized the city for putting any more money into City Centre, Tabelski said it makes no sense to do otherwise.

“We have a very large space in our downtown, whether we agree with how and why it got here. There is no value for doing nothing,” she said. “The merchants deserve a whole lot of respect from the community. They are offended when people say ‘just tear it down.’ We need to be creative with small programming.”

Those merchants — property owners within City Centre — have invested their lives and livelihoods into that space, she said, and the city needs to invest as well. Second-floor apartments are “a complete option” as a way to repurpose the mall building, and potentially “get the property back into private hands,” she said.


Renderings of City Centre entrance designs courtesy of City of Batavia.

Vandal draws anti-ReAwaken America Tour graffiti on City Centre

By Alecia Kaus


Police were called to Batavia City Centre on Monday evening after City Council wrapped up their Conference and Business meetings at about 8:45 p.m.

According to police, about a dozen or more chalk drawings were discovered on doors, brick columns, and sidewalks. City Manager Rachael Tabelski along with Public Works Director Brett Franks were on scene with police checking out the whole exterior of the building.

Police are investigating the incident and will be checking cameras in the area the front of the building. Police say the person responsible will face a charge of criminal tampering, a class B misdemeanor. The City of Batavia will keep track of the cost of the cleanup and submit an amount to the police.

The chalk drawings make reference to the ReAwaken America Tour (RAT) and rejecting hate and fascism.

Photos by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service





Foreclosures are no foregone conclusion for City Centre, officials say

By Joanne Beck


It might be difficult to be a fan of Batavia City Centre, which has struggled with an image problem, about a third of it being unoccupied and with vacant properties and foreclosures that are costing city taxpayers $45,000 a year in mall user fees.

The city pays those user fees to the City Centre Fund, not counting City Hall, which is assessed at $1.45 million and costs $23,000 a year in user fees.

The foreclosed properties and their assessed values are:

  • Parcel 2 - $16,970
  • Parcel 11, formerly Valle’s Jewelers - $124,000
  • Parcels 35 and 39, formerly Advanced Imaging - $139,300 and $6,970
  • Parcels 17-20, formerly Gentleman Jim’s, Palace of Sweets, The Hiding Place - $55,300

Batavia Players has a lease deal with the city to rent out parcels 2, 35 and 39 for a total of $45,768, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

That total assessed value of $342,540 has a zero property tax while in foreclosure.

Parcel 2, formerly Sunny’s restaurant, has been served a petition and notice of foreclosure, Tabelski said. The total assessed value will then be $440,543.

Mall merchants Bob Chiarmonte and Craig Jackson recently said they believed the city wasn’t working to fill those vacant spots and wished that more would be done to get new businesses in there. The Batavian reached out to Tabelski and Batavia Development Corporation Director Tammy Hathaway to find out what they were doing to market the vacancies.

Speaking on behalf of both of them, Tabelski said the vacant properties are shown to prospective buyers by Public Works Department staff and Hathaway. She did not mention any form of action being taken to market the sites.

“The city supports putting these parcels into productive use, and they may become more attractive to businesses as improvements are made in City Centre, including the roof, silos, and lighting,” Tabelski said.

Chiarmonte and Jackson hope that’s true. An entire roof replacement has been completed over the concourse, and the silos (entryways) are in the design phase to improve the look and practicality of the vertical tunnels at each entrance.

“I think upgrading the interior would make a difference; it’s more important than the exterior,” Chiarmonte said.

Case in point: the entryway next to the former Sunny’s. Just look up, and it becomes obvious how much wear and tear the structures have taken with rain and melting snow. Jackson pointed out that, when installed, the silo roof was tucked in lower within the structure, which doesn’t seem to allow an easy escape for water. Stains are easily visible and run down the length of the silo from the roof.


Other improvements, more cosmetic in nature, are to include painting the walls and floors. Ceiling tiles — which were black and haphazardly missing throughout the concourse — have begun to be taken down for a modern, industrial appearance.  

There are 34 business-related sites, according to a listed address within the concourse. A total assessed value, excluding foreclosed and other city properties, and a nonprofit organization, is more than $2.2 million. That’s more than $2 million worth of property taxes going into city revenues.

It seems a given that the mall-turned-City Centre’s reputation needs a major overhaul after all of these years of legal turmoil and struggle to retain newer businesses. But then some retailers have made a go of it over the long haul — Jackson and business partner Loretta DelPriore have thrived with Batavia Stagecoach Florist for more than two decades, Chiarmonte’s Classic Optical has been there 38 years, and Erika Siverling’s LeBeau Salon for more than 10 years, plus medical and dental providers with long-term track records.

City officials have shared plans to expand the scope and improve the appearance of the Centre, and tearing it down has been ruled out. That leaves a hint of promise that the bemoaned downtown landmark might just get a revival, and all involved hope that cynics might just become fans.   

Top photo: Some of the properties in foreclosure at Batavia City Centre, photo from City of Batavia; City Manager Rachael Tabelsk, photo by Howard Owens; and a silo at the Centre, photo by Joanne Beck.

Mall merchants have their say: the buckets are gone and City Centre is improving

By Joanne Beck


Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia

A recent photo published with a mall-related story caught the attention of a couple of merchants.

It prominently featured a decorated bucket on the floor, and was a file photo from some time ago. Business owners Bob Chiarmonte, the unofficial president of the Mall Merchants Association, and Craig Jackson, co-owner of Batavia Stagecoach Florist, wanted to set the record straight that improvements are being made to Batavia City Centre.

“I think the city has put a lot of money into downtown revitalization, and the mall is right in the center of it. So to ignore it doesn't make sense to me, because it's right in the center of downtown. So I think they're making the right decision to try and improve the building,“ said Chiarmonte, who owns Classic Optical. “Personally, what I'd like to see is, there are properties that the city owns, and I'd like to see them sell the properties and get taxpayers and businesses back in here. The city owns a bunch of these properties that are vacant, and they're not doing anything.”

Several former businesses ended up in foreclosure and the sites ended up in the possession of the city. According to online assessment data, those sites include parcels 2, 11, formerly Valle’s, 17-20, formerly Gentleman Jim’s, Palace of Sweets and The Hiding Place, and 35 and 39, formerly Advanced Imaging. Other vacant spots, not owned by the city according to assessment data, are the former Sunny's restaurant, Escapeology, Miracle Ear, and JC Penney. (The Batavian reached out to city officials for comments late Wednesday afternoon, and will publish an update later this week.)

Aside from those empty parcels, Chiarmonte and Jackson were pleased with the new roof that’s been installed throughout the concourse area. The place no longer leaks, they agreed, and there hasn’t been a bucket to be seen in months. The city has expressed interest in renting out that space for events, and that’s something that both business owners would like to see.

They credited building maintenance manager Tom Phelps for doing “an excellent” job with making sure the concourse is clean, repaired as necessary, shoveled outside and seasonally decorated. Phelps even brought in some decorations for the place to be extra festive. This will be his fourth year putting up a Christmas tree, he said.

Phelps and two other city employees work in the Centre as part of a legal settlement between the merchants and municipality. That has been a plus, Jackson and Chiarmonte said, and Phelps is currently in the process of removing all of those ceiling tiles for a different look.


Current concourse ceiling


Concourse ceiling with tiles beginning to be removed

Chiarmonte believes there may be another option for mall management in the future.

“I think the city might be interested in getting one entity to come in and take over the facility. And I can't blame them for that, because I know that the city doesn't want to own them all. We've talked about it. And, personally, I think it would be an easier sell if the spaces were full. I don’t think they’re marketing it at all.”


There didn’t appear to be any type of visual signage promoting those properties for sale. Each one sat there empty and quiet, with windows either boarded or papered, or otherwise obviously unoccupied. Jackson remembers when they had the draw of those stores, including J.C. Penney, with its name still on the wall over the interior doors.

Despite the lack of regular traffic, both businesses had customers in the hour or so The Batavian was there in the afternoon. And both said they have been doing well and would not have made a different choice if they could go back in time. Chiarmonte, and Jackson and his partner, Loretta DelPriore, own their properties outright, which means no rent to worry about. They each took advantage of what they felt were good deals — and cheaper than other space downtown or elsewhere in Batavia, they said.

COVID’s arrival hurt businesses in general, and mall merchants were no exception. Chiarmonte saw decreased business, and said there wasn’t a compromise to offer, as his optical shop is a hands-on enterprise. Jackson said revenues remained strong for his combination florist-tuxedo-collectibles shop. When COVID hit, the partners depended on delivery service and wire and online ordering through their website.


He also referred to another bonus, a craft fair hosted by a local nonprofit in the concourse. With some 90 vendors,  the place was busy and a lot of people milled about, stopping into the shop, Jackson said.

“This place is available for events, and you don’t have water dripping on you,” Jackson said. “I think they should push kiosks, they used to have those, and people could try it out and work toward renting (a property).”

They’re both for anything that can draw people to City Centre, including special events on the concourse, the Healthy Living project that’s now underway for a 2023 completion, more merchants and, ideally for Chiarmonte, another department store to replace Penney’s.

The Association has dwindled to about two or three active members, including Chiarmonte and Jackson’s business partner Loretta DelPriore.

“We keep a handle on things,” Chiarmonte said. “I’ve been here 38 years, and I’ve had success. I think any business, any business that comes into the facility is going to help … and is going to create traffic. So the more foot traffic, there is more business. It just kind of goes to (common sense). I think (Penney’s) was a huge help for me because of the location, and I guess COVID put the nail in their coffin, unfortunately. That was a good store.”

The new owner, a developer in California, has a Rochester realtor who in the past has said he was working to show and sell the property. Potential concepts have included an event center and boutique-style hotel. Chiarmonte is on board with a mixed-use place, as long as those parcels are filled, he said.

He and Jackson agree with the city’s plan to pursue new designs for the four entryways to the Centre. That plan is in the design phase, city officials said. Other work is to include painting the floor and walls, and the tiles  — initially to be cleaned up and improved — are being taken down to expose the natural underpinnings of steel and wires. Some downtown apartments have been constructed in a similar industrial style.

Jackson wants the floor to be addressed soon, as he thinks the mismatched tile colors don’t do anything positive for the concourse appearance.

“To kind of bring this back to life,” he said. “This is a lot of open property right in the center of town.”

It may seem daunting to not only buy property there but also tack on property taxes and business improvement district and mall user fees to the total. However, they both said it was still less expensive than other city property.

“I don't know about rent, but I would guess that rent is reasonable because the cost of property is pretty reasonable, so if somebody's looking to start a business or open a business, this would be great, because you're in the middle of downtown and it's an expensive place to attain property,” Chiarmonte said.

To those people that have spouted off about tearing down the mall, it’s just not that easy, he said. He said the city would have to buy out each individual property owner and pay fair market value.

And to those that say the mall is dead?

“I wouldn’t say it’s dead,” Chiarmonte said. “But I would say it’s sleeping.”



For prior coverage about City Centre’s ongoing transition, see article "Moving forward?" and "Making the best ..."

Top photo: Craig Jackson, co-owner of Batavia Stagecoach Florist at 26 Batavia City Centre; the mall concourse ceiling, both currently and as it begins to shed its tiles; Bob Chiarmonte of Classic Optical at 44 Batavia City Centre, and a section of concourse. Photos by Joanne Beck.

Moving forward? Yes, say city leaders, a step at a time as funding allows

By Joanne Beck


Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia.

So to recap: city officials have begun to replace the mall concourse roof and pursue a new design for the four silos, or entryways, and are creating a wish list for future projects.

While nearly a million dollars have been invested in the roof, the naysayers are bemoaning such wasteful spending. The question of why not tear it down has been answered — more than once — which means to shift perspective from giving up to leaning in and finding affordable options for making the concourse more attractive, appealing, and effective for drawing in customers, city leaders say.

One action item that’s free and can be useful is just what some city officials have been doing: brainstorming.

Batavia Development Corporation’s new director, Tammy Hathaway, said she’d first like to “trip right into a giant pot of money” for the ideas she could come up with for the mall. So far, though, there have been conversations with city management and real estate agents.

“I don’t think any one of us doesn’t have it as our own personal priority,” she said during a recent group interview with city officials and The Batavian. “You know, working in the city of Batavia, actually working in this building, we work here, so we see it every day. And so it’s definitely something we think about constantly.”

Money — or the lack thereof — sort of tables some brainstorming ideas because any structural or aesthetic changes will take money to happen. City Manager Rachael Tabelski is hoping that perhaps the Restore NY grant, overseen by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, might consider the mall concourse for funding.

“So we’re trying to determine whether the concourse would be eligible because it serves so many businesses for those grant funds, so that’s kind of in process now,” she said. “We’re looking to work with Empire State Development to see if we’re eligible.”

Has there been any progress with filling the former JC Penney building?

Hathaway said that the property has “gotten a lot of traction out there in the world,” and Genesee County Economic Development Center has been involved by talking to various companies with possible interest, she said. The property is owned by a developer in California and is being marketed by a real estate company in Rochester.

As for using the concourse, any interested organization or business can fill out an application to rent the space for $25 and put on a special event, Tabelski said.

“We hope that there's excitement growing in Batavia; there was the development project for the groundbreaking at the YMCA Healthy Living campus and Savarino (Ellicott Station project),” she said. “Because a lot of times those types of developments are seeing companies and developers, and it piques their interest to come to have a look at what the city has to offer, and it's certainly a very large space and a very prominent location in the city.”

A big part of the aesthetic shift will be with the silo work, Public Works Director Brett Frank said.

“That'll make it more inviting to have people come in,” he said. “And exterior renovations will make a huge difference. You know, eventually as funds are made available, redoing flooring, painting, anything like that. it will make a huge impact as well. It's just going to take a lot of sweat equity.”

Hathaway believes that once Theater 56 is fully built, and the “manicuring” of different pieces within the mall, it will be a similar experience to finally seeing City Hall take shape at the west end of the former Genesee Country Mall.

“I think we all felt a little bit of relief when we saw City Hall built at the end of it, like there’s something new,” she said.


What about those oddly shaped, carpet-covered pieces of — are they furniture? — throughout the concourse; will they be removed or altered?

“That's a good question; that's probably a bridge we'd have to cross when we get there,” Frank said. “But that's not something that necessarily can't be upcycled.”

Tabelski and Frank agreed that the entire property would probably lend well to mixed-use, with perhaps a second floor for apartments, the current businesses of retail and medical services, and, ideally another restaurant or coffee shop, more retail and possibly bringing the outdoor Farmers Market indoors.

“I think it's more successful as a mixed-use that definitely has medical and insurance as mainstays of the owners, and I do think there's still retail that's going to be necessary there to support the employees who work at these medical facilities, and who are at the theater as well,” Tabelski said.

“So to me, I think it's more attractive if there's a mix of uses going on at the center,” she said.

Water and Wastewater Superintendent Michael Ficarella is looking for “an overall revitalization, or modernization” of the downtown space.

“And we can have events that benefit the community,” he said. “I think we're going to do our best to maximize what we have here in existence, and take what was left from the past and make it usable for our future.”

Top file photo from 2020: renderings of City Centre mall entryways and concourse that were considered a couple of years ago. Courtesy of LaBella Associates and the City of Batavia. 2021 file photo of City Centre with a decorative bucket in March and fixed furniture pieces behind it. Photo by Howard Owens.

Making the best of a shared situation: city officials envision a new mall

By Joanne Beck


Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia

An attractive, modern entrance; sturdy and leak-free roof; thriving retail shops alongside well-established medical practices, and an onslaught of patrons wanting to visit, shop, eat and enjoy a welcoming space.

Not exactly what many locals envision with the current City Centre. An Urban Renewal nightmare. A property that’s co-owned and managed by the city of Batavia and individual merchants. City Centre hasn’t gained a reputation in recent years as a place to enjoy. Not in the concourse, with buckets catching drips from a roof and a deadened atmosphere from vacated properties and decreased foot traffic.

But that can — and will — change, city officials say. With a fair amount of work done so far — Phase I of a roof replacement, with Phase II in the works — there’s more to be done, Public Works Director Brett Frank said.

Each of the four silos that serve as entry and exit ways into the Centre are to be redesigned. He doesn’t have a definite timeline but said the process begins with design, and once that comes back and it all gets approved, the city will go out for bid on the project. He is also making sure that the cost is within the city’s construction budget, he said.

“Basically, the design of the silos is that it’s just your entryway into the City Centre … those are supposed to be architectural features that draw people in. The design is kind of up in the air right now. If it's something that, maybe, could possibly be more in line with the redesign that's taking place with the brickwork of City Hall — the hallways, Insurance Center to Islands Hawaiian Grill,” he said during a group interview with The Batavian. “But that's all kind of up in the air. So we're not exactly sure what we will get back from engineers; I'm sure either way, it's gonna look improved from what we have now. It will make it more inviting.”

Called silos because they are cylindrical in shape and stand separated from the mall with a set of doors to trap the outdoor air, these points of entry for visitors have been less than welcoming. Buckets stationed just inside the doors, and then throughout the mall, have made for jokes rather than an impressive image.



Time for a Rewind
After years of being embroiled in litigation, both the merchants and the City of Batavia agreed to a settlement in October 2017. The city agreed to repair, maintain and pay for items within the 46,000-square-foot public concourse and the merchants agreed to pay a yearly property maintenance user fee to the city.

Fees are $2.06 per square foot of each merchant’s individual property, which means different totals for each merchant, depending on the size of the business. Tabelski likens it to a condo or neighborhood association fee.

Part of the city’s agreement has meant employing one full- and two part-time employees to make the necessary repairs and maintain the concourse. These city positions are paid for with the user fees, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Michael Ficarella said.

“They do anything from mopping floors to changing lightbulbs to taking care of ceiling tiles,” he said.

It may not have been what everyone wanted, but it’s now about making the best of the situation, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

“So the agreement, as of the effective date (Oct. 24, 2017), affecting the mall, including the development and operating agreement, and the common facilities agreement of 1987:The city shall, for purposes of mall redevelopment and repairs, retain ownership of the mall concourse … the members of the Mall Merchants Association, their guests, customers, invitees shall continue to enjoy the rights to access the mall concourse, as has been customarily provided to each merchant. The mall concourse will be open to the public at reasonable times,” Tabelski said.

“So that's kind of the obvious portions of it. And then this section of the settlement agreement is called capital improvement. The city needed to develop a scope of work and bid specification to repair and improve the existing roof silos and skylights at the mall concourse collectively called the roof repairs," she said. "In the agreement, it was noted that they would keep the merchants apprised through the development of the scope of work, provide copies of these specifications and provide the proposal to the merchants for review.”


The Here and Now 
According to the agreement, roof repairs were supposed to be completed by March 31, 2021. One large roof project had to be broken into two parts so that the city could pay for and finance it. The first chunk cost more than $763,000 and Phase II will be approximately $218,000, Frank said. 

“So far, it's been rooftop unit number nine, that's been the biggest one,” Frank said.

He and Ficarella promised there would be no more buckets dotting the internal mall landscape. 

Pre-COVID, the city had been awarded $1 million from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, and had plans to repair/replace the concourse roof, redesign and construct new silos, and paint the floor and walls, thereby improving the entire interior look of the concourse, Tabelskis said.

But after COVID and the ensuing pandemic hit, a lot happened in the construction world.

“As we had gotten into the project and COVID occurred, and these crazy construction price overages and inflation had occurred, we kind of settled to the point where we probably were only going to be able to do the first phase,” she said.

“That's how we ended up with phase two of the mall roof replacement. Because it was originally, like 2019, and then the second phase was (scheduled to be) from 2020 to 2021,” she said.

Aside from those repair expenses, it takes about $225,000 to operate the mall and concourse space, Tabelski said. That pays for anything needed, and the general fund “does not in the traditional sense have to support the mall, because we're able to operate it by using the user fees,” she said.

The concourse stage has been used for seasonal and impromptu concerts when the weather turns bad, and Batavia Players have occasionally performed or run their acting lines while standing on it, Ficarella said.

The stage still is still useful, he said, as a concert venue during inclement weather, Christmas in the City, and other prospective special events.

Funding for the first phase is from a funding reserve, and about $120,000 is being taken from that $1 million for the silo design process. The remaining money will go for actually redesigning those silos. The city also has received a National Grid Urban Corridor Grant to help with economic development projects in the city, Tabelski said.

“We can apply some of those funds to the project as long as we're doing exterior work, and improving what we call the kind of the urban corridor of a City Centre as well. The budget was going to go a lot further four years ago, when the grant was awarded. But as we got into COVID, and changes in leadership at the city, we're finally getting back to getting the project moving. It's just the season we live in now that the money's not going to go as far as it used to.”

That doesn’t mean that an interior facelift can’t happen, she said, as “there's definitely the ability to start to look at budgeting for flooring and painting improvements.”

Moving Forward
There have certainly been the naysayers suggesting that the mall just be torn down. So how do city officials get people excited about a structure described as wasteful, an eyesore and dead?

Perhaps some perspective steeped in reality would help. The mall has a Merchants Association with individual property owners who run their businesses, medical practices and personal services out of that space. The city has no claim to those properties and therefore cannot just go in and tear it all down.

Tabelski also wants to remind folks that these are viable businesses that have invested money, time and effort into their mall properties. At one time, several years ago, there was talk of slicing off a portion of the mall and restructuring some of that building. That was then, this is now, Tabelski said.

“I would say those are definitely plans that are out there. But because of the nature of the condo-ized situation at the mall right now, the city's trying to make the best use of the property we have, and bring people down to this corridor and work with what we have,” she said. “So the taking down any portions of the mall is not on the table right now.”

Up next: Moving Forward, continued

Go here for prior coverage about the city and mall settlement 

Photo of mall silo in Batavia; Valentine-themed buckets in 2020. Photos by Howard Owens. Dare to dream? These front entrances of Gemdale Plaza and Castle Mall are showy with lots of light and windows. Photos of "Mall Entries" by Sruthy Sukumaran.

HCR Home Care to celebrate new space at City Centre

By Joanne Beck

A ribbon-cutting for HCR Home Care has been set for noon June 8 at 47A Batavia City Centre, Batavia. CEO Louise Woerner is on the agenda to speak, as well as Director of Outreach & Community Education Kenneth Schonbachler. A celebration of the site will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Burk: Planning board dates represent significant 'steps' toward completion of new Main Street 56 Theater

By Mike Pettinella


Just as in a dance recital or musical, executing all the “steps” properly are vital in the process of redeveloping existing space into an attractive public venue.

Patrick Burk, president, executive and artistic director of the Batavia Players, today said he understands the significance of the Main Street 56 Theater project reaching the planning board stage over the next week.

The Genesee County Planning Board will be considering the Downtown Revitalization Initiative site plan on Thursday night, and the City of Batavia Planning & Development Committee is on track to do the same on April 19.

“It's wonderful that we have a lot of people working on the project that, I guess I could say, know what they're doing,” Burk said. “I'm learning as we go and making sure that we keep putting one foot in front of the other, whether it's a big step or a small step. It looks like over the next week or so, we're going to be making some pretty big steps – moving forward to getting more of the construction work done.”

Batavia Players, Inc., was awarded more than $700,000 from New York State’s DRI and another $400,000 from the NY Main Street Grant program to transform space at the City Centre into a contemporary theater to showcase its productions.

“And we raised about $210,000 ourselves, and we're continually working to raise that that dollar amount even higher as we need it for the work that we're doing,” Burk said, noting that the project will cost in the $1.5 million range.

For the past 20 months or so, the troupe has been performing in a temporary space at the City Centre.

“We call it our backstage theater because we have so much space there that we're using right now,” Burk said. “We're performing in that space while the construction is going on.”

The Batavia Players presented Shakespeare in Springtime: Love’s Labour’s Lost in March, and will be presenting The Springtime Music Spectacular: Back on the Boards Again, a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, on April 22-24.


A special craft/vendor show, including a hotdog stand operated by the Batavia Lions Club, is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 30.

“That’s when we will have our open house in the temporary theater space and in our dance academy,” Burk said. “We’re also going to be showing the space as it stands right now -- wherever they're at on April 30 -- so that people can see the development of the space. So, yes, we will be going into the construction space as well.”

As far as when the new facility will be ready, Burk said he hopes construction will be done by the Batavia Players’ Christmas show – Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical – in early December.

For now, he said he’s excited that the project is in the hands of the two planning boards.

“I'm so thrilled that we're going to the county planning board because that's a big step. We have to have approval for that because we sit on a state highway. And our frontage is on a state highway and we're making quote, unquote, significant changes to that frontage,” he said.

Burk said the site plans and architectural drawings are “sitting there at City Hall, all set and ready to go.”

“We’re just waiting for these approvals, and we’re hoping that it moves forward as quickly as possible,” he said. “Once that step is done, it will be gangbusters, since we’ve been assured by our construction manager that it’s going to go pretty solidly and pretty quickly.”

More information about the Batavia Players can be found at


Top: Architect's rendering of the facade of Main Street 56 Theater, the new home of the Batavia Players, which is under construction at the City Centre. Bottom: The way it looks now -- unfinished -- next to Genesee Dental along Main Street. Bottom photo by Mike Pettinella.

Vacant Penney building purchased by West Coast businessman

By Joanne Beck


As the former JC Penney’s site, tucked on the northeast side of Batavia City Centre, has rested from its 44-year existence, a West Coast businessman purchased the building in February 2021. 

JC Penney closed its doors locally in the fall of 2020, in an onslaught of closings due to corporate bankruptcy proceedings. Batavia’s site then sat quietly as local shoppers mourned the loss of another department store. 

Meanwhile, Yong Guang Ye of San Jose, Calif., purchased the 38,524 square-foot site. According to Genesee County assessment records, Ye bought the building for $500,000 on Feb. 2, 2021. The property has been assessed at $400,000. 

Ye was contacted Sunday for comment by The Batavian. A representative of Ye’s from California returned the call inquiring if The Batavian was interested in purchasing the property, and it was explained that the call was for comment about the purchase. Ye has a local realtor whose name was to be provided to The Batavian but was not provided by the time of publication. 
JC Penney was built in 1978 along Alva Place and remained a strong anchor for the former Genesee Country Mall-turned-Batavia City Centre until its doors were permanently closed in late 2020.

Top photo: File photo of JC Penney during its going-out-of-business sale in late 2020. Photo by Howard Owens.

Photo: Santa at City Centre

By Howard B. Owens


Angelina Bubel, 12, from Caledonia, visits Santa at the "Our Hometown Christmas at Main St. 56 Theater" in Batavia City Centre on Friday evening.

The craft and vendor show continues today until 4 p.m.


McGowan Insurance Agency opens in City Centre

By Howard B. Owens


Information and photo submitted by the Chamber of Commerce. 

Local businessman John McGowan, Jr. recently completed the purchase and renovation of a space in Batavia City Centre.

The location was ideal,  McGowan said, because it is central to the city and the people he will be servicing. He was also attracted by the low cost of purchasing and renovating the space.


Tabelski: Public Works to look into white streaks that have found their way back to the City Centre

By Mike Pettinella


The white streaks on the facing of the City Centre are back – and City of Batavia Manager Rachael Tabelski said this could be a once-in-a-decade problem.

In August 2020, according to a story on The Batavian, City Council approved spending $31,500 with a Buffalo masonry company to replace 46 windows and sills with material that won’t run and create new streaks.

All Council members at that time agreed it was an eyesore that bothered city residents.

Those white marks have returned (see the photo above) but Tabelski said the cause may be different this time around.

“DPW (Department of Public Works) is going to follow up with the white streaks appearing on City Hall again,” she said. “From my untrained eye, it looks like the mortar from the bricks this time and not the window sills, however, I will wait for a professional analysis.”

There’s a chance this could be a recurring situation.

“This might just be an issue the City has to deal with every 10 years or so at the City Hall building,” she said.

In August 2010, the city spent $31,000 to eliminate the white streaks on City Centre. Now they're back (see attached photo).

Previously: Council approves repairs to eliminate white streaks on City Hall

Photo by Howard Owens.

Photos: Batavia Players open new dance studio in City Centre

By Howard B. Owens


The Batavia Players cut the ribbon on Sunday night on the company's new dance studio in City Centre.

Director Pat Burk called it a state-of-the-art facility. 

Cutting the ribbon is dance student Lucy LeFevre along with instructor Briana Blair Kelly while students Jocelyn Coburn and Samantha Balbi hold the ribbon.


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