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December 4, 2022 - 5:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in EverPresent Church, city centre, batavia, news, Christmas.


As part of Christmas in the City on Saturday, EverPresent Church in City Centre hosted a live nativity.

Submitted photos.




November 30, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, entertainment, city centre, Batavia Players, theater, arts.


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 showtix4u.com 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.

November 17, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, notify, mall.


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.

August 9, 2022 - 10:14am
posted by Alecia Kaus in city centre, crime, news, notify.


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





August 5, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, mall, notify.


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.

rachael_in_chambers.jpgSpeaking 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.

August 4, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, mall, city centre, notify, downtown.


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.

July 29, 2022 - 9:46am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, mall, notify.


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.

July 21, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, mall, notify, DRI grant.


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.

June 2, 2022 - 7:34pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, ribbon-cutting, batavia, city centre.

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.

April 12, 2022 - 1:20pm


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 www.bataviaplayers.org


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.

April 10, 2022 - 7:01pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, JC Penney, notify, batavia, downtown, city centre.


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.

December 11, 2021 - 1:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Main St. 56 Theater, city centre, batavia, news.


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.


October 12, 2021 - 7:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, Business, batavia.


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.


June 19, 2021 - 11:46am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, city council, city centre.


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.

June 7, 2021 - 4:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Players, city centre, batavia, news.


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.


May 22, 2021 - 4:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in all babies cherished, city centre, batavia, news.


More than 35 vendors participated today in a Vendor Blender inside City Centre as a fundraiser for All Babies Cherished.




November 9, 2020 - 7:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, batavia, news.


Two local reporters, including The Batavian's Mike Pettinella, detected unusual odors at City Hall this evening just as Monday's City Council meeting was about to start.

The reporters alerted the firefighters in the hallway who were there to check the temperatures of people entering the meeting and the firefighters agreed the odors were suspicous.

City fire was dispatched for the smell of natural gas.

Capt. Bob Fix said firefighters determined the odors were a combination burning leaves nearby and a cleaning solution being used in the adjacent dental office. There was no natural gas detected in City Centre by meters used to detect the gas.

Photos by Mike Pettinella.


September 23, 2020 - 6:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, mall, batavia, downtown, video.
Video Sponsor

Consultant Ed Flynn led a City Centre Feasibility Study open house last night, which was an opportunity for community members to weigh in on the future of the mall.





September 12, 2020 - 8:39am



The performers are patiently waiting in the wings as, slowly but surely, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative project known as Main Street 56 Theater moves forward.

Project Manager David Ciurzynski of Ciurzynski Consulting LLC, of Attica, on Friday said the preliminary design work has been delayed by the coronavirus but, if everything breaks right, the theater will be able to open its doors to the public next summer.

“We’re trying to finalize the design that got held up a bit because of the COVID-19 requirements – (as we’re) looking to design it in a way that is flexible for social distancing,” Ciurzynski said. “And we’re also still looking for people for financing – to solidify that.”

He said the demolition work is almost done.

“The area is pretty cleared out, and ready to build,” he said, noting that the 11,000-square-foot facility will feature a dance studio, theater that seats 150, offices and storage rooms.

It will be located at 35 City Centre -- in space formerly used by the Dent Neurological Clinic office, between Genesee Dental and The Insurance Center.

Ciurzynski said that Batavia Players, the not-for-profit organization operating the theater, has hired Thompson Builds of Churchville as the general contractor. Thompson Builds has done extensive work in Genesee County, including construction of a new Town of Batavia firehall off Clinton Street that is happening now.

“We’re going to start, hopefully, in a couple months on the dance studio and then the theater after that,” Ciurzynski said. “We are waiting on some of our first reimbursements from the DRI for the work that we’ve done so far – we have to wait for the Department of State on that. But, hopefully, in the next month or so, we’ll be able to get some money from the state so we can keep things moving.”

He said the timetable has “the meat” of construction taking place in late winter and early spring.

“We’re trying to get through all of the pandemic requirements and making sure we have space for social distancing, and it’s a kind of reimburse-as-you go-along with the Department of State,” he offered.

The project is one of several awarded to the City of Batavia as part of the state’s $10 million DRI.

Since the total project cost is estimated at $910,000 and the DRI award for the theater is $701,750, fundraising will come into play, Ciurzynski said.

“Batavia Players will have to raise the difference, and will have to rely on the community to help them with that,” Ciurzynski said, advising that various fundraising efforts are underway.

Patrick Burk, president of Batavia Players, said the troupe is in the process of closing down its current location at the Batavia Industrial Center on Harvester Avenue.

“We will be reopening a new office and bringing in a bunch of new volunteers to assist state and local government officials on the project,” he said.

Batavia Development Corporation Director Andrew Maguire said the theater project aligns with the city’s “All In” effort which, in part, focuses on fostering arts and entertainment and cultural appreciation Downtown.

Renderings provided by David Ciurzynski, Ciurzynski Consulting LLC.

January 23, 2020 - 4:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mall, city centre, batavia, news.


At Christmas, an enthusiastic city employee who thought the drip buckets in the mall wasn't a great look for the holidays, took it upon himself to put wrapping paper around the canisters.

With the holiday passed but his spirit undaunted, the employee recently wrapped the buckets in Valentine's Day paper. The employee is doing this at his own expense.

Still, Director of Public Works Matt Worth is concerned that some people might make negative comments about the employee so the employee is remaining anonymous. 

"Hopefully, this is the last hurrah for the buckets," Worth said. "We're going to get a new roof and the buckets are going to go away."

Reader-submitted photo.

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