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November 12, 2018 - 8:40pm

Downtown Batavia's future is not the mall; it's the open areas south of Main Street, suggests Tim Tielman, a preservationist and urban planner with a track record of success in Buffalo.

Jackson Street, Jackson Square, the south side of Main Street, are where we can find what's left of Batavia's vitality, Tielman said, in a recent interview with The Batavian. The mall, he said, is the last place Batavia should invest tax dollars.

"It's a continuing drag on Batavians, their creativity, their dynamism, their energy," Tielman said. "It's this energy sucking death star in the middle of the city, and you shouldn't spend any money making it a better death star."

We interviewed Tielman in advance of his talk this Wednesday night at 7 o'clock at GO ART! for The Landmark Society of Genesee County's annual meeting.

The topic: How Batavia gets its mojo back. 

Tielman's basic thesis is that Batavia was at its apex just after the end of the 19th century when the village, soon to become a city, had a robust, densely populated urban center with hundreds of businesses.

If that downtown, which was destroyed by urban renewal, still existed Tielman said, people from Rochester and Buffalo as well as the rest of the GLOW region would flock to Batavia every week for the small city experience.

Niagara on the Lake still has it. Batavia lost it. But, with effort, Batavia can get it back, but it will literally be a ground-up process, not a top-down, consultant-driven, developer-driven effort. Batavians have to do it for themselves. But Batavians are already pointing the way if city leaders will listen.

"There's obviously an innate human need for want of a better term, congenial spaces, in towns, cities, and villages, and even in times where they've been destroyed in war or urban renewal, people find them or build them," Tielman said. "What we see in Batavia is people have happened upon Jackson Square because it's a leftover thing that no one thought about and wasn't destroyed.

"The qualities of the thing as a physical space make it a very interesting case. You enter through a narrow passageway, and suddenly, totally unexpectedly, you come to a larger space, and even though it obviously wasn't designed with gathering in mind it has everything people want as a place to gather."

Jackson Square, Jackson Street, combined with the local businesses that still populate the business district on the south side of Main Street are strengths to build on, Tielman said. Batavia can leverage the density already found there and add to it.

But Tielman isn't an advocate of trying to lure developers with tax dollars to build big projects. He believes, primarily, in a more grassroots approach. 

The "death star," he said, and continuing efforts to deal with it, are part of the "urban renewal industrial complex," as he put it, and that failed approach should be avoided.

"The solutions (of urban renewal) are all the same," Tielman said. "It's like, 'let's put out an RFP, let's get some state money instead of saying', 'well, what do the Batavians need? What are they thirsty for? What are they dying for?' What you'll find is that Batavians are like every other group of homo sapiens on the face of the Earth. If they had their druthers, they'd want something within walking distance.

"They'd want to meet friends. They'd want to do stuff close at hand and in a way that they're not killed by vehicles careening down streets at 30 or 40 miles an hour. They want their kids to be safe. They don't want to worry about them being struck by a tractor-trailer when they're riding their bikes to the candy store."

That means, of course, narrowing Ellicott Street through Downtown, perhaps adding diagonal parking to Main Street, moving auto parking from out of the center of the city, particularly in the triangle between Jackson, Main and Ellicott, which Tielman sees as the most promising area of downtown to increase density first.

Batavians will need to decide for themselves what to do, but what he suggests is that the city makes it possible for the parking lot between Jackson and Court become one big mini-city, filled with tents and temporary structures and no parking.

"The rents for a temporary store or a tent or a stand or a hotdog cart should be low enough to allow a huge segment of the population (of Batavia) to experiment," Tielman said.

Low rents remove one of the biggest impediments to people starting a business and open up the experimental possibilities so that Batavians decide for themselves what they want downtown. 

"This gives Batavia the best chance to see, whether for a very low investment on a provisional basis, (if) this will work," Tielman said. "It's not sitting back for 10 years trying to concoct a real estate investment scheme based on some RFP to lure developers and give them handouts at tremendous public risk. The idea is lower the risk and do things the way successful places have done it for millennia."

That's how it worked for Canalside, one of the projects, besides Larkin Square, Tielman has helped get started in Buffalo. With Canalside, development started with tents and temporary vendors. Now the area is revitalized, and permanent structures are being erected. It's a Buffalo success story.

The idea of starting new business and community centers with tents and temporary structures is something Tielman suggested for Batavia's future when he spoke to the Landmark Society in 2013. He suggested then the major obstacle standing in the way of Batavia's economic vitality wasn't the mall, it is massive amounts of asphalt for parking -- economically unproductive and mostly unused.

While he likes the Ellicott Street project, primarily because of the 55 apartments being added to Downtown's housing stock but also because of the involvement of Sam Savarino who has been part of successful restoration projects in Buffalo, Tielman thinks the project needs to have "connective tissue" with everything on the north side of Ellicott Street.

That means narrowing Ellicott, adding wider, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and slowing down truck traffic flowing through Downtown.

Any such plan would involve the state Department of Transportation but that, he said, is just a matter of the city being willing to stand up to the DOT and paying for its own maintenance of that stretch of Route 63.

"If the Batavia's really serious about fixing (Route 63), it should do it on its own dime," Tielman said.

As part of Tielman's suggestion to concentrate growth strategies on the south side of Main Street, Tielman agrees that the farmer's market, currently at Alva and Bank, should be moved to Jackson Street.

The current location is too far from the existing local businesses, so the tendency is for people to drive to Alva, park, shop and leave. The traffic being drawn downtown isn't staying downtown.

Tielman talked about contiguity, the quality of commercial spaces adjoining each other, being necessary for convenience of users and survival of businesses.

"Connective tissue," a phrase used several times by Tielman, is critical to city centers.

"Contiguity is the lifeblood of settlements of towns and of cities," Tielman said. "If left to their own devices, places will develop like this -- and you'll see this up to World War II -- whether they were European cities, Asian cities or American cities.

"Look at a (1918) map of Batavia, contiguity was everything," Tielman added. "In a town of 18,000 people you had four-story buildings. It's crazy, you would think, but (it was built up that way)  because (of) the distance from the train station to Main Street to the courthouse. That's where you wanted to be. Everyone's walking around."

People are social animals -- Tielman made this point several times -- and Batavians, if given a chance, will support a city center with more density, Tielman said because that's human nature. What exactly that looks like, that's up to Batavians, but creating that environment will give residents a stronger sense of community, more personal connections, and shared life experience. That will foster the community's creativity and vitality, which is better than just accepting decline.

"I mean, if you look at the great John Gardner," his formative years are "when Batavia was still a place where a young John Gardner could walk up the street, buy comic books, get into trouble over there by the railroad tracks, buy something for his mother on the way home, blah, blah, blah. He could have quite a day in town and encounter characters of different stripes that can actually (be worked) into pretty rich novels of American life. You wonder whether Batavia could produce a John Gardner today."

Tim Tielman has a lot more to say about Batavia getting its mojo back (this is condensed from an hour-long conversation). Go to GO ART! at 7 p.m. Wednesday to hear more about it, ask questions, even challenge his ideas.

 

Top: Use the slider on the map to compare Batavia of 1938 with Batavia of 2016.

October 16, 2018 - 5:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Beth Kemp, BID, downtown, batavia, business, news, notify.

Beth Kemp, executive director of the Batavia Improvement District, has decided the business she co-owns with her husband Brian, T-Shirts Etc. needs more of her time and attention so she's resigned her position.

"It was an extremely hard decision for me because I love working as director of BID but T-Shirts Etc. continues to grow and I felt it was shortsighted of me to allow my own small business to struggle and continue my role here," Kemp said.

"I was only able to maintain a few hours at T-Shirts Etc. while working for BID, which was definitely not enough to support what we need to do over there."

Kemp has given notice to the board but she didn't share her final work day.

The Batavian reached out to Jennifer Gray, president of the BID Board of Directors, for comment and information about finding a replacement for Kemp but we have not yet received a response.

Kemp became director in November 2016.

"This opportunity has been amazing and I am so thankful to have been able to work with so many amazing people in our community," Kemp said. "In the past two years we have put in a lot of work in.

"We are in a great place with our finances, events, sponsorships, business relationships, community relationships, and mission. I look forward to still volunteering for events and community projects as the BID needs."

File photo.

October 7, 2018 - 8:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, news, wine walk, BID.

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The annual Downtown Batavia Wine Walk, sponsored by the Business Improvement District, was held Saturday evening.

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To purchase keepsake prints of photos or digital downloads, click here.

October 5, 2018 - 6:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, batavia, news, notify.

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It's almost like saying, "build it and they will come," but that is exactly what WNY real estate expert Bob Richardson, of Buffalo, told staff and board members of the Genesee County Economic Development Center during a presentation at the Med-Tech Center on Thursday.

"It's a hard pill for us real estate people to take," Richardson said. "We've always been real estate centric -- location, location,location -- but now we have to be workforce centric. It's primarily about having highways and access points.

"The question businesses ask is 'can I fill the jobs I need to fill?' The balance of this generation, the Millennials, make decisions differently than previous generations. Their decision-making process is about where can they find the lifestyle they want to determine where they want to live. They chose to live where they want to live and then figure out where they're going to work."

For a community like Batavia, Richardson suggest, the city's downtown needs to be come more vibrant, more active, and that comes from density.

He flashed a map of downtown on the screen and said Batavia has too much surface parking. There needs to be more buildings, more busineses, more apartments, and with that Batavia will become a more attractive place to live, work and play.

Today's young adults, he said, are more interested in renting than buying a home, and they're looking to do that in a place with density and a lifestyle conducive to social activities.

For that to work, though, rental prices can't approach double what a purchase price of a single-family home might be because then renters are more likely to become buyers. Without renters, it's harder to build the kind of vibrant urban core that will attract a young workforce.

Building new is more expensive than adaptive reuse and Batavia still has spaces available that could be converted to apartments.

A dense downtown would bring more people into the center of the city, Richardson said, and as e-commerce destroys the big box business model, it's a chance for small retailers, who can provide a great shopping experience, combined with an online experience, to reassert themselves and fill up those downtown storefronts.

As an example of Millennials picking lifestyle over career, he pointed to Northern Colorado, where universities graduate 9,500 people a year in STEM -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math -- fields. Those graduates could move anywhere in the country but they choose to stay in Northern Colorado because they love the lifestyle.

There are 37,000 people in Northern Colorado with degrees in STEM careers who don't have STEM jobs.

"They're waiters, waitresses, bartenders and dishwashers," Richardson said. "They want the lifestyle and don't care because they want to live there and it's a cool place."

To be a community that attracts STEM companies, you need a higher supply of STEM workers than available jobs, he said.

"In the City of Batavia, you can't really wait for the private sector to lead on this," Richardson said. "You have to have a vision. You have to have an urban plan that starts to address the issue. You've got to pave the way."

October 2, 2018 - 2:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in dri, downtown, business, batavia.

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Press release:

The City of Batavia is advancing the Downtown Revitalization (DRI) Initiative to create a vibrant sustainable city that is inclusive of all ages and socioeconomic situations. The $10 million DRI funding investment will be concentrated in the downtown area and eight priority projects are moving forward. The $10 million DRI will have a direct return of $60 million of private investment into the community.

"City Council has ramped up engagement of our community and businesses over the last few years with the Batavia Opportunity Area planning, the Comprehensive Plan and the DRI," said Eugene Jankowski, City of Batavia Council president. "We're now ready to move into the implementation stage with the DRI projects and onward with our vision for a better Batavia."

The Governor’s DRI competition is in the third year. The program fosters transformative projects in downtown neighborhoods. Here in Batavia eight projects were selected for funding including: the YMCA Healthy Living Campus; The Mall; Jackson Square; Ellicott Station; Carr’s; Harvester 56 Theater; a Building Improvement Fund; and Ellicott Place (Save-A-Lot building).

“Each of these projects is critical to the success of Batavia as a place that encourages arts, culture and entertainment, healthy living, and prosperity for all,” said Matt Worth, interim city manager. “The city will be working hard to execute on the Mall and Jackson Square projects and assisting the other winners in the process."

There are parts of Batavia that are designated as highly distressed with higher than average unemployment and poverty. However, the DRI, combined with the Batavia Pathway to Prosperity (BP2), a program to reinvest PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) payments from all taxing jurisdictions directly into highly distressed areas, will help to combat poverty and revitalize brownfield sites. These programs offer a long-term solution to reduce blight, build the economy, and provide prosperity for all.

The DRI project investments will bring immediate change that you will be able to see and feel within the next year to five years. Grant winners will be working with state agencies soon to enter into formal grant agreements. The Batavia Development Corporation is hopeful that the $600,000 Building Improvement Fund "applications to property owners" will be ready in the late fall.

The grant will reimburse up to 60 percent of a project, and awards will range from $10,000 to $200,000, with eligible activities including facades, window/ door repair and replacement, painting, masonry repair, awnings, building signs, exterior lighting, storefront upgrades, roofs, and interior upgrades (heating, plumbing, electrical, walls, floors).

Rachael Tabelski, director of Economic Development of the BDC said, “The BDC is excited to get moving with Building Improvement Fund grant program. As soon as the state contracts are signed we will be able to communicate the terms and application process with property owners in the BID. We will be reaching out with direct mail, email, and public meetings.”

Beth Kemp, director of the Downtown Batavia Improvement District said, “As director of the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) and having three of the City’s five brownfield sites within our downtown, we are committed to vision and strategy of making Batavia a more vibrant downtown."

Bob Bausch, chairman of the Genesee County Legislature said, “The DRI funding, combined with the other initiatives of the City and the County’s economic development agencies will continue to have long-lasting positive results for our community. The County continues to support economic development and private sector investment.”

Patrick Burk, Batavia City School Board president said, “At the school we are working hard to link kids with careers including STEM, trades, agriculture and other industries that are growing in the Finger Lakes, but we still have a dire number of students living in poverty and walking by brownfield sites every day. We understand and support the value of getting our downtown aligned as a safe friendly place for students to live and play.”

Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said “The Governor’s DRI competition gives Batavia an amazing opportunity to grow quickly and meet the needs and the demands that the development community will soon be putting on the city as the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (WNY STAMP) starts its build-out. As a City of Batavia resident, I could not be more thrilled to be a part of the resurgence in Batavia and across our community. The creative class that will be attracted to WNY STAMP will demand city living with arts, culture and entertainment.”

August 15, 2018 - 1:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Main and Ellicott, main street, Ellicott Street, downtown, batavia, news.

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Work crews today are changing the traffic signal configuration at Main and Ellicott for eastbound traffic, which is creating traffic jams in both the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 5 and Route 63. Traffic is backing up for blocks at a time.

A worker said two sets of lights over Main Street's eastbound lane are being reconfigured, a new light pole with a set of lights on it has been set up for eastbound/southbound traffic turning onto Ellicott Street, and a new traffic control box is being installed.

July 29, 2018 - 12:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Beertavia, batavia, BID, news, downtown.

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It wasn't all fun and games at Beertavia on Saturday afternoon. There was also the serious business of sampling beers from more than two dozen brewers from Batavia, Buffalo, Rochester, the Southern Tier, the Finger Lakes and beyond.

Four years ago, there were only three brewers participating and 300 people in attendance. This year, at least 700 people attended.

"It’s only going to get bigger and bigger every year," said Cory Wolcott, who has been one of the organizers of the event since its inception. "People love it. We run it well. People are happy, so it will grow."

Four years ago, there were no breweries in Batavia and how we have Eli Fish Brewing Company, reviving a local brand that died out 100 years ago. Eli Fish was a lead sponsor of this year's Beertavia.

This is the first year that VIP tickets sold out in advance.

Wolcott said one reason people love Beertavia is it's easy to try so many different craft beers.

"They like the ability to get to a brewery and try their beer pretty effortlessly," Wolcott said. "There are a lot of bigger events but this is like a medium event so you can still try just about everybody who is here without waiting too long or feel like you’re elbow-to-elbow with somebody. It’s so relaxed but still big enough to enjoy a lot of different breweries."

Previously: Photos: BID's first Beertavia

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July 8, 2018 - 6:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in ramble music & art fest, Ramble, batavia, downtown, news, music, entertainment.

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Once again, lots of music fans, lots of musicians, lots of music, and lots of fun at the Ramble Music and Arts Festival in Jackson Square and on Center Street, Batavia.

The bands performing during our visit to the festival yesterday were Lonesome Road, Sierra, Noah's Reign, Rock Soulgers, and The Bluesway Band.

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June 8, 2018 - 10:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in farmers market, public market, downtown, BID, news, batavia.

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It was a bright, beautiful day for the first day of the Batavia's Downtown Public Market at Bank and Alva.

In addition to many returning favorites for the Genesee County Farmer's Market, there were two new vendors at the market today, Market Manager Mike Bakos told WBTA. 

Pickle Annie's offers a variety of pickles as well as flavored cider vinegar, which Bakos said is supposed to be good for joint health.

Also new this year is Bad Ash BBQ (The Batavian's publisher and editor can recommend the pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and coleslaw).

"This is a really good spot for the market because we can attract vendors all season long and expand," Bakos said. "We can make the market bigger as needed and that’s really nice."

The market sells $5 Farmers Market Money gift certificates and if you buy $45 worth you get another $5 free.  

The market also accepts SNAP benefits and thanks to a grant, through July, customers who use their SNAP benefits card at the market will receive a $2 coupon for each $5 purchased from a food vendor.

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May 30, 2018 - 10:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in bdc, Batavia Development Corp., downtown, business, news.

The Batavia City Council is willing to put something on paper expressing support of the Batavia Development Corporation but it can't make a commitment to funding the economic development agency for five years.

The BDC, through its president, former City Councilman Pier Cipollone, was seeking a five-year funding commitment from the council. Cipollone said without long-term support by the council, recruiting a new executive director will prove to be difficult.

“We need to provide some form of stability in the organization to hire a qualified candidate,” Cipollone said.

The executive director’s position has been vacant since the resignation a month ago of Julie Pacatte.

In making his case for the five-year commitment Cipollone cited the agency’s track record of attracting state and federal grants to spur development and the management of its own revolving loan fund to help local entrepreneurs. 

“For every $1 invested in the BDC,” Cipollone said, “the city has over $30 returned in public and private investment.”

Council President Eugene Jankowski explained that individual councilpersons were prohibited from making financial commitments beyond their individual terms of office. He then suggested that council adopt a non-binding “letter of support” for the BDC and place the item on the agenda for the next council business meeting June 11.

Among the accomplishments for the BDC during Pacatte’s tenure was the creation of several new residential units downtown, which have remained at full occupancy since going on the market, the conversion of the former Carr’s Warehouse into a mixed-use office space and apartment complex, and the opening of FreshLAB/Eli Fish Brewing Company.

The largest project still pending, however, is the Ellicott Station development, in which Savarino Companies plan to convert the former Della Penna and Santy’s properties into apartments, offices, and a brewery restaurant for Resurgence Brewing out of Buffalo. The groundbreaking for that project has repeatedly been delayed.

Cipollone addressed some of the frustrations and concerns over project delays and said it’s a very complex project. Because of the environmental problems at the site, there are multiple funding mechanisms from the state to help alleviate those above-market costs. Savarino is also using a complex private-equity-funding vehicle, which adds to the complexity of closing the funding.

The best the city can do, Cipollone suggested, is wait for Savarino to close funding. There isn’t, at least right now, a better option.

“It’s the only hope I’m aware of,” Cipollone said. “We had put it out to bid, and Savarino was the one viable company. They’ve done similar work in Buffalo where they’ve taken on a dirty site and have done an excellent job with them, so they’re used to dealing with this type of grief.”

In other council business, a draft resolution to fund the restoration of the Redfield Parkway entrance pillars failed to be moved to the next business meeting. Council instead asked interim City Manager Matt Worth to research other options to fund the project that has been estimated to cost between $57,000 and $67,000.

The Batavian's news partner WBTA assisted with this story.

April 28, 2018 - 6:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, BID, batavia, news, notify, business.

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Pastor Marty Macdonald was an evangelist for Downtown Batavia at the Business Improvement District's annual meeting and awards breakfast in the Generation Center on Friday morning.

Macdonald, pastor of City Church and the keynote speaker Friday, delivered a sermon on the virtues and values of Batavia, his belief in its potential, and his encouragement for Downtown's business owners to remain steadfast in their commitment to growth and community.

“This is the greatest city on the face of the Earth,” Macdonald said. “I really believe that. We as leaders are commissioned to make incredible decisions, not just once in a lifetime but every single day because we are presented with the call to make the future around us great. And not just for five, 10 or 15 years. We are called to change generations yet to come.”

He said he is overjoyed to see the success he sees coming Batavia's way and encouraged business owners not to gripe about the problems they might see but embrace what is going right.

"I’m thankful when I pull into the parking lot next to our building and I can’t find a place to park," Macdonald said. "I remember there was a time you could have thrown a bowling ball in any direction and not hit anything. Now people are upset because they’ve got to walk a little bit. Come on, we need to walk more anyways."

Instead of listening to the few lingering negative voices in the community who badmouth everything they see, Macdonald said we all should aim higher.

"I know I’m not talking to anybody in this room who talks about things that can’t be done," Macdonald said. "I’m talking to people who are can-do people here. Instead of saying what cannot be done or listening to the two or three voices in the community that seem to have the largest megaphone built into their mouths, let’s decide to live at a higher level than we’ve ever lived before. Let’s commit our attitude to be changed in order to go higher and go further than we have ever gone before."

After comparing and contrasting two birds of the desert -- the vulture that feeds only on dead things and the hummingbird that seeks beautiful flowers and spreads life -- Macdonald said, "Can I encourage you today to start thinking like a hummingbird, to start thinking like that one who is looking for life, looking things that are living, instead of focusing on something that is dead. I just want to throw this out here, and I don’t mean to insult anybody, but urban renewal is over. It’s dead. It’s gone. Yes, we learn from yesterday but we can’t stay stuck in yesterday if we are going to move on to a great future."

Adding, "In my church, everyone would say, ‘Amen’ right now."

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Jon Mager, co-owner of the newly established Eli Fish Brewing Company, along with Matt Gray and Matt Boyd, delivered the opening remarks, talking about how the new restaurant, brewery, and restaurant incubator came to be.

"We all grew up in Batavia," Mager said. "We’re all very familiar with the area. We recognize that Downtown has been hurting for quite a few years. Over the years we, unfortunately, saw many restaurants and retail stores leave Downtown or close up completely. We admit we looked other places. We saw places with lower rent, lower operating costs, and lower construction costs over the entire project."

But they picked the former Newberry building for several reasons, including (the fact that) its surrounded by parking; Jackson Square is a hidden gem; there is ample traffic passing past the location; the current Downtown businesses are "awesome," and they are all nostalgic and love old buildings.

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City Council President Eugene Jankowski talked about the benefits of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and the process of the city winning the $10 million prize.

He recalled that while making a presentation in Albany, a slideshow of pictures was on a screen behind him when serendipity struck.

"I was talking about how I was walking to school and I remember the smell of those wet, demolished bricks and seeing this once beautiful downtown just rumble down," Jankowski said. "I remember that smell and I was telling the story, and unbeknownst to me, the picture came up of urban renewal and a pile of wet bricks. Jason (Molino) told me that afterward and I thought maybe the timing is right on this one."

Jankowski expressed his appreciation for Downtown's local business owners.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for investing your time and your hard-earned money in our Downtown and in our City," Jankowski said. "I know it’s a risk and I know sometimes it’s not always easy, but I as a Batavian really appreciate driving down Main Street and seeing all the traffic."

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Jeff Gillard was named a Volunteer of the Year.

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Derek Kane was named a Volunteer of the Year.

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The Genesee Valley PennySaver, celebrating its 70th year in business, was named a Business of the Year. Pictured are Manual Karem, PennySaver ad manager, owner Steve Harrison, BID Director Beth Kemp, BID Board President Steve Krna, and Beth Walker, a sales associate with the PennySaver.

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Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, celebrating its 100th anniversary, was a Business of the Year. Pictured are Buzz Masse, Mark Masse, Joyce Masse, Cathy Roche, Michael Mugler, John Roche, and Krna and Kemp from the BID.

April 27, 2018 - 3:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, downtown, batavia.

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Staff from the Genesee County Economic Development Center hosted staff from Invest Buffalo Niagara and other interested local officials on a walking tour of Downtown Batavia yesterday afternoon.

Rachel Tabelski, marketing director for GCEDC, said Invest Buffalo Niagara is the marketing partner for GCEDC for all of its shovel-ready development sites.

"The tour helps make them more aware of the assets we have in our city," Tabelski said.

The tour started at Eli Fish Brewing Company, which Invest Buffalo Niagara visited last year just as construction was beginning. They then walked to the Old Courthouse for a proclamation ceremony. Next, they visited two of the potential DRI projects, the Masonic Temple and GO ART!.

The Invest Buffalo Niagara staff will use the information they gathered and the pictures they took to create digital media content that will be used to help market Batavia to businesses looking for site locations.

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April 23, 2018 - 1:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in EDEN, news, batavia, downtown, business, freshLAB, Eli Fish Brewing Company.

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Eden, the new vegan food booth inside the Eli Fish Brewing Company restaurant at 111 E. Main St., Batavia, held a grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting Sunday afternoon.

Eden is one of two new food establishments opening inside Eli Fish, as part of an initiative sponsored by the Batavia Development Corp. called FreshLAB. 

Owner Judy Hysek cuts with the ribbon Jim Turcer, left, the first paid customer, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull, Chris Hysek, Judy's husband, Tracy Burgio, representing FreshLAB, and David Balonek, Judy's father.

April 20, 2018 - 2:01pm
posted by Genesee Chamber... in batavia, downtown, business, tourism, chamber of commerce, restaurants, Vegan.

This Earth Day, the very first 100-percent vegan restaurant in Genesee County is opening up to share a different kind of delicious food with locals and visitors alike. Yep, you read that right! One-hundred-percent vegan food will be served up at Eden Café & Bakeshop!

Located inside Eli Fish Brewing Company, at 109 Main St., Batavia, there is a glimpse of the garden, with generous plant-based meals, fresh juices, and even treats to satisfy your sweet tooth. Join Eden Café & Bakeshop for their grand opening THIS SUNDAY, April 22nd, starting at 12 p.m.

There will be lots going on including a Cutco knife giveaway, raffles, and branded tumblers will be available for purchase. Be one of the first to experience a new kind of cuisine after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. 

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What began as a thought of opening a zero-waste store, slowly turned into Eden Café & Bakeshop. Owner, Judy Hysek, is bringing some seriously tasty and animal-free food choices to all in and around Genesee County!

Hysek has been vegan for three years, which just so happens to be enough time to experiment with plant-based foods and create some delicious concoctions to share with you!

“I’m hoping to open the community up to a new way of eating," she said. "I want to make it easier for people who don’t know how to eat without meat and dairy… I would have gone vegan a lot sooner if there was more support, education, and availability... I’m just trying to add to the awareness and make it more accessible."

Now, let’s get down to business. Let’s talk about the food!

Carrot Dogs: You may have heard of these soon-to-be-famous “dogs” already, especially if you follow Eden Café & Bakeshop’s Facebook Page.

Imagine a carrot, in the shape of a traditional hot dog, which has been infused with deliciousness and then topped with more deliciousness of your choice. You’ll have to try it for yourself the next time you're in Eli Fish.

Word on the street is that even omnivores can't tell the difference between a carrot dog and a traditional hot dog. We dare you to give it a try and test your taste buds to see if you can tell the difference. Try your first carrot dog on a roll or wrapped in a pretzel and baked until golden brown! 

Cauliflower Wings: Where have these been all our lives? Since Western New York is the home of Buffalo Wings, it only makes sense to have “wings” on the menu at Eden.

You can have your wings tossed in Buffalo sauce or topped with the sweet mustard sauce. You can’t go wrong with either sauce -- so good! The breaded and baked florets are served with carrots and celery sticks with a house-made dip. The cauliflower wings can also be made gluten free and they're just as tasty!

Loaded Nachos: What goes better with a cold brew from Eli Fish than a pile of nachos? What about a pile of nachos smothered in a vegan beer cheese? There is nothing more satisfying!

Speaking of cheese…

Eden will have a variety of house made vegan, artisan cheeses including almond feta and cashew mozzarella, which will come on the poutine. (Poutine is a dish originating from the Canadian province of Quebec consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy.) Where else can you get poutine in Batavia, let alone a vegan poutine?!

Other menu items include desserts like cashew cheesecake, cookies, brownies and more. Desserts will rotate to give everyone the opportunity to try something new and yummy!

Last but definitely not least -- fresh juices, smoothies, lemonades and kombucha! This week I was lucky enough to try a fresh juice made of apples, strawberries and raspberries. (Please make this a rotating juice, it was so good!)

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Did you know?

Veganism is on a climb throughout the world. In the United States, a recent report by Top Trends in Prepared Foods in 2017, says “6 percent of U.S. consumers now claim to be vegan, up from just 1 percent in 2014.”

Eden is here to satisfy some taste buds and open some minds to the benefits of eating healthy, saving animals, and the planet. Everyone should rejoice and get involved in the efforts to sustain our planet and you can start right at home, or at Eden.

Oh, and by the way -- Eden is donating all gratuities to a nonprofit right here in Genesee County. Mockingbird Farm Sanctuary in Byron provides a home and lifetime care to animals regardless of their condition or past. Their goal is to improve the mental, physical and emotional well-being of the animals who live on the farm. Eden is already showing love to others trying to make a difference right here at home!

For more information on Eden Cafe and other hotspots in Genesee County, visit: https://visitgeneseeny.com/

April 8, 2018 - 6:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Eli Fish Brewing Company, downtown, batavia.

A reader tipped me to this video. It's an informative profile of Eli Fish Brewing Company.

March 29, 2018 - 10:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in BOCES, Batavia CTE, downtown, batavia, T-Shirts Etc., art canvas, news, notify.

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About a year ago, after Brooks Hawley moved into a family home in the Town of Batavia, with the help of Brian Kemp, Kemp asked if there was anything on the old farm that might be suitable as bike racks for Downtown Batavia.

Two weeks later, Hawley showed up at Kemp's shop with four hog farrowing pens in his pickup truck.

Kemp, co-owner of T-Shirts Etc., is an artist who specializes in turning found objects into art and he thought the pens just might work.

Kemp started talking to anybody he could about helping out with the project. He knew he needed people who could work with metal and weld and had the equipment to do it.

"As with all of my projects, mention it to enough people and sure enough, someone will bite," Kemp said.

One day, Tim Gleba, a machine shop instructor at Batavia CTE (BOCES) came into Kemp's shop to pick monogrammed shirts and Kemp told him about the bike rack project.

Gleba immediately saw the potential for the school to get involved, so for the past several weeks, students in four different programs have been converting the pens into bike racks to be placed around downtown Batavia.

The project brings together students from the machine shop, welding, auto body, and conservation.

James Roggow, a student from Byron-Bergen, designed and fabricated finials to cap the bench arms, and other students are fabricating other parts for the racks and bench, including filigree end pieces for the bench (only one of the racks will have a park bench attached); welding is putting the pieces together; auto body students will paint the metal; and the conservation students logged a tree and made planks from it for the bench seat and back.

Auto body instructor Jeff Fronk saw the project as a perfect community contribution for his students.

"I thought it was cool," Fronk said. "These are going to be around the city for a long time. When these guys become young adults and have families of their own they can say, you know what, I did that. We did that in our class."

Fronk said he's really into color and what colors mean. He said he's always associated the color blue with Batavia, so the benches, he said, will be painted in a metallic blue that fades into a metallic orange.  Blue, because it symbolizes peace, harmony and unity, and orange because it symbolizes balance and warmth.

Kemp said he's looking forward to seeing the bike racks installed Downtown.

"I’m excited to see the progress of this project, along with the amount of collaboration it has taken to pull this together," Kemp said. "We are blessed to live in a community like this."

Graham Manufacturing is also assisting with the project.

Top photo: Three of the machine shop students who worked on the project with the first bench that is near completion, Arden Schadt, left, Evan Bartz, and James Roggow.

Below, one of the finials for the bench and a picture of the design on a computer.

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This is what the pen looked like when it arrived at the machine shop (photo courtesy Tim Gleba).

March 24, 2018 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Eli Fish Brewing Company, downtown, batavia, news, business.

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There was another large crowd at Eli Fish Brewing Company today as Batavia's first brewery in decades -- named after a brewery of a prior century -- held its grand opening.

Previously: Eli Fish Brewing Company ready for grand opening tomorrow

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March 18, 2018 - 11:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. Patrick's Day, downtown, batavia, news.

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For St. Patrick's Day, we stopped by Center Street Smokehouse, O'Lacy's, Eli Fish Brewing, Ken's Pits, Bourbon & Burger Co., and T.F. Browns.

To purchase prints of pictures, click here.

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March 16, 2018 - 7:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Downtown Revitalization Initiative, dri, downtown, batavia, news, notify.

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After looking over the final $15 million in grant-request projects Batavia will submit to the state for its Downtown Revitalization Initiative prize, Councilman Al McGinnis said he was pleased and excited about the prospect for the future of the city.

"I think we’re lucky enough to be around here in five or six years, it will be a revitalized Batavia that we won’t recognize and we will wish we had it earlier," McGinnis said. "It’s only going to impact us in a positive way. It’s just too bad it didn’t happen 20 years ago."

Looking specifically at the public market and at Batavia Players' plans for a downtown location for what is now Theater 56, McGinnis said that one project is just a single example of how all of these ideas have a chance at making downtown a better place for residents and businesses.

"This is great stuff," McGinnis said. "I mean, we don’t have the money for this. If the state can give us this money and we can do most of these things, there’s no downside to this. There is none. It’s all positive. I just wish the State could give us $5 million more."

The state's prize is to award $10 million worth of local projects. A local committee of community members made the first cut -- $15 million worth of projects -- from the batch of applicants, but the state gets the final say in whittling down the choices to $10 million in grants.

The local committee's final choices were presented to the public Thursday night during an open house at City Hall.

Interim City Manager Matt Worth said he liked what he saw.

"Some of the discussions have been about downtown being a real neighborhood and I think some of the projects lend themselves to that," Worth said. "It’s really encouraging seeing some of the momentum the City has. There’s more interest in what’s going on downtown than I’ve seen in an awfully long time, so that’s very positive."

Victor Gautieri has the dual perspective of a longtime downtown leader as president of the Business Improvement District and as an applicant for a grant for his project on Ellicott Street (the Save-A-Lot building).

 He's hoping the state will prioritize projects that might not otherwise be viable without the assistance.

"There are a lot of very nice projects that are here," he said. "I think some are more appropriate than others. I am a believer that the grant money should be going to those that really need it in the private sector.

"We’re very hopeful we’re going to be able to get our grant because that is what is going to make the project," he added. "That’s the only way we will ever able to do what we want to do with that property."

Looking at the projects as a whole, Gautieri thinks we won't even recognize Batavia in a few years.

"If several of these projects get the green light and are awarded a grant, it’s going to transform downtown," Gautieri said. "It’s going to look like it never has before, especially on the Southside, the Ellicott Street side. That is where we need, I think, the most help."

Here's a summary of the projects being submitted to the State:

  • Build Ellicott Station: Savarino Companies, 40-52, 56-70 Ellicott St.; project cost, $23 million; DRI funding, $425,000;  
  • Build Newberry Place Lofts: AGRV Properties, 109-111 Main St.; project cost, $350,000; DRI funding, $175,000;
  • Revitalize Carr's and Genesee Bank Building: Kenneth and Andrew Mistler, 97, 101-103 and 105-107 Main St.; project cost, $5.3 million; DRI funding, $1.2 million;
  • Develop Ellicott Place: V.J. Gautieri Constructors, 45-47 Ellicott St.; project cost, $2.5 million; DRI funding, $1.15 million;
  • Develop Healthy Living Campus: Genesee YMCA/UMMC, 207-213 E. Main St.; project cost, $22.5 million; DRI funding, $5 million.
  • Activate Batavia Innovation Zones: Batavia Development Corp; project cost, $400,000; DRI funding, $200,000;
  • Construction Theater 56: Batavia Players and City of Batavia, 35 City Centre; project cost, $901,750; DRI funding, $701,750;
  • Construct Downtown Public Market: BID and City of Batavia, Alva Place parking lot; project cost, $2.5 million; DRI funding, $1.5 million;
  • Create a Building Improvement Fund: BDC; project cost, $800,000; DRI funding, $600,000;
  • Upgrade City Center: City of Batavia; project cost, $1.5 million; DRI funding, $1 million;
  • Renovate 206 E. Main St.: Just Chez Realty, 206 E. Main St.; project cost: $675,000; DRI funding, $405,000;
  • Enhance Jackson Square: City of Batavia; project cost, $750,000; DRI funding, $750,000;
  • Upgrade Masonic Temple: David E. Howe, 200 E. Main St.; project cost, $750,000; DRI funding, $500,000;
  • Develop Branding, Place Making and Wayfinding: Business Improvement District; project cost, $250,000; DRI funding, $200,000;
  • Enhance GO ART! Arts and Culture Center: GO ART!, 201 E. Main St.; project cost, $1.3 million; DRI funding, $1.225 million.

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February 9, 2018 - 4:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Downtown Revitalization Initiative, dri, downtown, batavia, news.

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One of the five criteria for members of the Local Planning Committee to consider in selecting which projects to forward to the state as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative is "community input." 

About 30 members of the public turned out Thursday night at City Hall for their chance to weigh in on the projects they think most deserving of a portion of the $10 million DRI prize the state awarded to Batavia in October.

Each participant received a strip of stickers, two red for their top priorities, and one each of green, blue and yellow.

A new marquee and new seats for Batavia Showtime Theaters was the crowd favorite with a total of 17 little round stickers on its project board.

The theater is owned by local businessman Ken Mistler. His other DRI project, Carr's Reborn, was also popular, getting 15 stickers, and 12 of those were red, the most of any project. 

The Healthy Living Campus received 16 stickers, with nine red.

The public market also got 16, with six red.

The Batavia Player's project, Theater 56, received 14 stickers, and six of those were red.

The complete street project for Ellicott Street received 11 stickers, four red.

Ellicott Place received 10 stickers, four red.

GO ART! rounds out the other favorites, among the 25 total projects, with eight stickers, five red.

The other four criteria for the LPC to consider are the readiness of the project, the project's consistency with establishing planning documents, the catalytic potential of the project (can it drive more development), and the ratio of grant request vs. the amount of money being put in by the project developer.

The LPC has two more meetings before sending its recommendations to the state. The next meeting will be a report from consultants who will answer questions raised about projects during the process. At the final meeting, the committee will whittle down the 25 projects to those with no more than $15 million in funding requests.

The state will take that recommended list and select projects with requests of no more than $10 million.

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