He’s caused some excitement with a post online about his future business moving into Batavia City Centre, however, Zeke Lynn won’t be in moving in just yet, he says.
Everybody will get a chance to eat at Everybody Eats probably by the end of September or early October, Lynn said Monday to The Batavian. He is renting the site at 29 Batavia City Centre — the space with the checkerboard black-and-white floor once known as Cookies and Milk and other cafe operations.
“I’m hoping to be open within a month or two, I’ll be in there cleaning and I’ve got to get a few appliances, and a health permit,” he said.
When asked what the tagline of his place would be, the name says it all, he said. He plans to make it for mostly catering and take-out, for sandwiches, soups, salads, pastas, steak, and a few chicken dishes. The key is that there will be “things you don’t see around Batavia,” he said.
Think: Beef Wellington and butter chicken. Who is the chef behind the apron? A 2014 Batavia High School grad who began his cooking journey at as a kid, and never stopped.
“I really fell in love with cooking,” he said.
He studied a bit at Brockport State College and worked at restaurants, where he “fell in love with it.”
“I’ve been cooking since I was five, I learned from my mom. I’ve always had a passion for it,” the 26-year-old said. “This is really a passion project more than anything.”
He would like to establish a cooking class at least once a week after he opens and is thinking of having wine and beer at some point for a tastings and pairings experience.
In collaboration with community partners, Genesee County and the City of Batavia are thrilled to announce the upcoming “Bank Street Pop-Up Demonstration”, an event that aims to collect valuable public feedback to improve the look of the street and make the community more walkable. It will take place on Friday, August 18, 2023, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a rain date set for Monday, August 21.
The demonstration will be located between Main Street and Washington Avenue in Batavia. The demonstration is an outcome of the Active People, Healthy Nation Walkability Virtual Academy, in which Genesee County was selected as one of the teams from across the nation to participate. The primary focus was on creating safer and more accessible pedestrian, bicycle, and transit transportation networks for people of all ages, races, ethnicities, incomes, backgrounds, abilities, and disabilities.
The Pop-Up Demonstration aims to engage the public and receive their valuable input on various aspects of street and landscape design, crosswalk placements, and overall mobility in the area. During the event, teams will gather insights from the community, allowing more informed decisions that align with the needs and preferences of the residents.
"We are hoping that the public will come out on Friday the 18th and check out the design and provide us their thoughts about what they see," said Diana Fox, Director of the Genesee County Office For The Aging. “Community feedback is crucial to creating a neighborhood that fosters active and healthy living.”
The City will temporarily close parts of the street to traffic from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. on August 18 in preparation for the event. Artists from GO ART! will paint vibrant and attractive crosswalks, and Batavia Turf has contributed turf that will enhance the visual appeal of the space.
This initiative represents another significant step towards building a community that prioritizes the well- being of its residents and visitors, promoting physical activity and ensuring that streets are safe and accessible for all.
Akari Lewis-Iburi and Shin Iburi are mixing a keen eye for light and shadow and composition to capture the special moments and occasions of area families and couples.
Their success so far has made it possible for the brother and sister team to open a photography studio in Downtown Batavia.
They've been working together as photographers for more than a decade.
Akari Lewis-Iburi was always interested in photography, she said. She took her first photojournalism class in high school and continued photography as a hobby into college.
It wasn’t until deep into her college career that her brother asked her to go photograph a wedding for the first time.
“It was the summer of my senior year in college,” Akari recalled. “I was an English major, but I actually wanted to be a journalist. I was really interested in photojournalism. My brother got asked to shoot a wedding, and that was our first wedding together. From there, it kind of snowballed.”
The pair now owns and operates a photography studio that specializes in weddings, engagements, senior photos, family photos and maternity shoots. Pulling from her journalistic roots, both Akari Lewis-Iburi and Shin Iburi mix the art of being a wallflower and staging engaging photos. Customers can expect to receive images that feel both beautiful and natural.
Since moving into the new, larger studio space, the siblings hope to install a projector screen within the studio. The pair believes that it will help the couples reminisce about their wedding day in a new way.
“I want them to feel what they felt on their wedding day,” Akari said. “I want them to look back on that moment and feel those feelings again. It’ll be a nice closure to our working relationship.”
Akari also plans to make her new studio space a place for communal gatherings. Since experiencing live music has also been one of her passions, she foresees the studio place to host live music nights showcasing local bands and open mic nights.
“When I was a kid growing up here, there was this cool coffee shop on main street,” she said. “I just want to give a space for original music.”
Iburi Photography is located at 35 Jackson St. in Batavia.
An unexpected thunderstorm at about 1 p.m. on Saturday couldn't keep the Batavia Ramble and Arts Fest from rolling on, though it did put the music on pause for about an hour.
Paul Draper, one of the festival's organizers, said the music will continue throughout the day, pausing only for more thunder if it comes back.
Bands will continue to take the stage as scheduled, Draper said, just before his band, Shotgun Pauly, started its 2:20 p.m. scheduled set about 10 minutes late, giving him and his guys only 10 minutes to perform.
"We just keep an eye on it," Draper said. "We'll pause and pick up as the weather dictates. We can only plan so much, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the weather."
He said plenty of people were sticking around, and the sun had come back out, so, he said, "I still think it's going to be a good day."
A downtown building is in line for $20,000 worth of improvements to its brick exterior and upper back deck if City Council approves the grant request from building owner Cregg Paul.
The money will be in the form of a grant made available through an amended Revolving Loan Fund agreement that was revised in 2019. The revised policy seeks to have private building owners make lasting public and/or facade improvements within the city.
So back in 2019, City Council approved a policy to allow funding from the revolving loan fund to be split out and used for grant funds, specifically for building improvements only. So these grant funds are not for businesses. They're specific to buildings and infrastructure,” City Manager Rachael Tabelski said during City Council’s conference meeting Monday at City Hall. Off the top of my head, I believe there have been eight or nine grant funds awarded, the first one being Guy Clark at Cedar Street (Rentals), who built that new building to house some of his equipment, and I know other recipients have been, Casey Law Firm, I believe Matt Gray, (Gregory Hallock at) GO ART! has as well.
“And they've all been very successful in completing projects here in the city. The latest application is from the Center Street Smokehouse. They have deteriorating brick on their building that they need to repoint; they've needed that for awhile. They have some roof repairs that need to be completed. And they want to redo their second-floor patio facing into Jackson Square to freshen that up and make it look as nice as Matt’s patio. So I'm bringing that for you for your consideration.”
Building owners may request funds for building improvements that have a visual impact and facade work for rehabilitation or new builds, she said in a previous memo to City Council. “The grant of 40 percent of the total cost of the project will be considered, and the amount will be capped at $20,000,” she said.
The request has been approved by the Batavia Development Corp., and the funding will be matched with private funds from Center Street Smokehouse Inc. to renovate the exterior bar and restaurant abutting Jackson Square and to make necessary improvements to the facade and roof of the building.
An investment total for this phase is $50,000. BDC has recommended the grant with a score of 73.2 out of 100, based on “economic development and strategic goal alignment.” Tabelski therefore has recommended that council approve the request of $20,000 for the Center Street establishment.
A resolution will be up for vote during council’s business meeting on July 10.
Pastor Jason Norton and his wife Michelle became upset this past Friday afternoon when a rather loud and proud message for PRIDE week was displayed in the city parking lot in front of their church in downtown Batavia.
He and Michelle said that they are not a gay-affirming church, just as much as they wouldn’t have wanted a beer tent out front.
Not only did they not like the venue — a staging area for the annual LBGTQ parade and festival — to imply what type of church they were, but the event apparently blocked other needs for repairs and entry into the public lot, which conveyed a lack of communication they would have appreciated.
Once the pastor of EverPresent Church in City Centre voiced his intent to take the matter to City Hall, he faced backlash from a segment of the community, he said. He posted that since events, such as Drag Queen Story Hour, are happening at the public library, then he has decided to do likewise with his church message: For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“My point is this, that on social media today, I don't need this. Because I said that we were coming here, we've already been barraged with the titles of bigotry and hatred, and homophobia, the list goes on and on. And on. I just wanted to go on the record tonight to let people know that not only are we a people-affirming church who loves all people, we love God and His stance first,” he said. "We are actually moving forward now, with having some dinners and some open discussions and some forums, that we can all meet in a peaceable manner to talk and discuss these things and why we believe this.”
His online post had reaped well over 100 comments, mostly debates between opposing LBGTQ beliefs. There was a similar ongoing debate recently on a series of photos posted by The Batavian from that PRIDE event.
Michelle Norton expanded on her complaint to add that further communication about the event and location of the staging area — with opportunity to negotiate — would have been ideal so that the church entrance at Batavia City Centre wouldn’t have been blocked.
Jason Norton focused on the principle of his ire, and gave as examples himself, as a former drug addict who was invited in and accepted by a church that allowed “us to come in and experience God in a way that proved his love, and proved there was a God,” he said. He also spoke of his own daughter and how she struggled with bisexuality. He did not shame her but prayed for her and taught her about God and Jesus, he said.
"But we did not compromise on God's Word. We did not water it down to try to change God's word to fit into her choices to make her feel more accepted or approved as a lifestyle choice that she had made. Why did we do that? Because God is sovereign. And his viewpoints and his stance on certain things are steadfast and immovable. And I do not have the authority or the power to change or excuse me to change God's position on what is right and what is wrong,” he said. “Three years ago, our daughter came to the understanding that her lifestyle doesn't fit in contrast to God, and ... she asked God to help her to heal her. She experienced Jesus, not religion. Two and a half years ago, Tasha died suddenly. And I don't know how I would have lived with myself if I had buckled and twisted the truth of God and changed the scriptures to accommodate the struggle that she was going through and showing her a falsehood.”
City Council listened to the couple until their time limit was up and offered no comments about the subject matter. Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked about the way events work in city parking lots. City Manager Rachael Tabelski said that the backdrop of the stage was at the facade of the church building, but it is in a public lot.
“So when we do event applications, we can take into consideration placement of things and try to help those who would like to do events in our city parking lot to maybe have better flow,” she said.
Walk into Paradise Home Vintage & Gift, and it might seem a bit of an eclectic mash-up of stuff, from furniture, knick-knacks and wall decorations to dolls, toys, baskets, jewelry and kitschy novelty goods.
And, actually, that’s exactly what it is. Only with a touch of vintage, Victorian, retro, mid-century modern, Americana, primitive, antique and, most definitely, intriguing eras and styles to make shoppers want to pause for a second and maybe third look around. They'll get that chance with a grand opening this Thursday at 332 Ellicott St., Batavia.
Owner Macy Paradise Jr. and his partner and shop manager Linda Pezzimenti call the various sections “vignettes” throughout the 1,000-square-foot space.
“So it's furniture, and it's just anything that you could put in your house. As well as fun things, I don't expect to sell a lot of old toys, but it’s, they walk in and go, ‘I remember that game.’ You know, to bring back a little piece of memory. I'm going to order some candy cigarettes, bubble gum cigars, candy sticks; we'll have a little area for that stuff,” Pezzimenti said during an interview with The Batavian. “And then the jewelry is all brand new as well. I've been selling jewelry for years. And it's an assortment, it's stuff you can wear to work, and it's also stuff that's a little wild and funky.”
Maybe folks won’t want the decorative sack of potatoes or old-fashioned country store-themed items under the General Merchandise sign, including a Charles Chips can, stacks of retro cups and saucers, novelty ceramic vegetable containers, an oversized plastic ketchup bottle, painted pottery beverage pitchers, an ice cream cone sign that reads Have a Sweet Day, a collection of mugs with assorted sayings, and a wooden sign with a Batavia-based sentiment about how far away we roam, “our hearts make the journey but will always be at home.”
But they may smile as they pause to look at everything on the way to the next nook, she said.
That vignette is alongside a man cave in progress, with beer signs, bottle openers, racing car items, and other traditionally male-oriented objects, while other sections of the shop offer niches for pet lovers — assorted ceramic dog planters, wall signs, hand towels, placards, mugs; and home decorators will find dozens of items including tin hearts, colored vases, paintings, stemmed glasses, steamer trunks, lamps, and anything that’s not cookie cutter, Pezzimenti said.
“Walmart and Target have the basics. But if you buy something like that and put it in your house, everybody knows where you bought it. But you know, it's not going to be something that's at Walmart. And then there's only one of those for the whole city,” she said, adding that inventory will be refreshed on a regular basis. “I think it's important that things change, you know, if a certain shelf just isn't doing anything, then it's gotta go. And I don't care if I pack it in a box and bring out a whole new something else. I'll just take it out of here. Because this isn't doing anybody any good to see the same thing, and we’ve got the inventory to do it.
"We have plenty, and I shop every day. I'm not kidding. So I mean, like right now, there is a space over there on the very top. Yeah, and it's making my skin crawl, like, okay, well, how is there an empty space? I don't like that. So my one of my biggest concerns is what happens if a whole bunch of shoppers comes in on a Wednesday, Thursday, and there's empty spaces, like I have to get those filled before my Friday, Saturday, because, it's just wrong, just an empty spot.”
When she says she shops every day, that’s not hyperbole. Pezzimenti has fine-tuned the art of shopping flea markets, garage sales, and auctions, and networking with people to know when large-scale clearance sales are coming up. For example, she and Paradise were going to the biggest flea market in New York State this past week, armed with his trailer to bring back their cache. They had another event on the books for Monday in Ohio.
Is there ever a concern that enough is enough, or maybe even too much? Not yet, they both agreed. All of the purchases go into a designated storage, and then will go into the shop. And Pezzimenti has worked hard to clean, itemize, tag and log everything to keep track of it for the business, she said.
“I’ve been doing retail stores since my 40s, and I’m 65,” she said. “I think the first time I did it, it was all new stuff, it was all things you buy wholesale, and you just buy to resell. But it’s more interesting when you have props as risers and tables underneath that have a little character and charm; they’re also cheaper than going out and buying a brand-new table.
"So you start doing that kind of thing, and then everybody wants to buy your props. That always happens. So now the props are for sale. So you have to price it such that people are dying to do that, which makes them want to come back.”
Eventually, she kept buying not only merchandise, but those props, and items kept stockpiling, which meant renting storage — two storage units, a four-car garage, two-car garage and a 16-foot trailer. They finally cleared out the storage to fill up the store and have no plans to stop replenishing supply.
Everything in the shop is priced to sell, Pezzimenti said, and she and Paradise are excited to see the public’s response. The shop isn’t their sole livelihood, but yet it’s something they want to be a success, especially with fewer retailers around, Paradise said. There aren’t as many places to shop these days, he said.
They will take requests to watch out for certain items and plan to post photos online to pique customers’ interest in new arrivals at the shop. Pezzimenti has drafted a list of definitions to help people clarify the differences between:
Retro — objects with a nod to the past but are more recently made.
Vintage — which is an item created by hand or machine, approximately 40 or more years ago.
Victorian — created during the reign of Queen Victoria between 1837 and 1901.
Antiques — generally considered to be 100 or more years old.
As for Paradise Home Vintage & Gift? There’s a “nice mix of different eras,” Paradise said, from 100+ years old to make 20 years ago or even more recently. There are items that would be perfect for someone just moving into an apartment or for an established home.
“I have a very good eye,” she said. “I’ve done all the hunting for you.”
The shop is highlighted by the big yellow awning on Ellicott Street, which used to be Joe’s Trophy shop. A grand opening special of 20 percent will run from Thursday to Saturday, with both a ribbon-cutting at 1 p.m. and a prize drawing of a $50 gift certificate on Thursday.
Hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call 585-536-7793 or email [email protected].
The Genesee Country Farmers Market will be open for the season Friday.
Located at the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place. The market runs each week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Currently, 25 vendors are participating, including food trucks. Each day varies with vendors. We encourage you to check the Genesee Country Farmers Market Facebook page each day to see an updated list of vendors for that day.
Each week there will be a variety of guest vendors as well that will be posted on FB. We encourage you to check for weekly updates. If you are interested in a vendor spot, you can email us at [email protected] or stop by the Market shed during operating hours for an application.
This last week of May was capped off with bountiful news for property owner Ken Mistler and downtown Batavia as a whole with the announcement that the Carr’s Reborn project on Main Street was granted $1.85 million in Downtown Revitalization funding.
While recently discussing Mistler’s other major renovation in progress at the former Showtime movie theater in City Centre, The Batavian asked him about the Carr’s project, which has been on hold for several months.
He said that would move forward as soon as he gets word about funding.
Mistler was unavailable for further comments Monday afternoon.
Carr’s Reborn has involved several key players in the community, including a committee of folks serving on the Downtown Revitalization Initiative effort, city and county leaders, engineers, the property owner, residents and business owners, all of whom have been anxiously awaiting to see development in the former Carr’s department store for at least the last five years.
Consultant David Ciurzynski previously described the site’s future: renovating the upper two floors for apartments, installing arched windows in the front overlooking Main Street, preparing the lower levels for commercial space by removing asbestos and making them more enticing for prospective businesses to invest in the site.
Ciurzynski also included a vision for the project, aptly titled Carr's Reborn.
The project received approval from both the Downtown Revitalization Initiative Committee and City Council in September 2022. No one had spoken during a related public hearing about council's application to pursue a $2 million grant.
Cities with a population of less than 40,000 can apply for up to $2 million, and it is available for projects to “demolish/deconstruct and/or rehabilitate/reconstruct vacant, abandoned, surplus and/or condemned residential, commercial and/or mixed-use buildings.”
With no opposition to the move, City Council voted to submit an application for the sixth round of the Restore NY Communities Initiative Municipal Grant Program.
The former Carr’s site is expected to accommodate several upper-floor apartments and business/office use on the ground floor.
The project would take $1.85 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant funding and $4 million from property owner Ken Mistler. Possible uses for the main floor have not been determined, and it’s about “what does downtown Batavia need?” Ciurzynski had said during the committee’s Sept. 13 meeting.
Committee members who approved the project and pursued the DRI grant included City Council President Eugene Jankowski, Steve Hyde, Dr. James Sunser, Craig Yunker, Tammy Hathaway, Erik Fix, Tom Turnbull, Susie Ott, Paul Battaglia, Marty Macdonald and Nathan Varland.
On Monday, state Gov. Kathy Hochul announced more than $112.9 million has been awarded to 70 projects through the Restore New York Communities Initiative. Restore New York supports municipal revitalization efforts across the state, helping to remove blight, reinvigorate downtowns and generate economic opportunity in communities statewide, according to a press release issued from the governor’s office.
The program, administered by Empire State Development, is designed to help local governments revitalize their communities and encourage commercial investment, improve the local housing stock, put properties back on the tax rolls and increase the local tax base, the release states.
"These Restore New York grants will help to reimagine downtowns across our state and transform vacant, blighted and underutilized buildings into vibrant community anchors," Hochul said in the release. "Thanks to a more than $146 million state investment, we are breathing new life into communities from Hudson to North Hempstead, jumpstarting new economic activity and helping ensure that New York State continues to be a place where people come to live, work and raise their families."
Carr's Reborn was the only project in Genesee County to receive funding from this round.
Hundreds of thirsty visitors walked the streets of downtown Batavia this weekend in search of some tasty ale.
As it turned out, they found plenty of it -- 21 stops, in fact, of craft brews, ciders, and meads at various merchants throughout the Business Improvement District. It was the annual FeBREWary beer walk hosted by the BID.
Beverages, snacks, raffles, and prizes aside, the bustling sidewalks were a welcomed attraction, BID Executive Director Shannon Maute said. Overall, the event went "extremely well," she said.
"We had just about 600 attendees. It was nice to see people walking our main streets and filling our downtown businesses," she said. "Everyone seemed to be having a great time."
Housing projects have various classifications, such as workforce, affordable and low income, all of which have certain definitions and income levels, and The Batavian wanted to clarify which words and parameters fit the Ellicott Station project in downtown Batavia.
First, a little housing definitions lesson:
Affordable Housing is generally defined as housing on which the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities.
Market Rate Housing is the prevailing monthly cost for rental housing. It is set by the landlord without restrictions.
Housing AuthorityHousing authorities are public corporations with boards appointed by the local government. Their mission is to provide affordable housing to low- and moderate-income people. In addition to public housing, housing authorities also provide other types of subsidized housing.
Subsidized Housing is a generic term covering all federal, state or local government programs that reduce the cost of housing for low- and moderate-income residents. Housing can be subsidized in numerous ways—giving tenants a rent voucher, helping homebuyers with downpayment assistance, reducing the interest on a mortgage, providing deferred loans to help developers acquire and develop property, giving tax credits to encourage investment in low- and moderate-income housing, authorizing tax-exempt bond authority to finance the housing, providing ongoing assistance to reduce the operating costs of housing and others. Public housing, project-based Section 8, Section 8 vouchers, tax credits, the State Housing Trust Fund, and Seattle Housing Levy programs are all examples of subsidized housing. Subsidized housing can range from apartments for families to senior housing high-rises. Subsidized simply means that rents are reduced because of a particular government program. It has nothing to do with the quality, location or type of housing. In fact, a number of Seattle's subsidized housing developments have received local and national design awards.
Workforce Housing is the industry standard definition for affordable housing that serves families that are at or below 60 percent of the median income.
When talking to local economic and project development folks, semantics seemed to really matter. Workforce was not much different than affordable, according to one person, and the term low income was freely bandied about until The Batavian tried to confirm that the housing was subsidized, and the comment was retracted. And nobody wanted to be quoted out of uncertainty.
The assets manager for Savarino Companies has not yet replied to email inquiries after The Batavian was referred to her last week.
At last, an answer came from Jim Krencik of the county’s Economic Development Center. Krencik confirmed that the buck stopped with him, per the last known income qualifications that EDC was aware of for the Ellicott Station project.
To back up a bit, why was this a question to begin with? Because, several years ago, in the infant stage of this project, there was talk of market-rate apartments to provide up-scale prices and amenities to feed the appetites of higher-paid workers and help to grow the city’s economy with an influx of well-to-do consumers.
That bubble was burst last year when Sam Savarino, owner of Savarino Companies, announced that it was a workforce apartment project going up on Ellicott Street. It was going to be for entry-level workers making around $20 an hour or less.
But then rumblings and murmurs took to the streets, combined with questions and fear and lack of details, and the possibility of this being a mixed project of affordable and low income, or subsidized only, emerged. So The Batavian tried to get an answer from economic and project development folks — to no avail.
So now, onto the answer. Krencik didn’t really give a classification label, but just an answer. Of the total of 55 units, 25 of them will go to tenants with 50 percent of the county’s current available median income, and 30 units will go to those with 60 percent of the median income.
As an example of what that could be, the latest median yearly income data from 2017 to 2021 was $63,734, 50 percent of that is $31,867 and 60 percent is $38,240. Krencik emphasized that if someone was approved based on that starting salary and then was promoted and earned a raise, he or she wouldn’t lose the apartment because of that increased figure.
The idea is to provide quality housing to people who may have just graduated from college and are starting out with a new job and career, and want to live in a decent place that they can also afford, he said.
What about all of those parents stating that their kids can’t find jobs to keep them here? Do you really think there will be enough entry level people to fill this complex?
Krencik was glad to get the question. He could then volley back information about a new program called Cornell Food Processing Bootcamp, which is specifically for 2023 graduates. Students can earn a free food processing certificate from Cornell University at Genesee Valley BOCES and connect with local food manufacturers that are hiring with average starting wages of $20/hour, according to a GCEDC flyer.
After doing some hard-hitting promotion of the program, there are 26 students signed up so far, Krencik said, all of whom could be viable candidates for Ellicott Station. While the housing complex won’t be for everyone, it can fill many needs, he said.
“A lot of folks in that cohort are saying, hey, you know, I want to live where I have a supermarket, that's a 20-second walk away, and there's restaurants a 30-second walk away,” he said. “And there's musical performances, of all the concerts that happen in that area, that is attracted to that group. And right now, we've been really marketing that program hard for about three days now.
“And we're hoping to address, with a lot of activity that's been happening, if there wasn't enough quality apartments or single-family homes, and having projects that are taking those on to help people out at all phases of their life when they're starting off in a career or ready to, you know, have that big single family home for their growing family, or they're on the other side of that, and they're looking for the type of housing where they don't need a big house anymore, having all those available is really the key to having viability in our housing market,” he said. “So I guess a single project doesn't doesn't solve it for every one of those scenarios, but it's a piece of solving it with many others.”
Savarino Companies has been taking names of interested tenants for the complex, which is to open this summer. For more information, go to ellicottstation.com.
File Photo of Ellicott Station's progress in January 2023, by Howard Owens.
A request to revise the current commercial zoning district at 97 Main St. and convert the second and third floors to residential use with the construction of four apartments is up for review during the city’s Planning and Development Committee meeting this week.
It’s set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Board Room of City Hall.
Applicant David Rowley of VJ Gautieri Constructors has applied for a special use permit on behalf of property owner Peter Hunt.
Hunt purchased 97 Main St. in January of 2022 and listed apartments as a future goal for the property after getting lower floor renovations completed at the site at the corner of Main and Jackson streets. At the time, he said the new space will have room — an estimated couple of thousand square feet on each of three floors — for growth of personnel and offices, and an apartment on each of the second and third floors. He cited the "high ceilings and beautiful windows" that would make the property a great work and living space.
According to related agenda materials, he has requested to build two apartments on each of the second and third floors.
The meeting agenda includes a review of the application, a public hearing and discussion about the request, and action by the board. The property is currently zoned C-3, which is for commercial use, and the request is to rezone it for R-2, residential use.
There are other properties downtown that have been converted in a similar fashion, with first floors used for retail and commerce purposes and upper floors as office and residential space.
Supplemental materials for the request state that:
One each waste and recycling totes would be provided per apartment in the alley behind the building;
Off-street parking would be available adjacent to the intersection of Jackson and Ellicott streets in an area designated for overnight parking;
A dumbwaiter on the south side of the building in the alley could be used for hauling up groceries and other heavy objects; and
An entrance on Jackson Street is being updated for security.
An estimated cost of work has yet to be determined.
The second item on the agenda is a request from Brad Trzecieski, owner of 327 Ellicott St., Batavia, to make exterior alterations to his mixed-use building located within the central commercial district of the Business Improvement District on the south side of downtown.
File photo of when Hunt Real Estate celebrated its new Batavia home at 97 Main St., by Howard Owens.
Although the Batavia Development Corporation was established in 1994, Tammy Hathaway has been the new director for just under a year, hired for the position in May of 2022.
She brought with her a passion for finding answers and being inquisitive about the mechanisms of how things work. And since buckling down in her first-floor City Hall office, Hathaway has been learning more about grant programs, housing projects, construction sites, and even mall markets.
Hathaway was given the spotlight Monday evening to present the nonprofit agency’s activities, projects and benefits to City Council during its conference session at City Hall. The BDC has a number of historical objectives, she said, including to:
Improve the quality of life within the city through planning, collaboration, and programming;
Encourage retention and development of small businesses;
Promote additional and maximum employment opportunities; and
Retain and enhance the community’s fiscal base and attract new business.
Hathaway believes that economic development is important because it means private and business investment, job creation, industry diversification, new construction, rehabilitation projects, business retention and expansion, improved quality of life and sustainability and longevity.
With 54 percent of Batavia businesses being run by one to four employees compared to 2.6 percent having 100 or more, there’s one clear fact when it comes to the small business world here, she said.
“We cannot deny that small businesses are a critical component to our economic development,” she said.
Other stats include 10,318 people that are employed in the City of Batavia, 2,500 of which are filled by city residents and 7,818 commute to work in Batavia.
The top four industries here are health care/social services, manufacturing, retail and office work, she said. An important question to ask is, “what do we do that make people want to live here, work here, and play here?” she said.
Diversity of projects may be a good start. Projects such as the Ellicott Station apartment complex on the city’s south side, renovation of the adjacent former Della Penna building for a future restaurant/brewery, renovation and expansion of the GLOW YMCA and Healthy Living campus in downtown, continuous evolving of Harvester Center on the east side, and redevelopment of Creekside property behind the ice rink are five key undertakings in designated brownfield areas being or having been cleaned up and prepared for new ventures.
Hathaway likes to say that it’s about learning about what you don’t know so that the unknowns are known. Once that happens, then action can take place.
Other completed projects include Hunt Real Estate’s purchase and renovation at the corner of Main and Jackson streets, Main St. Pizza Company’s ongoing upper-floor apartment project, and Dr. Neppalli’s overhaul of 99 Main St. for office and apartment space.
Eight projects, which also include the former Carr’s building, Theater 56, Jackson Square and City Centre, were awarded funds from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, she said, for an estimated total $66 million investment.
“BDC’s dedicated efforts have increased assessed values by almost $10.5 million,” Hathaway said.
While gathered around a table in the middle of the mall concourse Thursday, a group of stakeholders reminisced about the “hits and misses” during an impromptu mall market for several Saturdays last fall.
The group was led by Tammy Hathaway, director of Batavia Development Corporation, who had surveyed participants for feedback about how the market went in a first-time trial run.
“What a great group of people, it's the right group of people to assess that small little field test of using the City Centre concourse, as a little bit of momentum, like a market vendor space. We had fantastic feedback, and it was positive,” Hathaway said. “We want hits and misses, so that we can make it better, and everyone wants to move forward."
She appreciated their honesty about the critiques, and also about the one unanimous sentiment, Hathaway said.
“Every single one of them enjoyed being in here,” she said.
Issues to be worked out include pricing — which vendors said was too high at $40 per day — and the market’s hours of 8:30 to 11 a.m.
“Batavia doesn’t wake up until 10 a.m.,” vendor Adam Garner said.
Garner, a fifth generation member of Garner Farms of Le Roy, has participated in other markets in Le Roy and Rochester, and offered his perspective about what seems to work elsewhere.
Garner Farms was a regular at Batavia’s mall market with heritage pork and chicken products, and he looks forward to continuing to be part of it.
“Overall, it was good. There were weeks that were slow, but weeks, there's weeks that were above, that we had a lot more people than I expected. We’re hoping to get to expand as we have more people coming in here,” he said. “So we have an indoor market. There's nothing around here. The only indoor market I know is down in Ithaca. So we do Le Roy farmers market. We're looking into doing a couple in Rochester. I do one in the South Wedge. And then we do vendor events that we do in Le Roy. Our farm began in 1932 and it will be 100 years old.”
The group discussed moving the hours so they would linger into the early afternoon, say from 10:30 a.m. to around 1:30 p.m. Hathaway received a lot of feedback that a majority of vendors thought the total hours should be capped at three hours, with a rationale of preferring to make $150 in three hours versus $175 in four.
City maintenance worker Tom Phelps said that the mall facility used to be open to 2 p.m., and that was eventually reduced to not being open at all on Saturdays during COVID season, and now is back to being open to noon.
Other areas of consideration involve requiring vendors to have insurance coverage, making access easier for vendors with larger or bulky items, including some type of coffee station, how best to promote the event, and making it a family-friendly market with rotating activities and themes.
The general consensus of group members Loretta Delpriore of Batavia Stagecoach Florist, Katie Hobbs of Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Garner, Phelps, Pat Burk of Theater 56 and Hathaway was to resume the market on Feb. 4 with a focus on Valentine’s Day, and integrate themes from there onward. Hobbs manages a market for the village of Corfu and offered ideas to include kids in these events as well.
“So we created a very large to do-list of items to make this move forward. And it's great to have participants, everyone who sat at this meeting today participated in the meeting, and has the same passion for seeing this building full of life,” Hathaway said. “The goal is February 4 to reinstate the Saturday mall market and have revised hours and make it totally revised.
“I think we'll definitely go to mid to end of May,” she said. “So we'll have a little bit of time to let everybody breathe, regroup and everything before the outdoor farmers market begins.”
Photo of Tammy Hathaway of Batavia Development Corporation, left, Loretta Delpriore of Batavia Stagecoach Florist, Pat Burk of Theater 56, Katie Hobbs of Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, Adam Garner of Garner Farms and city maintenance staff Tom Phelps evaluate last year's Saturday mall market in an effort to move forward with the concept beginning Feb. 4. Photo by Joanne Beck.