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September 5, 2019 - 5:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, restaurants, downtown, business.
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Kourtney and Cait Kunichika have opened Islands Hawaiian Grill on Main Street in Batavia (former location of Larry's Steakhouse).

Kourtney, from California, moved to Western New York to play hockey at RIT and eventually became a professional hockey player in Buffalo.

While living in Batavia, she started working at local restaurants and found she really loved food and hospitality, so the restaurant is inspired by both her passion for her Hawaiian culture -- especially since there are no Hawaiian restaurants in Western New York -- and her passion for the restaurant business.

August 30, 2019 - 1:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, The Coffee Press, business.

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The Coffee Press on Jackson Street in Downtown Batavia held its official grand opening on Thursday and beer and wine was introduced to the beverage offerings.

Owner Derek Geib said beer and wine will help the business build an evening crowd as well as give people coming downtown another option.

Previously: The Coffee Press on Jackson Street, now open, aims to be hometown hangout

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August 11, 2019 - 1:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Beertavia, video, downtown.
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July 23, 2019 - 10:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Eat Well Grill, freshLAB, batavia, downtown, video.
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Subscribe to The Batavian's YouTube channel.

July 18, 2019 - 12:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Hall, batavia, news, downtown.

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The City of Batavia has completely renovated the landscaping in front of City Hall.

A supervisor yesterday explained that the old landscaping was more than 15 years old and had become difficult to maintain and control weeds.

The topsoil was replaced (see bottom photo) and new shrubs and flowers were planted today.

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June 22, 2019 - 9:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Jackson Square, news, downtown, batavia, music, arts, entertainment.

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The annual Jackson Square Friday Night Concerts series opened last night with Genesee Ted.

The line up for the rest of the season:

  • June 28 – The Skycats
  • July 5 – It’s My Party
  • July 7 – Downtown Batavia Music Ramble Festival -- Bands & Times for The Ramble will be announced soon!
  • July 12 – Old Hippies
  • July 19 – Red Creek
  • July 26 – Mitty & the Followers
  • Aug. 2 – Ohms Band
  • Aug. 9 – The Ghost Riders

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June 8, 2019 - 10:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in video, public market, downtown, batavia.
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The Batavia Downtown Public Market opened Friday at Alva Place and Bank Street.

April 26, 2019 - 11:46am
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, Old Courthouse, Upton Monument, batavia, news.

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This is the prettiest time of year around the Old Courthouse and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.

Also, the daffodils in front of City Hall are blooming.

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February 22, 2019 - 10:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Next Level Fitness, Ken Mistler, news, batavia, downtown, notify.

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After 31 years in the fitness business, owning and operating gyms in Staten Island and Batavia, Ken Mistler says it's time for him to retire for that line of work.

He's sold the building that has been home to Next Level Fitness for 10 years at 85 Main St., Batavia, and the gym will close Feb. 27.

Mistler said he's reached an agreement to sell the massive three-story, 20,000-square-foot building (which includes a 6,800-square-foot basement) to a local investor. He can't disclose who the buyer is or what the buyer plans to do with the building but the new owner will not operate a gym at that location.

"I'm not sure what they're going to do," Mistler said. "I'm not sure if they're going to use the whole building for themselves or cut the building, subdivide the building."

Mistler started in the gym business in Staten Island and then opened Powerhouse Gym on East Main Street in 1997. He still owns that building and all the equipment currently at Next Level. He would like to see somebody open a gym using the existing equipment at the Powerhouse location or see another locally owned gym use this as an opportunity to grow.

"I'm trying to encourage a local small gym in the area to go into that facility so," Mister said, "they will have more options. My customers have said they're looking for options. They're coming to me the last couple of days and asking what else can we do? What do we have available? They're looking for smaller facilities because they aren't a fan of the larger places and they want to keep it local."

Mistler said the closure of Next Level isn't the result of a chain competitor opening in town. He could have competed with a chain if he had wished to make the changes necessary but he didn't want to make those changes after 31 years running gyms, and the real estate offer was attractive and worth taking at this time.

Mister, who owns several downtown properties, and is owner and operator of Ken's Charcoal Pits on Main Street and the local movie theater, Batavia Showtime, said he's grateful for the years of community support for his gym businesses.

"The support has been unbelievable," Mistler said. "If I had to do it over again I would. That's how good the community has been to that facility, especially since I started Next Level, but 31 years in the business is enough."

February 20, 2019 - 9:01am
posted by Howard B. Owens in bdc, batavia, downtown, business.

Press release:

The Batavia Development Corporation (BDC) Board of Directors reviewed the agency’s 2018 results and set goals for 2019 at their last board meeting.

In 2018 the BDC assisted eight projects that invested $3.5 million and pledged to create 38 new jobs. The JJ Newberry Building, award winner of the Robert Macon Award from the Community Design Center of Rochester, was the signature project opening its doors in February of 2018.

“The BDC is positioned to help small businesses and building owners in the City advance their projects,” said Pier Cipollone, president of the Batavia Development Corporation.

“We are also working to advance the Batavia Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) sites including Ellicott Station, Creek Park, City Centre, the Medical Corridor and the Harvester Campus.”

Other planning efforts guiding the BDC’s work include the recently updated Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Revitalization Investment (DRI) Strategy.

“The BOA, Comprehensive Plan and DRI Plan were created through a civic engagement model that allowed input and direction from the community to create a road map for land use and economic development in the City,” said Martin Moore, City of Batavia manager.

“The plans identify some of the most pressing issues in the City including blighted, contaminated and underutilized sites, housing issues and recommendations to reverse these trends.”

With the DRI award of $10 million the BDC plays a critical role in overseeing and advancing DRI projects. Currently the BDC is working with all of the DRI project owners and multiple state agencies to coordinate and assist projects.

The BDC successfully launched the $600,000 Batavia DRI Building Improvement Fund and is in the process of working with applicants before final selections are made.

“The momentum and excitement of the DRI has attracted new businesses and developers across the City,” said Rachael Tabelski, director of Economic Development for the BDC. “We will start to see scaffolding and construction starting in 2019.”

BDC Board approved 2019 goals:

  • Secure capital/business commitments of $5 million;
  • Secure business pledges to create 25 jobs;
  • Secure a micro-enterprise grant/loan program for the City of Batavia to foster new start-up businesses;
  • Achieve the BDC’s 2019-2020 budget;
  • Successfully administer and implement the Batavia DRI Building Improvement program;
  • Encourage, enable and incentivize downtown building owners to add new upper-floor apartments and new residential living in the City of Batavia;
  • Participate in the City’s environmental investigation and planning around the BOA Creek Park site;
  • Continue to enhance the BDC’s value and build strong relationships with the City of Batavia government, schools, businesses and residents, and other economic development organizations.
February 9, 2019 - 9:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Coffee Karma, downtown, Center Street, batavia, news, notify.

 

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When Heather Rosendale-Casper started planning Coffee Karma at 12 Center St., Batavia, she knew she wanted a place that would feel warm and welcoming to the community, a real community space, she said during our visit to her new coffee shop today.

"It's really meant to reach out to the community and say, 'hey, let's have this free space were we can exchange conversation, do fun things, start connecting with people once again,' " Rosendale-Casper said.

She's hung local art on the walls, installed a natural-wood coffee bar, uses organic coffee from a local distributor, and even hosts yoga sessions.

Opening Coffee Karma is the culmination of a 20-year-long ambition for Rosendale-Casper.

"Going back to high school and college (coffee shops) is where I fundamentally found myself through philosophy, great conversations, meeting people, networking in an environment that was open and free and I also happen to really love coffee," she said.

Users of The Batavian app, click here to view the video on thebatavian.com.

January 25, 2019 - 10:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, BID, downtown.

Press release:

The Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) is thrilled to announce the appointment of Barbara Dietrich as the B.I.D.'s new Executive Director.

Dietrich comes to the B.I.D. from an extensive background of marketing, event management, public relations, promotions and business startup skills. She was the president of Dietrich Consulting in Batavia starting in 1998. She consulted for a variety of businesses on marketing, advertising trends, promotions, sponsorship and events. She was the radio personality on Entercom Buffalo; News Radio 930 WBEN – “Easy Living with Barb Dietrich."

Dietrich was the sponsorship director of “The Great Pumpkin Farm ”Oink”toberfest, NYS BBQ Cook-off Competition in Clarence. During her time at Dietrich Consulting she was the director of Marketing and Development for the YWCA Genesee County, director of Marketing for Empire Tractor Inc., director of Marketing, Public Relations and Sponsorship for Rivera Theatre in North Tonawanda, and general manager for WNY Event Centre in Clarence.

Dietrich has volunteered for many organizations over the years, she was a board member as well as past chairperson for Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Batavia Business Advisory Board, Cornell Cooperative Extension Board, Genesee County Business Advisory Board for Tompkins/Bank of Castile and Junior Achievement.

“Most of my marketing/management career has been in the Buffalo area and I’m so happy to use those skills and experiences here in my own community," she said. "It’s an honor to be a part of the exciting growth of Batavia!”

Dietrich moved to Batavia from State College, Pa., with her husband, David Dietrich, more than 25 years ago. They have two children, Joe and Petra.

She said she is happy they chose Batavia as their home.

Dietrich is looking forward to joining the B.I.D. and working closely with the downtown businesses, volunteers, board members, the City of Batavia and its community. Her official start date will be Monday, Jan. 28. We warmly welcome her to the B.I.D.

January 16, 2019 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in The Coffee Press, news, downtown, batavia, business, notify.

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When there were no immediate takers for an empty storefront Derek Geib owned on Jackson Street, he started to think about what he could do with the space and what Downtown Batavia needed.

Geib, who now qualifies as a serial entrepreneur, having been an owner in Matty's Pizza, Main Street Coffee, Bourbon & Burger Co. (currently), and Casa del Taco, decided he should bring back what downtown has missed for a few years -- a community coffee shop.

"I fixed up all the apartments upstairs and I had this space for rent but there were no bites, so I figured I might as well try to make the most of it," Geib said. "I figured it seemed like something we're missing and what we needed."

Since buying the building at 13 Jackson St., Geib said he has put his own money into renovations -- no subsidies, he points out -- and he used his own money to turn what was most recently a Mexican restaurant, an Indian restaurant, and a frozen yogurt shop into a cozy coffee shop with a place-for-community vibe.

The newspaper theme is also locally inspired. Longtime residents remember Marshall's newsstand, which occupied a couple of storefront locations on Jackson from 1921 to 1999. Geib said the name of the coffee shop and the decor is an homage to years two men named Arthur H. Marshall, father and son, who sold newspapers, magazines, and paperback books on Jackson, including at 11 Jackson, where Bourbon & Burger is now.

Barely open a week, the word has already gotten out and The Coffee Press is attracting a crowd.

"Yes, it's amazing, the support we've had from friends and family," Geib said. "And you know, now I don't know half the people coming in. I's just people spreading the word. It's really nice. I'd like this to be known in Batavia as the hometown coffee shop."

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December 2, 2018 - 4:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Christmas in the City, Christmas, batavia, news, downtown, BID.

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The Batavia Improvement District hosted Christmas in the City last night, which included sleigh rides, a toy train ride, visits with Santa (and the Grinch) along with local Christmas shopping.

For pictures of the parade by Jim Burns, click here.

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Gregory Hallock as Grinch and Nora Browne as Cindy Lou at GO ART! Hallock made his costume while Paige Sikorski, who is 13, put on his makeup.

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Paul Grazioplene posed with Grinch, trying to convince his child that Grinch wasn't scary but the child didn't buy it.

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There's a tiny little bundle in Santa's lap. It's 1-month-old Greyson Malcomb getting his first picture with Santa.

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Batavia Police Sgt. Dan Coffey with Bo Coffey and Alyssa Coffey. Bo and Dan were in line waiting for a ride in the horse-drawn sleigh.

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November 27, 2018 - 3:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in dri, Downtown Revitalization Initiative, downtown, news, batavia.

image004driarea_0.pngPress release:

The Batavia Development Corporation (BDC) announced today that applications for a $600,000 Building Improvement Fund are available to all building owners within the Batavia Improvement District (BID) as part of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).

Batavia is “All In” to reshape its urban core by embracing and celebrating its rich entrepreneurial history, fostering cultural appreciation and creating vibrant places for all to enjoy.

In alignment with the Batavia Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) Investment Strategy the city will seek to foster more arts, culture and entertainment; healthy living and wellness; and prosperity for all.

“As co-chair of the DRI Local Planning Committee I am pleased that this building improvement fund is moving forward, and building owners interested in making investment can receive assistance through the $600,000 fund,” said Eugene Jankowski, City Council president.

The Building Improvement Fund was recommended as a priority by the DRI Local Planning Committee and included in the Batavia DRI Investment Strategy. Filling vacant and underutilized structures has been a common goal across many of Batavia’s planning documents including the Brownfield Opportunity Area (2015), the City’s Comprehensive Plan (2016) and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) Investment Strategy (2018).

“The DRI is an amazing economic development tool to improve Downtown Batavia, help new businesses start-up, and existing ones thrive,” said Marty Moore, City of Batavia manager. “I will be working hard to ensure that we continue to support our local businesses and building owners.”

“The DRI Local Planning Committee is committed to seeing the recommended projects move forward in downtown Batavia,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and co-chair of the DRI Local Planning Committee. “These are exciting times for Batavia, and the County, with so many investments in transformational downtown projects.”

Building owners selected for grants will be awarded between $10,000 (minimum) up to $200,000 (maximum) in DRI grant funds, per building, not to exceed 60 percent of the total building renovation project cost.

The funding is on a building-by-building basis and “in-kind” match is not eligible. Costs incurred prior to the effective date of the grant agreement are not eligible for reimbursement, and not eligible as a match.

“The fund has been established to provide grant funding for applicants to implement interior and exterior building improvements in Batavia’s BID. Buildings must be commercial and/or mixed-use structures, have a plan ready to implement and funding to cover the cost of the entire project up-front,” said Pier Cipollone, president of the Batavia Development Corporation.

Eligible activities including façade improvements, window/door repair and replacement, painting, masonry repair, awnings, building signs, exterior lighting, storefront upgrades, roofs, and interior upgrades (heating, plumbing, electrical, walls, floors). Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 18th.

Rachael Tabelski, director of Economic Development of the BDC said, “The BDC is looking forward to working with Downtown building owners, understanding their plans, and finding ways to advance improvements and renovations. With each new building that we save and repair there is an enormous social and economic impact on our City.”

Leanna DiRisio, interim director of the Downtown Batavia Improvement District said, “I look forward to working with BDC and the Downtown building owners as interim director. I am confident that the Building Improvement Fund is a great resource and will increase the momentum of downtown living, shopping and entertaining."

The BDC will host an information session about the Batavia DRI-Building Improvement Fund on Tuesday Dec. 18th at 9 a.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall. All building owners are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Guidelines and the application can be found on the BDC website here.

November 21, 2018 - 4:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in The Yngodess Shop, news, downtown, batavia.

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As part of "Shop Small Saturday" in Downtown Batavia this weekend, The Yngodess Shop is hosting a benefit for the Sheriff's Office K-9 Fund and to honor the memory of "Destro," the dog who worked patrol with Deputy Chris Erion for five years before dying in early October.

The Sheriff's Office has identified a possible replacement for Destro but is also planning on acquiring a second dog and training a new handler, and funds raised through this event will help with the effort.

Yngodness owner Chris Crocker said the event at her shop Saturday will include tastings and specials to share.

Erion will be at the shop from 5 to 7 p.m. for a meet-and-greet.

"Please stop by and show your support for this great cause," Crocker said.

Photo courtesy the Sheriff's Office.

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."

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