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September 18, 2008 - 11:50am
posted by Philip Anselmo in business, downtown, city life.

Maybe you were wondering what the video crew was up to at the corner of East Main and Bank streets this morning?

There were some suits, a cameraman and a pretty young woman standing on the corner in front of the cultural center with the banks in the background. Well, they were a crew from Shepard, Maxwell & Hale, a local insurance agency that took to Main Street to shoot their next commercial for cable television.

September 12, 2008 - 1:51pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in downtown, construction, roads, Ellicott Street.

Work begun this morning on the Ellicott Street sidewalk renovation project in downtown Batavia. Proof of this was the brief blackout this morning when construction crews struck an unexpected power line.

The Batavian sat with Batavia Business Improvement Director Don Burkel this morning to find out some details about the project—we also got a photo of the plans: a section of the project at the intersection of Liberty and Ellicott streets (see below).

"We want to create a pedestrian area that is safe and attractive so that shoppers will want to come downtown to Ellicott Street," he said.

Making things attractive means breaking up the existing sidewalk, putting in new concrete pavers, adding some trees here and there, putting in some curbing and bumpouts, even a gazebo. Work stretches from the Evans and Court streets interesection east down Ellicott to the interesection with Swan Street.

Burkel said the project should be complete by the end of November and that there should be no interference with traffic in the meantime. Anyone interested in the project or any other downtown initiatives for that matter should visit the BID's Web site.

Funds for the project came mostly from a street enhancement grant from the Federal Highway Administration, said Burkel. They pitched in $500,000. The BID gave $150,000, and another $100,000 was supplied by the city.

August 15, 2008 - 4:23pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in downtown, entertainment, Summer in the City.

We're less than an hour shy of the start of Batavia's biggest downtown festival of the year: Summer in the City. Vendors take up their posts at 5:00pm tonight along Center, School and Jackson streets—all of which are closed off between Ellicott and Main streets.I just took a stroll down Center Street and spotted some barbecue smoke, popcorn kettles and the sugary promise of a fried dough stand.

Tonight's music selection features the Genesee Valley Band form 5:30 to 7:00pm, followed by Kindred from 7:30 to 9:00pm. Both shows will be on the main stage in Jackson Square.

The festivities continue tomorrow with more music, more vendors, plus crafts and the Rotary KidZone. Saturday's fun starts at 3:00 and runs to 9:00pm. Ghost Riders kick things off from 3:00 to 4:30, followed by Westside Blues from 5:00 to 6:30 and Popshow from 7:00 to 9:00.

Court Street will also be host to a car show tomorrow: Classic Cars & Cycles at 2:00pm, followed by the Super Cruise from 3:00 to 9:00pm that could feature several hundred vintage vehicles. Kids will have plenty to do, as well, from bicycle decoration to tennis lessons and sand art to carnival games.

Check out the Web site for the Batavia Business Improvement District for a full schedule of events. Or just head downtown anytime this weekend. It shouldn't disappoint.

August 13, 2008 - 12:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in downtown, history, pacino.

In February, Present Tense Books, hosted a talk by Josh on Patti Pacino centered around old photographs Patti's father either took or collected of old Batavia.

The collection of photos is posted here.

It contains a number of photos related to the destruction of the north side of Main Street to make room for the mall many people, including City Council President Charlie Mallow, call an eyesore.

Here is a video slide show I put together of from those old photos:

I haven't found anybody so far -- long-time resident or not -- who has good things about the mall.  Even Mitchell Chess, president of the Mall Merchant's Association, doesn't come across as a particular fan. With all of the conversation about the mall on The Batavian this week, not a single commenter has come forward to say it should be saved.

In a back-and-forth with Mallow over whether we were hyping his statement that parts of the mall (which, frankly, I too quickly turned into "all of the mall") should be razed, I quipped, "Mr. Mallow, tear down that mall," which was good for some comic relief.

But it can also serve as a rallying cry. 

Not everybody is pleased that there is so much heated discussion over the mall, but sometimes in such discussions a vibrancy can be found for finding new solutions to old problems.

Nobody has a plan yet, and the city and the MMA are spending way too much time on signs, bird poop and whether Bob Bialkowski has a conflict of interest, but the community needs to move beyond these trivial matters and focus on a long-term solution to the eyesore of a mall. 

A good plan will improve downtown, not waste taxpayer money, help the current merchants find new Main Street-facing shops and create jobs.

Mr. Mallow, tear down that mall.

 

July 2, 2008 - 2:32pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in business, downtown, BID.

Batavia's downtown Summer Sidewalk Sales kick off Saturday, July 12th from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Be sure to stop by these shops for special deals:

  • Adam Miller Toys & Bikes
  • Continental School of Beauty
  • House of K
  • PIECES Gallery
  • The Mane Attraction Salon
  • Valle Jewelers

Summer Sidewalk Sales are sponsored by the Downtown Batavia Improvement District.

April 30, 2008 - 5:13pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, restaurants, business, downtown, town.

Don't let anyone ever tell you that Batavia doesn't have good food. You have already heard us rave about the tacos de asada at Margarita's on Jackson Street — personally, I've already been back a few times. And, if you've entertained even a passing interest in our daily goings-on here at The Batavian, you would know that we've happily sucked down our fair share of lattes at Main Street Coffee, our current base of operations.

Well, today, I took off in search of some more unknown territory — political, edible and otherwise. After a stop at the Batavia Town Hall and the county historian's office, I made my way to Oliver's Candies on Main Street... for a taste.

Jeremy Liles manages the place these days. He smiles and jokes the way I imagine anyone would who spent their life and career in a candy store.

He told me that, though the candy is the main draw, Oliver's is sought out just as much for its roadside sign — a relic from an America few of us can even recall first-hand, back when we still danced with flappers, still spoke of Reds and fascists, still made phonecalls through a switchboard operator. But it's exactly that kitschy history appeal that landed a photograph of the sign on the Web site of a cross-country chronicler of "roadside architecture" — a fine profession or hobby, if I say so myself.

That being said, it's most certainly the sweets that run the show at Oliver's.

"People love candy," says Jeremy. "That's all there is to it."

...and from sweet to salty, my day only got better when I ducked out of the cold sun into the warm dark of O'Lacy's Irish Pub next to Jackson Square.

You could almost smell the mutton from outside. You could almost taste the bitter black porter when you're barely through the door. O'Lacy's doesn't mince words. It's as Irish a joint as they come.

And that's all well and good. I've been to plenty of Irish pubs on this side of the Atlantic and the other. They've all got the beer and the decor to make the claim, sure. But O'Lacy's has the nosh to prove that they dive further into the culture than just a few leprechaun jokes and clovers.

Chicken and biscuits were on special. Beef on Weck was likely a can't miss.

But I'm a sucker for a toasty reuben.

Mine came as thick as an elephant's ankle. It was sloppy, hot and delicious. More man than I am, no doubt. Which was fine, since I felt like more of a man having tackled it. Though I must admit that I couldn't quite wolf down the last scraps of corned beef and sauerkraut (slathered in Thousand Island dressing) that squeezed out of my grasp and onto the plate. As my waitress said: It's quite a sandwich. Maybe next time.

Cheers.

April 29, 2008 - 3:30pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, downtown, mural.

With the help of historian Larry Barnes, I've tracked down Vincenzo DelPlato, the jazz artist who painted the murals in Jackson Square, plus a few others around town.

Larry Barnes told me that Vincenzo's friends call him Vinny. So I called and asked for Vinny — folksiness often gets you further than formality, I find. I said my name is Philip. He called me Phil. And before you knew it, we were a couple of old pals chatting about art, about life and living it big.

Vinny's up in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire now. He's been there for some time with his wife and his little boy, Theo, he says. Jazz artist seems the best way to described how he paints — and how he talks: with style, a little syncopated, melodic and meaningful.

When I ask him why he paints murals, he tells me this, he says: "An old professor of mine at Buffalo once asked me: Vinny, do you want to be a Chinese firecracker or an A-bomb?"

Take a stroll through Jackson Park to see how Vinny answered that question. He started on the downtown murals in 1994, having got practice painting backdrops for a theater company in Leroy.

"I didn't want to work small," he says. "I want to make an impact with my life. So I took it upon myself to paint the walls that needed painting."

Outside in people's faces is where Vinny wants his art, inspired, he says, by a line from Claes Oldenburg, a sculptor who once said that art belongs anywhere but rotting on its butt in a museum somewhere. "He became one of my heroes," says Vinny.

He took his paint and brush out into the streets. Eventually, the city caught on that this jazz artist was doing great things, and they commissioned him to paint murals all over downtown. So he did it.

Larry Barnes laments the loss of one of Vinny's greatest city murals that was on the corner of Ellicott and Liberty streets. A photo of it can still be seen on Vinny's Web site. It was jazz art at its best: a rollicking, frenetic jam of just good old neighborhood folks, the very folks who lived around that corner, in fact.

"There's so much out there that can be brought back to life with a little paint, a brush and a lot of hard work," says Vinny. "A little sweat mixed with paint can go a long way."

April 29, 2008 - 11:58am
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, downtown, mural.

All cities have their quirks and foibles.

Rochester has abandoned button factories filled with artists and evacuated tenements full of asbestos. Or, at least, that's how it is on my street. Buffalo has the Bills. Albany has our state government. New York City has the entire island of Manhattan.

What of Batavia, you ask? Some might say the high school football team. Though I'm less quick to judge, even if I'm told the tradition is to root against the home team at homecoming. (Everyone loves an underdog. Look at the Chicago Cubs.) Instead, I say just take a walk downtown. There are more murals painted on the brick of downtown buildings than... I don't know... homecoming wins for the football team.

Here's a pair from Ellicott Street, part of an Air Force theme on a few buildings there:

Properly curious, I've set out to see what the city thinks of its peeling treasures. Larry Barnes, the city historian, is on the case. He should be back to me by the end of the week with whatever research he digs up that tells us more about just why this city wants to paint all of its buildings. Maybe we'll find out who started it, too.

The few folks I've chatted up so far don't know what to think of the murals nor how they got here. If you have thoughts, please share them. In the meantime, I'll keep hunting for answers.

April 24, 2008 - 3:35pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, downtown, BID, farmers market.

Who needs Kmart when you've got downtown?

Twenty or so vendors of the now homeless Gensee Country Farmers Market may already have a new place to sell their fruits and vegetables: downtown Batavia. An offer to the vendors to join the Batavia Public Market came only a few hours after the Daily News reported that Kmart booted the county farmers from its parking lot after a 10-year commitment.

"We'd love to have them," said Don Burkel, downtown economic developer. More vendors mean more buyers, he said, "and we've got room for more."

Burkel heads up the fledgling downtown market that opens for its second summer season in June at the Center and School streets parking lot (across from O'Lacey's Irish pub).

Any vendors interested in setting up shop downtown should call Burkel at (585) 344-0900 and request space.

The Batavia Public Market will be held every Saturday from 9:00am to 2:00pm starting June 28, and runs through October 11.

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