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June 27, 2014 - 11:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, BID, Jackson Square, music, entertainment.

The annual Jackson Square concert series kicked off Friday night with a return engagement by Stone Row, who first played the series nine years ago.

The electrified Irish band entertained the crowd with traditional and contemporary numbers.

Opening the show was a string quartet from the Genesee Symphony Orchestra playing traditional Irish tunes.

For a line-up of this summer's shows, click here.

June 21, 2014 - 7:39am

The Ghost Riders and the Ghost Riders Drum and Bugle Corps put on a unique show Friday night on Main Street.

The bands performed right on the sidewalk next to Larry's Steakhouse (the show's sponsor) and music fans, maybe about 300 hundred of them, gathered around standing or finding seating as best they could.

The music was great, of course.

The Ghost Rider's great pedal steel player Jimmy "Steel" Duvall.

June 20, 2014 - 3:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, Tompkins Insurance.

When workers from Tompkins Insurance move into their new second-floor offices at Main and Center, they will have Doug Rebmann to thank for the bit of extra sunlight spilling into their space.

Rebmann has been working this week cutting through masonry to create two new window openings as part of extensive renovations to the second floor.

Tompkins expects to move its customer service center to the location in mid-September.

June 9, 2014 - 11:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council, downtown, BID.

WBTA contributed to this story.

It took the City Council 20 minutes to debate whether the city should reimburse the Business Improvement District $1,900 for flowers.

In the end, the resolution passed 5-4, but not before some sharp words where shared in the council chambers.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian looked around the room during the debate and wondered why Don Burkel, BID director wasn't there, "so we could rip his ass."

The request for the reimbursement didn't quite come from Burkel, however, it came from Councilman John Canale, who invited Burkel to submit a request for reimbursement. Canale saw it as a symbolic gesture to show common cause between the City Council and the business community. 

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs said the city already does enough for Downtown. The sidewalks are clean, the medians are beautiful and city crews hang the flower baskets.

"The fact is, we just saw this for the last time in our last packet and I'm like, 'oh, what's this,' " Briggs said. "The fact that a few council people were talking about it beforehand, planning it, then why didn't we know about it in a committee report? Why weren't we told about it. I got it in my packet and I'm like, 'what's this?' They didn't come to us at budget time. If you want this done, come to us and let's talk about it, but for me to find it in my packet and then decide it, no."

Councilman John Deleo also opposed the idea.

“I promised voters I would be financially responsible with their money,” Deleo said, “but flowers don’t rise to that level.” 

“It’s not just about making Downtown pretty,” countered Councilwoman Patty Pacino, “it is about making Downtown attractive to new and existing businesses.”

The BID fronted about $3,900 for the hanging baskets.

"I supported Vibrant Batavia because I wanted to bring pride back to the city," said Councilman Pier Cipollone, who spoke at length about the need to restore pride in Batavia. "If more people have pride they'll have a better feeling about being Downtown."

Also Monday: 

The city spent a total of $10,700 during the last fiscal year defending itself against a lawsuit filed by the City Centre Mall Association.

The figure was obtained by resident John Roach through a Freedom of Information Request. Roach complained that the bills he obtained were not “itemized.”

City Manager Jason Molino countered that Roach only requested a total amount for mall litigation and if an itemized accounting was requested, it could be provided.

The legal services summarized in the 2012-2013 fiscal year were incurred before the city filed a countersuit against the Mall Association earlier this year.

May 30, 2014 - 12:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, infrastructure, Center Street, School Street.

Center Street and School Street (between Center and Liberty) are closed today for repaving.

May 28, 2014 - 6:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, BID.

Ben Franklin famously warned, "If we don't hang together, by heavens we shall hang separately."

City Councilman John Canale thinks it's time the various agencies working in the City of Batavia do a better job of hanging together.

To that end, he's asking his fellow council members to authorize a little extra spending: About $1,900 to help the Batavia Improvement District pay for the colorful hanging baskets lining Main Street again this year.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of division of agencies in the city that are all working for the betterment of the city, but nobody wants to get on the same page," Canale said.

The BID stepped forward and paid $10,000 toward the cost of garbage dumpster containers off School Street. Now the city can reciprocate by pitching in for the flower baskets.

City crews hung the baskets at the behest of the BID on Friday, in time for Memorial Day.

Canale acknowledged that the city funding Vibrant Batavia has been a sore spot for some, and the city pitching in on the hanging baskets can smooth things over a bit.

"The BID doesn't have to do all the things they do," Canale said. "They don't have to put up flowers to make our Downtown more beautiful and more attractive to future businesses or businesses that may want to relocate. I think it would be great for the city to partner on a project like this."

Flowers Downtown are part of the city's economic development efforts, Councilwoman Patti Pacino said.

"Whether people choose to believe it or not, STAMP is enormous," Pacino said. "The ag park. These are all new people who don't live here, haven't lived here, and I'm going to guess they're married and have children. I'd like them to come in and see this is a good city to raise children in and live in. Flowers in the city, it sounds like such a small thing, but it makes it that much more interesting, that much more available, and that much better to come here."

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs suggested the city already does its share by watering the baskets.

Asked after the meeting about the city's contributions to hanging flower baskets Downtown, City Manager Jason Molino said, "The city does a lot of participation and cooperation with the Business Improvement District because we value improving our Downtown and our business community, and that helps the community as a whole. This is another one of those circumstances where we're going to partner with them to do more in the future."

The council will be asked to vote on the proposal at its next business meeting in two weeks.
May 25, 2014 - 10:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown.

City fire officials and National Fuel and National Grid workers are trying to unravel a mystery this morning -- what's the source of a gasoline smell emanating from the ground behind the old Genesee Bank building.

A business owner on Main Street reported the gas odor this morning. It was filling the air in that business and in the basement of 90 Main St., but not the surrounding building basements.

Meters have also detected the substance around where a new utility pole was installed last week.

One possible explanation is that decades ago -- before there would have been permits required -- there was a fuel tank in the area. The odor could be coming from residue of an old tank. But that's just speculation at this point.

UPDATE: It turns out a maintenance worker had spilled a small amount of gasoline in the area  a day or two before and that caused the odor to build up in the building.

May 1, 2014 - 4:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, Jackson Square, 14 Jackson Square.

By the end of the month, 14 Jackson Square -- an address that never existed until recently -- will come to life in a new, and reinvented way.

The former Carr's Department Store Warehouse will contain three two-bedroom apartments (a fourth should be ready by the end of June) and a downstairs office space.

Paul Thompson and his partners will have invested more than $500,000 in the project, with the help of a state grant of $115,000, to convert the three-story structure into a mixed-use space.

The project fits a few of the city's goals to reinvigorate Downtown, said City Manager Jason Molino. It creates more residential space Downtown, more new office space and it converts a building that was doing nothing for the city into something vibrant.

"It takes a building that was always a warehouse and turns it into a useful and meaningful space Downtown," Molino said.

Thompson said his Byron-based company was interested in the project because they have some experience in redeveloping mixed-use spaces. It was a way to provide employment for his workers during the winter, and based on his experience with rental properties in the city, there's a strong demand for apartments designed to appeal to young professionals.

Study after study shows, young professionals want to live in environments where nightlife and shopping are in walking distance and there's a sense of urban life to the neighborhood (related story from USAToday).

This project brings the total of new apartments Downtown to nine, said Julie Pacette, coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp. All of the previous apartments rented to young professionals within days of becoming available.

By assisting Thompson and his partners, Pacette said, a property that was off the tax roles for a few years is now in private, property-tax-paying hands.

Thompson said the project has helped him expand his company. His staff of 14 is now a staff of 20, though not all of the new hires are directly related to this project.

Related: For those interested in new urbanism, the Congress for New Urbanism meets in Buffalo, June 4 though 7.

Paul Thompson

April 29, 2014 - 8:36am

City officials would love to see the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street cleaned up and turned into something useful, but with aging buildings and environmental issues, the property could sit dormant for many more years.

A $266,000 state grant could help resolve the future of the Della Penna property along with at least four other "brownfield" sites within the 366-acre core downtown area.

A brownfield site is vacant or underutilized land that was once developed and productive but has fallen into disuse because the property has unresolved contamination issues.

The city has created a Batavia Opportunity Area plan to help deal with these types of properties. City Council members learned more about the plan, 18 months in the making, on Monday night.

"Getting the city’s BOA plan certified will give additional tax credits for remediation and redevelopment of certain sites in the brownfield opportunity area,” City Manager Jason Molino said. “This is important and obviously we want to encourage redevelopment and remediation. There’s five strategic sites, all of them in the 366-acre downtown core area. Having those sites redeveloped would be very important for the city’s revitalization of Downtown.”

The plan is in its final draft stage. Once the council votes to accept the plan at a future meeting, the city can begin implementation.

With a certified plan in place, property is eligible for grants to developers who would clean up contamination and enable further tax credits for redevelopment of the site.

There will be a public hearing on the plan at the end of May.

There are confirmed environmental issues with the Della Penna property, the council was told. The council will be asked to pass a resolution authorizing an interim foreclosure on the property. Ownership would then pass to the Batavia Development Corporation and eventually then to a commercial developer.

The steps are necessary to apply to the state for the a brownfield clean-up grant. With environmental problems resolved, the property should be more attractive to a potential developer.

“I would not call it shovel-ready," Molino said. "It’s development-ready. Because there’s an unknown element taken out of the equation. If this property is accepted into the BCP Program, if remediated and developed, the developers are now eligible for tax credits for doing so. It adds a marketability to the site."

April 26, 2014 - 12:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, BID.

Story and photos by Dan Fischer, WBTA.

The Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) honored two local businesses on Friday with its “Spirit of Downtown Business Award.”

The new business Spirit award was given to The YNGodess Shop. Proprietor Christine Crocker received the award with her son, Ben, at her side.

Accepting the Spirit award for the Established Business of the Year was Gregory Gluck, proprietor of Alberty Drugs.

Also recognized for their volunteer efforts on behalf of the BID were Steve Coraci and Beth Kemp.

The BID was created in 1997 creating a core group of Downtown property owners and city officials to organize a formal Downtown management association. Today, the BID is comprised of 143 properties that pay a total annual assessment of $120,000 and the City of Batavia’s contribution (for capital projects) is $41,300 to fund the organization.

The BID will meet on Tuesday to elect a new slate of officers.

April 8, 2014 - 2:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown.

In another sign it's spring (really, it is), city crews were downtown this morning installing the park benches for the season.

Crew members are Shawn Easton, Shawn McAllister and Rick Reeves.

BTW: It's might snow tonight.

March 13, 2014 - 5:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown.

A few of these signs popped up along downtown streets today. A couple of the business owners who found them in front of their store fronts this morning didn't know who put them out.

They hare the handiwork of Brian Kemp, of T-Shirts Etc.

Kemp took on the project himself -- not through the BID or Vibrant Batavia -- because he thinks local business owners should be encouraged to keep the sidewalks in front of their establishments. The ones who do so should be rewarded.

"They don't realize you've got to be able to see the cement," Kemp said.

He only made a few signs, so he'll rotate them around tomorrow, making sure businesses that haven't received the recognition yet, but deserve it, will.

Bottom photo submitted by Jessica Budzinack. She wrote, "My husband Christopher Budzinack works at The City Church. He was so happy his hard work was recognized during this rough winter.

March 7, 2014 - 5:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown.

It might not be quite spring cleaning, but with snow melting and the sun out, two city workers patrolled Main Street Downtown this afternoon looking for any litter that may have become visible. They are Shawn Easton and Shawn McAlister.

February 28, 2014 - 4:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, downtown, Ken Mistler, Tompkins Insurance.

It seems hard to believe, but Tompkins Insurance has outgrown its space in the Bank of Castile building at 90 Main St., Batavia, according to Executive VP David Boyce.

Boyce confirmed this afternoon that Tompkins is in the process of acquiring the two-story commercial building at the corner of Main and Center streets with the intention of expanding its call center in that location.

"We have had great success in the bank building across the street, but I didn't think we would outgrow it in nine years," Boyce said. "I guess that was a little short-sighted on my part and Jim Fulmer's, but we've had great success hiring great people from the area."

The call center, Boyce said, is a "care center" in Tompkins vernacular. It's where customer service reps field incoming phone calls from the company's 36,000 private insurance clients.

Tompkins is acquiring the building from Ken Mistler, who owns as many as 10 Downtown properties. Its primary tenants are both on the first floor -- WBTA AM-1490 and Optique Optical.

Boyce said he would defer for the time being in sharing the purchase price but said the company will be making a significant investment in renovating the second floor of the structure.

The property at 113 Main St., is assessed at $325,000.

Boyce said the company is likely to apply to Genesee County Economic Development Center for a sales tax exemption on the building renovations and a PILOT on any increase in accessed value.

February 11, 2014 - 11:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown.

If you've been Downtown in the past day or so, you may have noticed pink markings spray painted on the snow.

A city official explained that the Department of Public Works has a few new employees and a new supervisor. They may not know what's buried under the snow, such as plants and streetscape. Rather than have them plow in a way that might damage the streetscape, workers will see the markings and know what snow to remove.

The Downtown snow removal will likely take place today.

So if you wondered, now you know.

January 25, 2014 - 9:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, weather.

Batavia was hit with a couple of inches of snow this evening, but the weather has cleared a bit more now. Photo of East Main Street at Jackson taken about 8 p.m. when snow was still falling.

January 22, 2014 - 10:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown.

On a day of no snowfall and no blowing snow, city crews are taking the opportunity to clear away piles of snow from parking lots and parkways. Above, a crew works on a pile of snow outside City Centre on the Jefferson Avenue side.

December 18, 2013 - 4:19pm

T.F. Brown's and the Lions Club of Batavia will host their annual community Christmas dinner Dec. 25.

The dinner is free to all.

There are two seatings available, noon and 1 p.m. 

An RSVP is requested by Dec. 20. If planning to attend, please call (585) 345-1000 and let Maud know how many people are coming, for which seating, and the gender, ages and first names of children.

Children will receive a present from Santa.

T.F. Brown's is located at 214 E. Main St., Batavia.

Pictured are: Tony Scalia, Joe Teresi and Michael Tomaszewski from the Lions Club and T.F. Brown's owner Rick Mancuso.

December 7, 2013 - 8:33am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID, taste of the holidays.

Friday night was the first night of Taste of the Holidays. The festivities included a chance for visitors to the tent on Jackson Street to sample food from area restaurants and visit with other vendors. Bus rides to the Holland Land Museum Office to see the Wonderland of Trees were also part of the event.

The event continues today from noon to 3 p.m. and will include carriage rides and a scavenger hunt.

Children can also visit Santa today in City Centre.

December 2, 2013 - 3:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, infrastructure, Center Street.

A private contractor is working on a water line on Center Street today. The line broke Saturday afternoon. The line runs into Center Street Smoke House and for most of the day, the city has been able to provide water to the restaurant. The restaurant is expected to be open for business this evening.

UPDATE: Water service was fully restored at 5:30 p.m.

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