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August 5, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, mall, notify.

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It might be difficult to be a fan of Batavia City Centre, which has struggled with an image problem, about a third of it being unoccupied and with vacant properties and foreclosures that are costing city taxpayers $45,000 a year in mall user fees.

The city pays those user fees to the City Centre Fund, not counting City Hall, which is assessed at $1.45 million and costs $23,000 a year in user fees.

The foreclosed properties and their assessed values are:

  • Parcel 2 - $16,970
  • Parcel 11, formerly Valle’s Jewelers - $124,000
  • Parcels 35 and 39, formerly Advanced Imaging - $139,300 and $6,970
  • Parcels 17-20, formerly Gentleman Jim’s, Palace of Sweets, The Hiding Place - $55,300

Batavia Players has a lease deal with the city to rent out parcels 2, 35 and 39 for a total of $45,768, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

That total assessed value of $342,540 has a zero property tax while in foreclosure.

Parcel 2, formerly Sunny’s restaurant, has been served a petition and notice of foreclosure, Tabelski said. The total assessed value will then be $440,543.

Mall merchants Bob Chiarmonte and Craig Jackson recently said they believed the city wasn’t working to fill those vacant spots and wished that more would be done to get new businesses in there. The Batavian reached out to Tabelski and Batavia Development Corporation Director Tammy Hathaway to find out what they were doing to market the vacancies.

rachael_in_chambers.jpgSpeaking on behalf of both of them, Tabelski said the vacant properties are shown to prospective buyers by Public Works Department staff and Hathaway. She did not mention any form of action being taken to market the sites.

“The city supports putting these parcels into productive use, and they may become more attractive to businesses as improvements are made in City Centre, including the roof, silos, and lighting,” Tabelski said.

Chiarmonte and Jackson hope that’s true. An entire roof replacement has been completed over the concourse, and the silos (entryways) are in the design phase to improve the look and practicality of the vertical tunnels at each entrance.

“I think upgrading the interior would make a difference; it’s more important than the exterior,” Chiarmonte said.

Case in point: the entryway next to the former Sunny’s. Just look up, and it becomes obvious how much wear and tear the structures have taken with rain and melting snow. Jackson pointed out that, when installed, the silo roof was tucked in lower within the structure, which doesn’t seem to allow an easy escape for water. Stains are easily visible and run down the length of the silo from the roof.

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Other improvements, more cosmetic in nature, are to include painting the walls and floors. Ceiling tiles — which were black and haphazardly missing throughout the concourse — have begun to be taken down for a modern, industrial appearance.  

There are 34 business-related sites, according to a listed address within the concourse. A total assessed value, excluding foreclosed and other city properties, and a nonprofit organization, is more than $2.2 million. That’s more than $2 million worth of property taxes going into city revenues.

It seems a given that the mall-turned-City Centre’s reputation needs a major overhaul after all of these years of legal turmoil and struggle to retain newer businesses. But then some retailers have made a go of it over the long haul — Jackson and business partner Loretta DelPriore have thrived with Batavia Stagecoach Florist for more than two decades, Chiarmonte’s Classic Optical has been there 38 years, and Erika Siverling’s LeBeau Salon for more than 10 years, plus medical and dental providers with long-term track records.

City officials have shared plans to expand the scope and improve the appearance of the Centre, and tearing it down has been ruled out. That leaves a hint of promise that the bemoaned downtown landmark might just get a revival, and all involved hope that cynics might just become fans.   

Top photo: Some of the properties in foreclosure at Batavia City Centre, photo from City of Batavia; City Manager Rachael Tabelsk, photo by Howard Owens; and a silo at the Centre, photo by Joanne Beck.

August 4, 2022 - 8:05am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, mall, city centre, notify, downtown.

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Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia

A recent photo published with a mall-related story caught the attention of a couple of merchants.

It prominently featured a decorated bucket on the floor, and was a file photo from some time ago. Business owners Bob Chiarmonte, the unofficial president of the Mall Merchants Association, and Craig Jackson, co-owner of Batavia Stagecoach Florist, wanted to set the record straight that improvements are being made to Batavia City Centre.

“I think the city has put a lot of money into downtown revitalization, and the mall is right in the center of it. So to ignore it doesn't make sense to me, because it's right in the center of downtown. So I think they're making the right decision to try and improve the building,“ said Chiarmonte, who owns Classic Optical. “Personally, what I'd like to see is, there are properties that the city owns, and I'd like to see them sell the properties and get taxpayers and businesses back in here. The city owns a bunch of these properties that are vacant, and they're not doing anything.”

Several former businesses ended up in foreclosure and the sites ended up in the possession of the city. According to online assessment data, those sites include parcels 2, 11, formerly Valle’s, 17-20, formerly Gentleman Jim’s, Palace of Sweets and The Hiding Place, and 35 and 39, formerly Advanced Imaging. Other vacant spots, not owned by the city according to assessment data, are the former Sunny's restaurant, Escapeology, Miracle Ear, and JC Penney. (The Batavian reached out to city officials for comments late Wednesday afternoon, and will publish an update later this week.)

Aside from those empty parcels, Chiarmonte and Jackson were pleased with the new roof that’s been installed throughout the concourse area. The place no longer leaks, they agreed, and there hasn’t been a bucket to be seen in months. The city has expressed interest in renting out that space for events, and that’s something that both business owners would like to see.

They credited building maintenance manager Tom Phelps for doing “an excellent” job with making sure the concourse is clean, repaired as necessary, shoveled outside and seasonally decorated. Phelps even brought in some decorations for the place to be extra festive. This will be his fourth year putting up a Christmas tree, he said.

Phelps and two other city employees work in the Centre as part of a legal settlement between the merchants and municipality. That has been a plus, Jackson and Chiarmonte said, and Phelps is currently in the process of removing all of those ceiling tiles for a different look.

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Current concourse ceiling

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Concourse ceiling with tiles beginning to be removed

Chiarmonte believes there may be another option for mall management in the future.

“I think the city might be interested in getting one entity to come in and take over the facility. And I can't blame them for that, because I know that the city doesn't want to own them all. We've talked about it. And, personally, I think it would be an easier sell if the spaces were full. I don’t think they’re marketing it at all.”

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There didn’t appear to be any type of visual signage promoting those properties for sale. Each one sat there empty and quiet, with windows either boarded or papered, or otherwise obviously unoccupied. Jackson remembers when they had the draw of those stores, including J.C. Penney, with its name still on the wall over the interior doors.

Despite the lack of regular traffic, both businesses had customers in the hour or so The Batavian was there in the afternoon. And both said they have been doing well and would not have made a different choice if they could go back in time. Chiarmonte, and Jackson and his partner, Loretta DelPriore, own their properties outright, which means no rent to worry about. They each took advantage of what they felt were good deals — and cheaper than other space downtown or elsewhere in Batavia, they said.

COVID’s arrival hurt businesses in general, and mall merchants were no exception. Chiarmonte saw decreased business, and said there wasn’t a compromise to offer, as his optical shop is a hands-on enterprise. Jackson said revenues remained strong for his combination florist-tuxedo-collectibles shop. When COVID hit, the partners depended on delivery service and wire and online ordering through their website.

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He also referred to another bonus, a craft fair hosted by a local nonprofit in the concourse. With some 90 vendors,  the place was busy and a lot of people milled about, stopping into the shop, Jackson said.

“This place is available for events, and you don’t have water dripping on you,” Jackson said. “I think they should push kiosks, they used to have those, and people could try it out and work toward renting (a property).”

They’re both for anything that can draw people to City Centre, including special events on the concourse, the Healthy Living project that’s now underway for a 2023 completion, more merchants and, ideally for Chiarmonte, another department store to replace Penney’s.

The Association has dwindled to about two or three active members, including Chiarmonte and Jackson’s business partner Loretta DelPriore.

“We keep a handle on things,” Chiarmonte said. “I’ve been here 38 years, and I’ve had success. I think any business, any business that comes into the facility is going to help … and is going to create traffic. So the more foot traffic, there is more business. It just kind of goes to (common sense). I think (Penney’s) was a huge help for me because of the location, and I guess COVID put the nail in their coffin, unfortunately. That was a good store.”

The new owner, a developer in California, has a Rochester realtor who in the past has said he was working to show and sell the property. Potential concepts have included an event center and boutique-style hotel. Chiarmonte is on board with a mixed-use place, as long as those parcels are filled, he said.

He and Jackson agree with the city’s plan to pursue new designs for the four entryways to the Centre. That plan is in the design phase, city officials said. Other work is to include painting the floor and walls, and the tiles  — initially to be cleaned up and improved — are being taken down to expose the natural underpinnings of steel and wires. Some downtown apartments have been constructed in a similar industrial style.

Jackson wants the floor to be addressed soon, as he thinks the mismatched tile colors don’t do anything positive for the concourse appearance.

“To kind of bring this back to life,” he said. “This is a lot of open property right in the center of town.”

It may seem daunting to not only buy property there but also tack on property taxes and business improvement district and mall user fees to the total. However, they both said it was still less expensive than other city property.

“I don't know about rent, but I would guess that rent is reasonable because the cost of property is pretty reasonable, so if somebody's looking to start a business or open a business, this would be great, because you're in the middle of downtown and it's an expensive place to attain property,” Chiarmonte said.

To those people that have spouted off about tearing down the mall, it’s just not that easy, he said. He said the city would have to buy out each individual property owner and pay fair market value.

And to those that say the mall is dead?

“I wouldn’t say it’s dead,” Chiarmonte said. “But I would say it’s sleeping.”

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For prior coverage about City Centre’s ongoing transition, see article "Moving forward?" and "Making the best ..."

Top photo: Craig Jackson, co-owner of Batavia Stagecoach Florist at 26 Batavia City Centre; the mall concourse ceiling, both currently and as it begins to shed its tiles; Bob Chiarmonte of Classic Optical at 44 Batavia City Centre, and a section of concourse. Photos by Joanne Beck.

July 29, 2022 - 9:46am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, mall, notify.

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Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia.

So to recap: city officials have begun to replace the mall concourse roof and pursue a new design for the four silos, or entryways, and are creating a wish list for future projects.

While nearly a million dollars have been invested in the roof, the naysayers are bemoaning such wasteful spending. The question of why not tear it down has been answered — more than once — which means to shift perspective from giving up to leaning in and finding affordable options for making the concourse more attractive, appealing, and effective for drawing in customers, city leaders say.

One action item that’s free and can be useful is just what some city officials have been doing: brainstorming.

Batavia Development Corporation’s new director, Tammy Hathaway, said she’d first like to “trip right into a giant pot of money” for the ideas she could come up with for the mall. So far, though, there have been conversations with city management and real estate agents.

“I don’t think any one of us doesn’t have it as our own personal priority,” she said during a recent group interview with city officials and The Batavian. “You know, working in the city of Batavia, actually working in this building, we work here, so we see it every day. And so it’s definitely something we think about constantly.”

Money — or the lack thereof — sort of tables some brainstorming ideas because any structural or aesthetic changes will take money to happen. City Manager Rachael Tabelski is hoping that perhaps the Restore NY grant, overseen by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, might consider the mall concourse for funding.

“So we’re trying to determine whether the concourse would be eligible because it serves so many businesses for those grant funds, so that’s kind of in process now,” she said. “We’re looking to work with Empire State Development to see if we’re eligible.”

Has there been any progress with filling the former JC Penney building?

Hathaway said that the property has “gotten a lot of traction out there in the world,” and Genesee County Economic Development Center has been involved by talking to various companies with possible interest, she said. The property is owned by a developer in California and is being marketed by a real estate company in Rochester.

As for using the concourse, any interested organization or business can fill out an application to rent the space for $25 and put on a special event, Tabelski said.

“We hope that there's excitement growing in Batavia; there was the development project for the groundbreaking at the YMCA Healthy Living campus and Savarino (Ellicott Station project),” she said. “Because a lot of times those types of developments are seeing companies and developers, and it piques their interest to come to have a look at what the city has to offer, and it's certainly a very large space and a very prominent location in the city.”

A big part of the aesthetic shift will be with the silo work, Public Works Director Brett Frank said.

“That'll make it more inviting to have people come in,” he said. “And exterior renovations will make a huge difference. You know, eventually as funds are made available, redoing flooring, painting, anything like that. it will make a huge impact as well. It's just going to take a lot of sweat equity.”

Hathaway believes that once Theater 56 is fully built, and the “manicuring” of different pieces within the mall, it will be a similar experience to finally seeing City Hall take shape at the west end of the former Genesee Country Mall.

“I think we all felt a little bit of relief when we saw City Hall built at the end of it, like there’s something new,” she said.

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What about those oddly shaped, carpet-covered pieces of — are they furniture? — throughout the concourse; will they be removed or altered?

“That's a good question; that's probably a bridge we'd have to cross when we get there,” Frank said. “But that's not something that necessarily can't be upcycled.”

Tabelski and Frank agreed that the entire property would probably lend well to mixed-use, with perhaps a second floor for apartments, the current businesses of retail and medical services, and, ideally another restaurant or coffee shop, more retail and possibly bringing the outdoor Farmers Market indoors.

“I think it's more successful as a mixed-use that definitely has medical and insurance as mainstays of the owners, and I do think there's still retail that's going to be necessary there to support the employees who work at these medical facilities, and who are at the theater as well,” Tabelski said.

“So to me, I think it's more attractive if there's a mix of uses going on at the center,” she said.

Water and Wastewater Superintendent Michael Ficarella is looking for “an overall revitalization, or modernization” of the downtown space.

“And we can have events that benefit the community,” he said. “I think we're going to do our best to maximize what we have here in existence, and take what was left from the past and make it usable for our future.”

Top file photo from 2020: renderings of City Centre mall entryways and concourse that were considered a couple of years ago. Courtesy of LaBella Associates and the City of Batavia. 2021 file photo of City Centre with a decorative bucket in March and fixed furniture pieces behind it. Photo by Howard Owens.

July 21, 2022 - 8:15am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, batavia, city centre, mall, notify, DRI grant.

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Editor's note: This is a continuation of a series about what's happening in the city of Batavia

An attractive, modern entrance; sturdy and leak-free roof; thriving retail shops alongside well-established medical practices, and an onslaught of patrons wanting to visit, shop, eat and enjoy a welcoming space.

Not exactly what many locals envision with the current City Centre. An Urban Renewal nightmare. A property that’s co-owned and managed by the city of Batavia and individual merchants. City Centre hasn’t gained a reputation in recent years as a place to enjoy. Not in the concourse, with buckets catching drips from a roof and a deadened atmosphere from vacated properties and decreased foot traffic.

But that can — and will — change, city officials say. With a fair amount of work done so far — Phase I of a roof replacement, with Phase II in the works — there’s more to be done, Public Works Director Brett Frank said.

Each of the four silos that serve as entry and exit ways into the Centre are to be redesigned. He doesn’t have a definite timeline but said the process begins with design, and once that comes back and it all gets approved, the city will go out for bid on the project. He is also making sure that the cost is within the city’s construction budget, he said.

“Basically, the design of the silos is that it’s just your entryway into the City Centre … those are supposed to be architectural features that draw people in. The design is kind of up in the air right now. If it's something that, maybe, could possibly be more in line with the redesign that's taking place with the brickwork of City Hall — the hallways, Insurance Center to Islands Hawaiian Grill,” he said during a group interview with The Batavian. “But that's all kind of up in the air. So we're not exactly sure what we will get back from engineers; I'm sure either way, it's gonna look improved from what we have now. It will make it more inviting.”

Called silos because they are cylindrical in shape and stand separated from the mall with a set of doors to trap the outdoor air, these points of entry for visitors have been less than welcoming. Buckets stationed just inside the doors, and then throughout the mall, have made for jokes rather than an impressive image.

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Time for a Rewind
After years of being embroiled in litigation, both the merchants and the City of Batavia agreed to a settlement in October 2017. The city agreed to repair, maintain and pay for items within the 46,000-square-foot public concourse and the merchants agreed to pay a yearly property maintenance user fee to the city.

Fees are $2.06 per square foot of each merchant’s individual property, which means different totals for each merchant, depending on the size of the business. Tabelski likens it to a condo or neighborhood association fee.

Part of the city’s agreement has meant employing one full- and two part-time employees to make the necessary repairs and maintain the concourse. These city positions are paid for with the user fees, Water and Wastewater Superintendent Michael Ficarella said.

“They do anything from mopping floors to changing lightbulbs to taking care of ceiling tiles,” he said.

It may not have been what everyone wanted, but it’s now about making the best of the situation, City Manager Rachael Tabelski said.

“So the agreement, as of the effective date (Oct. 24, 2017), affecting the mall, including the development and operating agreement, and the common facilities agreement of 1987:The city shall, for purposes of mall redevelopment and repairs, retain ownership of the mall concourse … the members of the Mall Merchants Association, their guests, customers, invitees shall continue to enjoy the rights to access the mall concourse, as has been customarily provided to each merchant. The mall concourse will be open to the public at reasonable times,” Tabelski said.

“So that's kind of the obvious portions of it. And then this section of the settlement agreement is called capital improvement. The city needed to develop a scope of work and bid specification to repair and improve the existing roof silos and skylights at the mall concourse collectively called the roof repairs," she said. "In the agreement, it was noted that they would keep the merchants apprised through the development of the scope of work, provide copies of these specifications and provide the proposal to the merchants for review.”

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The Here and Now 
According to the agreement, roof repairs were supposed to be completed by March 31, 2021. One large roof project had to be broken into two parts so that the city could pay for and finance it. The first chunk cost more than $763,000 and Phase II will be approximately $218,000, Frank said. 

“So far, it's been rooftop unit number nine, that's been the biggest one,” Frank said.

He and Ficarella promised there would be no more buckets dotting the internal mall landscape. 

Pre-COVID, the city had been awarded $1 million from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, and had plans to repair/replace the concourse roof, redesign and construct new silos, and paint the floor and walls, thereby improving the entire interior look of the concourse, Tabelskis said.

But after COVID and the ensuing pandemic hit, a lot happened in the construction world.

“As we had gotten into the project and COVID occurred, and these crazy construction price overages and inflation had occurred, we kind of settled to the point where we probably were only going to be able to do the first phase,” she said.

“That's how we ended up with phase two of the mall roof replacement. Because it was originally, like 2019, and then the second phase was (scheduled to be) from 2020 to 2021,” she said.

Aside from those repair expenses, it takes about $225,000 to operate the mall and concourse space, Tabelski said. That pays for anything needed, and the general fund “does not in the traditional sense have to support the mall, because we're able to operate it by using the user fees,” she said.

The concourse stage has been used for seasonal and impromptu concerts when the weather turns bad, and Batavia Players have occasionally performed or run their acting lines while standing on it, Ficarella said.

The stage still is still useful, he said, as a concert venue during inclement weather, Christmas in the City, and other prospective special events.

Funding for the first phase is from a funding reserve, and about $120,000 is being taken from that $1 million for the silo design process. The remaining money will go for actually redesigning those silos. The city also has received a National Grid Urban Corridor Grant to help with economic development projects in the city, Tabelski said.

“We can apply some of those funds to the project as long as we're doing exterior work, and improving what we call the kind of the urban corridor of a City Centre as well. The budget was going to go a lot further four years ago, when the grant was awarded. But as we got into COVID, and changes in leadership at the city, we're finally getting back to getting the project moving. It's just the season we live in now that the money's not going to go as far as it used to.”

That doesn’t mean that an interior facelift can’t happen, she said, as “there's definitely the ability to start to look at budgeting for flooring and painting improvements.”

Moving Forward
There have certainly been the naysayers suggesting that the mall just be torn down. So how do city officials get people excited about a structure described as wasteful, an eyesore and dead?

Perhaps some perspective steeped in reality would help. The mall has a Merchants Association with individual property owners who run their businesses, medical practices and personal services out of that space. The city has no claim to those properties and therefore cannot just go in and tear it all down.

Tabelski also wants to remind folks that these are viable businesses that have invested money, time and effort into their mall properties. At one time, several years ago, there was talk of slicing off a portion of the mall and restructuring some of that building. That was then, this is now, Tabelski said.

“I would say those are definitely plans that are out there. But because of the nature of the condo-ized situation at the mall right now, the city's trying to make the best use of the property we have, and bring people down to this corridor and work with what we have,” she said. “So the taking down any portions of the mall is not on the table right now.”

Up next: Moving Forward, continued

Go here for prior coverage about the city and mall settlement 

Photo of mall silo in Batavia; Valentine-themed buckets in 2020. Photos by Howard Owens. Dare to dream? These front entrances of Gemdale Plaza and Castle Mall are showy with lots of light and windows. Photos of "Mall Entries" by Sruthy Sukumaran.

September 23, 2020 - 6:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, mall, batavia, downtown, video.
Video Sponsor

Consultant Ed Flynn led a City Centre Feasibility Study open house last night, which was an opportunity for community members to weigh in on the future of the mall.

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May 4, 2020 - 11:22am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, city council, City Centre roof, mall.

City of Batavia Public Works Director Matt Worth is hopeful that the City Centre roof alternations and replacement project will resume sooner rather than later.

“We’re just waiting for a little bit of clearance (from New York State regarding work guidelines) and a little bit of good weather for that to move forward,” Worth said, talking about a $664,080 contract the City forged with Grove Roofing Services Inc. of Buffalo.

Close to a year ago, City Council selected Grove Roofing to replace several sections of concourse roof and the skylights, a project that will encompass about 80 percent of the roof, Worth said.

The roofers had delivered some materials and we’re just about to start the tear-off when the COVID-19 shutdown came.

“They tried to do some things that they could do safely – like putting up safety barriers and things like that, but held off getting into the project, in accordance with the (state) directives,” Worth said.

The project entails removing the existing insulation and roof material, installing new insulation and a new rubber membrane roof.

Worth said about 5 percent of the job will deal with replacing the metal roof deck beneath the roof “that we know is deteriorated – an area down by Sunny’s (Restaurant) and a wing down off of City Hall by Dr. Yaeger’s (office).”

The project is being paid for by funds taken from the City’s Facility Reserve.

In mid-April, Council voted to take $30,000 from the Facility Reserve (which was at $238,000) to cover unexpected construction costs.

A recent design change with the skylight roof covering resulted in an additional expense of $13,040. The remaining nearly $17,000 will be available in case of a condition change that needs to be addressed right away once the main roof construction work starts, Worth said.

January 23, 2020 - 4:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mall, city centre, batavia, news.

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At Christmas, an enthusiastic city employee who thought the drip buckets in the mall wasn't a great look for the holidays, took it upon himself to put wrapping paper around the canisters.

With the holiday passed but his spirit undaunted, the employee recently wrapped the buckets in Valentine's Day paper. The employee is doing this at his own expense.

Still, Director of Public Works Matt Worth is concerned that some people might make negative comments about the employee so the employee is remaining anonymous. 

"Hopefully, this is the last hurrah for the buckets," Worth said. "We're going to get a new roof and the buckets are going to go away."

Reader-submitted photo.

July 11, 2019 - 8:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, mall, batavia, news, crime.

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Press release:

The Batavia Police Department is investigating damage to the City Center, which occurred between 06/29/2019 and 07/01/2019. The suspects did not gain entry to the building but did damage the skylights in the mall concourse, after getting onto the roof.

The attached photos are individuals who may have information in regards to the investigation.

Anyone with information in reference to the case or who can identify the persons in the photos may contact Detective Eric Hill at 585-345-6373 or the Batavia Police Department at 585-345-6350, the confidential tip line at 585-345-6370.

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April 23, 2019 - 3:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Centre Mall, mall, batavia, news.

The City of Batavia is likely to reject all three bids it received for roof repair work on the City Centre Mall because they all came in over budget and Public Works Director Matt Worth thinks the city can do better by revising the bid specifications and attracting smaller contractors to the job.

The City Council will be asked to reject the bids at its next business meeting after being briefed at Monday night's conference meeting.

The work on the roof is part of the lawsuit settlement agreement with the Mall Merchants Association.

The original bid specifications including not just replacing the flat roof area, but also removing and roofing over the skylights and reroofing the entryway silos.

While it made sense at the time the bid package went out to include those features, Worth said, the heavy wind of winter storms have filled up the spring and early summer schedule of roofers in the region, especially those who do warranty work.

That left fewer smaller contractors available to bid on a project with a larger scope.

The largest contractors in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse submitted bids of $1.42 million, $1.67 million, and $2.25 million, which are all over budget.

A new bid package will be released that makes replacement of the flat roof one project, with minor repairs around the skylights and the skylights. Silos will be bid out at a later date.

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.

November 1, 2017 - 10:36am
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, mall, batavia.

I just stumbled on this video on YouTube --  "Hidden Vintage Mall: Batavia City Centre."

The show notes: A nice little find in the heart of Western NY, Enjoy!

The producer, Ace's Adventures, seems to take a keen interest in old malls.

He included a vintage Kmart commercial at the start, probably because of the connection with JCPenney.

October 23, 2017 - 8:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in mall, batavia, news, notify.

Four decades of wrangling, including five lawsuits, between the city and mall property owners is close to finally being wrapped up after a majority of property owners tonight voted to approve a settlement agreement. 

The agreement gives the city control over, and responsibility for the mall concourse. 

This settlement is the biggest step, but not the final step, in resolving this long-standing dispute. The vote for the settlement was not unanimous and if any mall property owners fail to sign the agreement it would drag out the legal process. Recalcitrant owners would have to appear before a judge and explain, show cause, for their failure to sign.

Most of the mall property owners coming out of the closed-door meeting where they voted on the agreement tonight were smiling. Robert Chiarmonte, chair of the Mall Merchant Association, said he was glad the settlement was finally approved. 

"The positive thing is that this year the maintenance fee, which will actually be called a user fee now, will stay level or somewhat level for about five years. We have our easement. We don't go to court. That's a good thing."

The protection of property owners easements was an important point to include in the settlement, Chiarmonte said.

"That was a big thing because some people were worried about being able to refinance their property or sell their property," he said.

Every property owner in the mall must now sign off on the agreement. They have 10 days to sign. If they don't, the mall merchants attorney and the city attorney will try to convince them to sign. If they still don't sign, they will have to explain their reason and provide evidence to support their reason, before a judge in Buffalo.

The vote total from tonight is not available. Each mall property owner who is in good standing on mall association fees had a vote weight by the square footage of his or her property. The City didn't have a vote on property it owns through foreclosure, but it did have a vote based on ownership of City Hall. Chiarmonte said the motion to approve the settlement would have passed, just based on the property size of the owners who did support the settlement, even without the city's vote.

City Manager Jason Molino said he expects a final resolution to be in place by April, at which time the city can take over maintenance and began work to replace the roof, repair the skylines and clean up the entryways.

"The optic improvements, the visuals, that will make the space more welcoming and open to investment," Molino said.

The city owns, through tax lien foreclosure, a handful of properties in the Mall. Once the appearance of the mall improves, those properties will be easier to sell and they will go up for auction.

Chiarmonte thinks that in itself will be a big step forward to help bring more traffic into the mall as new businesses open in those locations.

Molino agrees.

"My estimation is that when some of the improvements begin, and just some of the aesthetic improvements begin, which is not a lot, you're going to start seeing interest in those properties," Molino said. "You will see people are going have a different perspective on investing in those properties. That will be just a positive turn, just that alone."

October 23, 2017 - 8:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city centre, mall merchants association, mall, news.

Statement from City Manager Jason Molino:

“The trial has been postponed today, awaiting results of the Mall Merchants vote tonight on the settlement agreement. Both parties are to report back to the court Tuesday morning with the results of the settlement vote to determine next steps with respect to the court cases.”

October 5, 2017 - 8:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, batavia, news, business, mall merchants association, mall.

Via our news partner, WBTA:

A trial date has been set in Erie County Supreme Court that would settle the dispute between Batavia City Hall and the City Centre Merchants Association.

WBTA has confirmed the two sides are scheduled for a bench trial on Oct. 20th before Erie County Supreme Court Justice Catherine Panepinto.

The basic dispute centers on responsibility for the mall’s continually leaking roof.

Last March the City Council approved an offer to the merchants that would have provided $650,000 dollars to repair the roof, silos and skylights over the concourse in return for the merchants dropping their lawsuit.

The merchants have never ratified the deal.

A member of the merchants association – who wished to remain anonymous – said the city has met all of the merchants’ requests but the association’s lawyers have advised against accepting the deal.

City Manager Jason Molino said the merchants are refusing to vote on the settlement terms that were negotiated last December. 

It is still possible the two sides could come to an out-of-court settlement by the Oct. 20 trial date.

April 9, 2017 - 12:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, city centre, mall.

In a letter to his clients, an attorney for the Mall Merchants Association is trying to change the terms of an already finalized settlement agreement with the City in the long-standing legal fight over the past, present and future of the City Centre mall, said City Manager Jason Molino.

In a letter dated April 6 and provided to local media late Friday, Attorney Hugh C. Carlin said the settlement with the city was only tentative and that there were two significant issues still to be addressed.

He accused Molino of discussing the settlement with the media in violation of an agreement, but word of the settlement came not directly from Molino but was a matter of public record because it was on the City Council agenda the first week of February.

"The City has proceeded with every aspect of this matter in accordance with the settlement terms that were agreed upon by the City and merchants representatives in December," Molino said.

Molino had not seen a copy of the letter before it was provided to local media outlets.

The terms of the settlement were agreed to through an 18-month-long mediation process in which both sides ran up significant legal bills, Molino said.

"In that time frame, the merchants have changed attorneys several times, however after extensive discussions, both parties agreed to settlement terms which were outlined publicly in the city’s February presentation," Molino said.

In his letter, Carlin said there are two main factors of disagreement remaining between the city and the mall merchants. 

First, there is an issue related to easements for pedestrian and vehicle traffic for each property owner in the mall. The attorney also accused the city of using heavy-handed tactics to force a settlement by "hoarding" nine foreclosed properties and refusing to pay maintenance fees.

"During the negotiations between your representatives and the City, the issue of individual owners' rights to access their properties was not discussed," Carlin wrote. "In fact, the only restrictions on City property that were addressed related to the present contractual obligations of the City to maintain specific numbers of parking spots.

"The City now insists that, as part of any settlement, the easements be terminated," Carlin added. "The termination of the easements raises significant issues concerning your title. If the easements were terminated, your ability to refinance or transfer your parcel in the future would likely be jeopardized."

This misrepresents that facts, Molino said.

"It’s important to note that the first term agreed upon was the termination of all prior agreements, making them null and void," Molino said. "By the nature of terminating these agreements, all covenants, easements, and restrictions placed on real property associated with those agreements would be terminated as well.

"This included the concourse and city parking lots. For the merchants' attorneys to claim this issue was never discussed is simply not true as a third-party mediator, merchants' representatives and merchants' attorneys themselves all reviewed and approved the terms prior to an agreement being reached."

Carlin now says he won't support an agreement that changes the terms of easements. 

"The City's inexplicable and irrational proposal comes at a cost to the Merchant Association," Carlin wrote. "The City will give the inferior and unacceptable easement only in 'exchange' for a cost-sharing arrangement for roof repairs should the sum of those repairs exceed $650,000. As you may recall, one of the primary reasons for the merchants negotiating team reaching an agreement with regard to the settlement framework was the City's assumption of all costs relating to the roof replacement without any cap on costs."

As for the foreclosed properties, Molino said Carlin was also informed on state law regarding how the city is obligated to handle those properties.

"The merchants' attorney has been repeatedly advised that upon foreclosure of real property taxes under the Real Property Tax Law all prior rights, interests and restrictions of record are terminated in the parcel," Molino said. "Hence, under the RPTL the City has no legal obligation to pay the past or future maintenance fees on foreclosed parcels under the historic mall agreements.

"To suggest otherwise evidences a serious lack of understanding of municipal law practice and procedure. However, if the settlement agreement is executed and the concourse user fee law adopted, the City would pay future user fees on foreclosed parcels."

Molino said it is normally against city policy to discuss ongoing litigation in public, but given the nature of the misstatements by Carlin to his clients, he wanted to clarify matters.

"Unfortunately, it appears from this letter that the merchants' attorney is attempting to reverse, back down or change the agreed upon settlement terms between the City and Merchants Association," Molino said. "While this is concerning on many levels, most concerning is the merchants' attorney is preventing the City and Merchant Association settlement terms from being executed, stopping the City from moving forward with the needed capital improvements to the concourse.

"Furthermore, after having expended close to $90,000 in legal fees over the last year (over $200,000 since 2009) without a signed settlement agreement, the letter from merchants' attorney appears to be an unfortunate attempt to deflect attention and blame. Sadly, the significant expenditures forced by the merchants' attorney suit and handling have drained substantial funds from the group's budget, and away from repairs and improvements of the mall."

Despite the disagreements, both Molino and Carlin said they are hopeful the 2008 lawsuit filed by the merchants can be settled.

"We are obviously disheartened by the turn of events in this case, but will persist in efforts to remain hopeful that cooler heads will reach a settlement consistent with the terms negotiated and agreed to in December and presented to you in February," Carlin wrote. 

Molino: "Regardless of this setback, the City remains hopeful that despite the merchants' attorney's obstructions to the settlement process, the original terms negotiated in good faith between the City and Merchants Association will be executed in the near future, and the mall can be improved, adding value to the merchants' properties and open to the door to future revitalization in the City’s Downtown."

March 15, 2017 - 3:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, City Centre Mall Association, mall, batavia, news.

City officials are wondering what's up with the settlement they reached with attorneys for the City Centre Mall Merchants Association. They thought the matter would be resolved by now, but apparently, the attorneys for the merchants haven't even shown the membership the final draft of the settlement agreement.

While City Manager Jason Molino said he has no reason to believe the settlement won't eventually be presented to the merchants and the settlement will be approved, the delay just means the city can't work on structural deficiencies in the concourse.  

"I would like to think that there is nothing that suggests the deal is going to fall apart," Molino said. "The issue is how do we get to the finishing line and get to the finishing line as expeditiously as possible, which is in the best interest of everyone in the community, the best interest of the property owners in here in the mall, and then we can start to talk about what we can do to trigger new growth and new investment in this concourse and in this mall. That's the most important thing to keep our eye on."

Mall Manager Madeline Bialkowski, who scheduled her retirement for April 1 to coincide with the settlement of the mall merchant's lawsuit being in place, said that merchants are waiting for a final draft of the settlement agreement from the attorneys.

Hugh Carlin is the attorney representing the City Centre Mall Merchants Association. 

Yesterday, we asked Carlin when the merchants would approve the settlement.

"I can't say yet," Carlin said. "Hopefully in the near future. There are a few more details we're working on."

Asked what those details might be since his side had already agreed to a settlement, Carlin said, "I can't comment." Pushed for clarification, he repeated, "I can't comment."

According to documents obtained by The Batavian through a Freedom of Information Law request, the merchants have paid their attorneys $212,056 since starting the litigation against the city in 2009.

In February of 2015, The Batavian reported that the association had spent $103,317 on the lawsuit. The tab has gone up another $108,738 according to documents obtained through the FOIL request.

The city, through the same period, has spent $168,070 on attorney fees, with $63,872 being added since February 2015.

"The city has done everything it can prior to the lawsuit (to reach an agreement), during the lawsuit and now, having entered into terms we've agreed to to end the lawsuit in a way that is expedient and in the best interest of everyone," Molino said. "Now, we're still having challenges with the mall's legal counsel."

The lack of an agreement is delaying Bialkowski's retirement. She's agreed to stay on until the settlement is finalized, but she and her friends are still going ahead with a retirement party at Ken's Pits on March 30 because she anticipates she will be retired not long after that, she said.

The association and the city had a long-simmering dispute over who is responsible for repair and maintenance of the mall concourse. According to a 1987 settlement, the merchants' association was supposed to take control of the city-owned concourse on April 1, 2000.

The settlement agreement the city and the attorneys for merchants agreed to during the first week of February puts the burden back on the city to repair and maintain the concourse. That's a task Molino said the city is eager to take on because that's the only way all of the necessary repairs will take place so the mall becomes once again a viable business investment.

The City Council approved the settlement Feb. 27.  Each owner of properties in the mall must individually sign off on the agreement or submit a motion to the court to show cause for not agreeing to the settlement.

The city is ready to get started, he said, as soon as the merchants approve the agreement.

"The city is in position and we're ready to move," Molino said. "We're ready to take this 17-acre area and take on the responsibility to move it into a better position so that in the future it triggers investment."

There's a lot of work to be done but that doesn't apparently include mitigating mold.

Contrary to reports in other media outlets, there is no evidence of mold in the mall, Molino said.  

The speculation for mold in the mall apparently comes from an interview Ron Viele, a local contractor, gave to a reporter. We placed calls yesterday afternoon and early this afternoon seeking clarification but Viele has not returned our calls.

We did speak to Paul Viele, Ron's son and a member of the City Council. He said he didn't participate in the interview with his father but did say "it's possible" there is mold in the mall, especially given the leaks and moisture in the mall.

He said the city should hire a professional to evaluate whether there is mold.

"We don't do that kind of work," Viele said. "We're contractors."

Until the merchants' attorneys move forward with the settlement, it would be up to the mall association to hire a contractor to deal with any potential mold, Molino said.

However, he said, as part of the settlement process, a third-party consultant was brought in to evaluate the mall concourse. Molino said he can't release that report, even as part of a FOIL request, because it's part of the technically ongoing litigation, but that consultant found no evidence of mold, he said.

As for whether it's possible, of course, it's possible, Molino said. It's also possible, he said, that if you have forced-air heating in your home that you have mold in your home. In fact, if you haven't had your ducts cleaned in a long time, it's likely. That doesn't mean the mold is harmful. It depends on the type of mold and a person's sensitivity to it.  It would take a professional, not just somebody looking up at the ceiling, to determine if mold is present. (Here's what the CDC says about the health risks of mold.)

February 7, 2017 - 9:31pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, City Centre Mall Association, batavia, mall.

Update, 11 a.m., Feb. 8:

Contacted by The Batavian this morning, Robert Chiarmonte, Mall Merchants Association board chairperson, would not comment on Tuesday's meeting.

"I've been advised by counsel (attorney) to not speak about the negotiations," Chairmonte said.

He did say that another meeting is planned and it will be "soon."

City Centre business owners and managers met Tuesday afternoon with Mall Merchants Association leadership and attorneys to learn the details of a proposal to end a 10-year dispute with the City of Batavia over the condition of the structure's roof.

A person close to the negotiations said a mediator had been called in to facilitate an out-of-court settlement over who is responsible for the maintenance of the mall's leaky roof.

City Manager Jason Molino said the two sides "continue to work toward a mutual agreement, with ongoing discussions" focused on settling the issue "outside of court, if possible."

February 6, 2017 - 4:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in city centre, City Centre Mall Association, batavia, news, mall.

Both sides have agreed to drop their lawsuits against each other in the years-long battle over who is responsible for the condition of the roof over City Centre, City Manager Jason Molino told WBTA this afternoon.

The City Centre Mall Merchants Association is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss a proposed settlement, according to a document acquired by WBTA.

The agreement will include an out-of-court settlement, Molino said, but he declined to reveal when the settlement will be made public.

The merchants have long maintained that the city is responsible for repairing the mall's leaky roof while the city has asserted that the mall association failed to keep up with routine maintenance. 

Via The Batavian's news partner, WBTA.

January 13, 2015 - 6:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, mall, city centre, genesee country mall.

There was a degree of frustration on all sides in council chambers Monday night over the long-simmering dispute over the state of the downtown mall after a resident raised the issue during public comments.

Some council members initially joined in the call of Richard Richmond to have the state's comptroller's office audit the city's legal fees associated with the city's dispute and the current lawsuit with the Mall Merchants Association.

Molino noted, however, that the city was audited last year and no irregularities related to legal bills were found.

He also asked what the goal of such an audit would be. The legal fees are public record and have been released before.

Richmond said he would like to see an itemized list of attorney fees for the mall, even suggesting audio go back six years to check for any inadvertent double billing.

The city's financial statements are scrutinized every year by an independent accountant, Molino told the council, and "they report any fraud or inconsistencies."

There have been no such reports.

Last year, resident John Roach issued a public records request and received documents showing the city's legal fees related to mall litigation, but some material was redacted if it could reveal information covered by attorney-client privilege. 

An audit, Molino suggested, would not necessarily uncover the kind of information perhaps some think it might.

"The comptroller is not going to provide you with guidance on what you pay for what services," Molino said. "They're not going to come in and tell you you're paying too much for police services, you're paying too much for fire services or you're paying too much for this."

Council members such as John Deleo expressed concern about how much was being spent on mall litigation and compared the years-long conflict with the mall association to a messy divorce that has gone on too long.

More than just the legal fees, perhaps, Deleo said, "people are concerned about the mall and the 57 buckets and how long does this divorce will go on."

After the meeting, Molino hinted at his own frustration with five or six years of disputes over the mall, but also expressed hope that a once-and-for-all solution can be reached during legal negotiations.

The condition of the mall and the disputes over the mall create a perception problem, Molino said, that could hold back redevelopment and brownfield development.

"It does not help the long-term success of the city nor the long-term success of the businesses and the redevelopment potential downtown, so, yes, it does hurt," Molino said. "It hurts everybody. I think everybody's business involved is going to benefit when it's resolved, and the city as a whole, and the community, will be able to get through this, and I hope it's a milestone that we can get past and say we were able to get past that hurdle."

There is an openness, Molino believes, to finding a solution to the disputes that led to the lawsuit, the involves negotiation and not further litigation.

"I think both parties want to resolve this issue and it's just a matter of coming together to find common ground that is going to meet everybody's needs," Molino said.

January 25, 2010 - 9:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, mall, city centre.

City Fire is being dispatched to 1 City Centre, section 8A, to investigate the odor of wires burning.

UPDATE 10:31 a.m.: Engine 12 went back in service a few minutes ago.

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