More jobs and a bigger tax base were the selling points in Batavia's council chamber last night as City Manager Jason Molino pitched a proposed redevelopment plan for the Masse Gateway Project.
To get the project going, the city, and property owner Mancuso Business Development Group, could use an immediate cash infusion of $2.5 million from a state program known as RestoreNY.
The application deadline for the program is fast approaching and by a unanimous vote, the council approved a resolution to hold a public hearing on the proposal on April 22 at 5 p.m.
“The Masse Gateway Project does meet the criteria of the program and the city is going to be in a fairly strong position to score well on the application," consultant Stuart I. Brown told the council.
To score well, Molino and Brown told the council, it is necessary to provide a 26 percent local match, or about $650,000 above the requested grant amount. A mere 10 percent, or even 17 or 18 percent, might not cut it because Batavia doesn't qualify, under RestoreNY guidelines, as a distressed urban area.
The entire project is expected to cost $3.15 million, with the matching funds coming from in-kind services ($50,000 in staff time for inspections and simliar services), $400,000 in prior work and in-kind matches from Mancuso, and $200,000 from the city's revolving loan fund for small-business start-ups.
The BDC loan funds were an area of some concern because Mancuso is not expected to pay any of that money back to the fund, but Molino explained that under terms of original grant that created the fund, using the money for a job-growth project such as Masse is acceptable.
He also explained that currently the BDC has $400,000 cash available and $200,000 in outstanding loans, so the BDC board felt confident that there would be enough money left in the loan program to fund future small business start-ups.
This is the second time Batavia has applied for RestoreNY funds. The first application was rejected, Molino speculated, because the city asked for only a 10 percent match and the plan submitted was not comprehensive enough.
Stu Brown added that the 10 percent match included in the plan was largely for planning work aready done and not new development work, which may have been a problem.
“In my experience and after looking over the RestoreNY guidelines, it is my strong recommendation that the city over match the requirements," Brown said.
Architect Ed Smart also explained a bit about the anticipated development, saying that the key to making the entire Central Corridor Project (PDF) viable was improving the edges. The edge work, he said, would make the entire 27-acre area more attractive to developers, investors and businesses looking for new locations.
“Each of the proposed uses would be more job-growth intensive than the previous uses, Smart said, later adding: “When the business incubator first started, there were businesses looking for 20,000 or 30,000 square feet of space, but today’s businesses want much smaller spaces.”
Some council members asked about the immediate potential for residential uses in the project (which is part of the larger Central Corridor Project), and Smart said residential really wasn't part of the plan right now out of concern there simply wouldn't be demand during this phase of development.
"Building 16 is really versatile and could serve as business lofts or residential lofts," Smart said. "But there is a lot (as in other development) that would have to happen around the building to make it an attractive place for residents to want to live there."
Previously: City may seek $2.5 million state grant to help with Masse Gateway Project