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Masse Gateway Project

Creamy Creations cuts ribbon on new space in Masse Gateway

By Howard B. Owens

After years of cramped quarters in their office on Washington Avenue, Batavia, Creamy Creations cut the ribbon today on their new space in Masse Gateway.

The company now has 7,000 square feet for its laboratory, storage and offices to serve customers throughout the Western Hemisphere.

"We’re definitely optimistic about the future," said Barbara Van Hoorn, VP of the Americas for Creamy Creations. "There’s room to grow and we anticipate hiring more people in the future."

Creamy Creations is a subsidiary of FrieslandCampina, which is based in the Netherlands. Three FrieslandCampina executives were in Batavia for the ribbon cutting, including Roelof Josten, COO of FrieslandCampina (above, Van Hoorn and Josten perform the ribbon cutting).

Currently, Creamy Creations employs nine people in Batavia, with a 10th person starting next week and immediate plans to hire another sales person.

The company creates emulsified beverages, both containing alcohol and nutritional drinks. Many of its drinks are created for and in cooperation with O-AT-KA.

Van Hoorn said the company was created after Bailey's introduced Irish Cream in 1974 in response to customer requests to develop similar products. The company moved from Wisconsin to Batavia in 1993, in part to be closer to O-AT-KA. It now services beverage companies from Chili to Canada.

Creamy Creations is Masse's first official tenant. Merrill Lynch is expected to open an office in the redevelopment project by the end of the summer. Owner and manager Tom Mancuso said Mancuso Development Group is in active negotiations to fill the remaining 48,000 square feet.

Steven Alexander, from the Netherlands, is managing director of Creamy Creations.

Tom Mancuso

Merrill Lynch announces new office in Masse Gateway

By Howard B. Owens

Masse Gateway -- a redevelopment project partially funded by NYS grants -- has its second tenant.

Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management is building a new office -- that someday could employ 18 people -- in one of the former tractor factory buildings.

Martin G. Anderson, a director out of the Buffalo office, said Merrill Lynch has had its eye on Batavia for five years and those long-range plans are just coming to fruition.

"We know our clients in Batavia do not want to drive to Buffalo or Rochester to do business," Anderson said.

The office will initially open with 11 employees, including some brokers who were once with the old Smith Barney office in Batavia and jump shipped years ago to Merrill Lynch.

"This is going to be a bit of a homecoming for them," Anderson said.

Among them is Joshua Dent, a Bethany native who will manage the new office.

Previously, local business Creamy Creations announced it was moving to Masse Gateway.

There is 60,000 square feet available in the redevelopment project.

Merrill Lynch anticipates opening the office Aug. 1.

Top photo: Anderson and Dent with Julie Pacette, community development coordinator and Tom Mancuso, owner of Masse Gateway. Bottom photo, Mancuso, Dent and Anderson with City Manager Jason Molino during a meeting with the local media.

Creamy Creation becomes first tenant of Masse Gateway project

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Mancuso Business Development Group is proud to announce that Creamy Creation LLC will be the first new business in the Masse Place redevelopment project.

An international leader in the development and production of cream-based beverages, the Creamy Creation team will be growing into over 7,000 square feet of office, laboratory and storage space.  Construction will begin as soon as plans and approvals are finalized to renovate a portion of the empty industrial building for their unique operations.

Creamy Creation entered the North American market in the early '90s with a one-person sales office located in La Crosse, Wis. In 1995, the U.S. operations relocated to Batavia, NY in the heart of New York dairy country.

Partnering with Genesee County's O-AT-KA Milk Products resulted in a steady source of top quality New York milk and cream as well as a competent and dedicated workforce. Creamy Creation opened a new production facility on the grounds of O-AT-KA in 2008 and its staff has since grown to nine people. Plans are in place to add two more people in 2012.

More than 60,000 square feet of flex space for office and commercial uses in a park-like setting was created at Masse Place by the partial demolition and creative revitalization of a portion of the Batavia Industrial Center.

“These buildings that were originally built in 1907 now have new utilities and facades so that we can attract businesses and jobs for the 21st Century to Batavia,” said B. Thomas Mancuso, SIOR, the president of the Mancuso Business Development Group.

The Masse Place redevelopment effort started in 2004 as a result of the City of Batavia’s Central Corridor Redevelopment Plan. Actual demolition did not begin until the summer of 2010 and the initial phase of improvements was just completed this August.

Work begins on Masse Gateway Project

By Howard B. Owens

Construction -- or rather, destruction -- has begun on the Masse Gateway Project.

The project is intended to turn the old factory buildings of Masse-Harris/Harvester into modern office and light industrial space. The first phase involves knocking down the buildings at the end of Masse Place to create an entryway into the facility.

The project is expected to cost $3.1 million and is being partially funded by a $1.5 million RestoreNY grant. Mancuso Development Group, the property owner, will cover the balance of expenses.

The project is expected to lead to productive use of all the old factory buildings in the complex, as can be seen in the artist rendering below. Included in the concept was a portion of the old Wiard Plow factory building, which was destroyed in an alleged arson fire in May. A representation of the destroyed structure can be seen in the lower right of the rendering.

Mancuso: Destruction of Wiard Plow building is set back for redevelopment

By Howard B. Owens

The destruction of one of the Wiard Plow buildings in a massive fire Saturday will have the Mancuso Business Development Group going back to the drafting table, said owner Tom Mancuso on Monday night.

The very structure that was destroyed, despite its deteriorated condition, was a key building in redevelopment plans, Mancuso said.

"There's a lot to sort out and I still haven't processed it all yet," Mancuso said. "We need to understand what steps we need to take. We'll need to take some time and re-evaluate the viability of redevelopment."

Mancuso and the City of Batavia received a grant from RestoreNY for the Masse Gateway Project last year, which is the first phase of redevelopment of the million-plus square feet of industrial buildings that encompass the Harvester Center, the Masse building and the Wiard Plow structures.

Masse Gateway is intended to open an attractive entryway, featuring renovated Masse buildings off of Masse Place, into the entire Masse-Harvester-Wiard complex.

While the fire won't disrupt the Masse Gateway plans, Mancuso said, the building that was destroyed would have been redeveloped as early as phase two, and certainly by phase three.

The building was included in a RestoreNY grant that was rejected by the state a few years ago, Mancuso said, stressing its importance to his redevelopment plans.

"Now we have to move forward," Mancuso said. "I just don't know as we speak what that looks like."

The Wiard Plow building loss was a stunning blow, Mancuso admitted. When the buildings were acquired by the Mancuso Group in the 1980s it was with the intention to eventually redevelop the property, he said.

Mancuso even turned down offers a few years ago from construction firms that wanted to recover the beams in the building. Those developers offered to take the building down at no cost just to remove the heavy timber, but Mancuso turned down those offers because redevelopment rather than destruction was the goal.

"We bought the building to keep it from being torn down, so it is hard," Mancuso said. "It's not the way we wanted to see it go."

As for the bricks, which some people have speculated have some value, he said those evaluations might be overstated, but he would certainly entertain purchase offers for the old masonry.

Even as he takes a look at the viability of redevelopment, Mancuso said he is hopeful there will be a way to move forward.

UPDATE: In a comment on another post, Dennis Wight posted a link to the Masse Swan Village planning document (PDF) available on the City of Batavia's Web site. It clearly shows that the building destroyed in the fire was not intended to be one of the buildings left standing in the renovated complex. When we spoke last night, Tom Mancuso said he was leaving town for a few days. I have, however, left messages for him. I'll try to clarify this issue with him the next time we can talk.

Photo: One of the last photos ever taken from inside the Wiard Plow factory. It was snapped by The Batavian following a 1:40 p.m. fire on Saturday -- six hours before the second, more destructive fire. For the other three final photos available, click here

Masse Gateway Project takes first step on development approval process

By Howard B. Owens

However slowly and incrementally, the ball is rolling forward on the Masse Gateway Project.

Tonight, property owner Tom Mancuso presented preliminary development plans to the Batavia Planning Board. The plans, sort of a rough sketch of the project, are the first step in an approval process that will involve a few agency reviews and more than a couple of public meetings.

Tonight's meeting was an opportunity for the planning board to see the plans for the first time and offer feedback, before Mancuso invests fully in project planning.

"We’re trying to move forward as quickly as possible, so the first step was to come here and get a review," Mancuso said after the meeting. "We need to do that before we do an application for a demolition permit, which we would like to do as soon as possible. We’re just finalizing construction funding. And just trying to get the appropriate approval so we can move forward as quickly as possible."

Mancuso said he hopes to have a demolition permit within 30 to 60 days.

The Masse Gateway Project will open up the former Masse/Harvester manufacturing plant to an entrance off Masse Place. The initial opening and refurbishing of the buildings around the entrance will potentially bring new business tenants into that part of the facility and help spur further redevelopment of the property into a mix-used business park.

The project is funded in part by a $1.5 million RestoreNY grant.

Mancuso said there is a lot of interest in the space from prospective tenants, but they do want to know when space will be available.

"The activity’s been good," Mancuso said. "It’s just that the hold-up that will continue to be an issue, is the delivery date. People need to know when we can get them in there and we can’t tell them that right now. There’s plenty of interest. It’s going to be a neat looking space. We’re going to be stymied until we can give them a delivery date."

The project plans will need to be reviewed at a city and county level for environmental impact, drainage, parking, Main-Street access, signage, use of utilities, lighting and code compliance. There are unlikely to be many applications for variances from current code, Planning Board Chairman Ed Jones noted, but he also suggested the City Council may want to take an active role in the environmental review process.

"Given that the source of the funding is coming from the city, this may very well be something that the City Council may want to take on as lead-agency status," Jones said. "This is going to be a high visibility project."

Masse Gateway Project

By Bea McManis

The view from my window (sorry, it was taken through a screen).  Will that view change?

Mancuso ready to move forward with Masse project with grant in place

By Howard B. Owens


At a press conference this morning, Tom Mancuso, president of Mancuso Development, said he was "delighted" the state approved a $1.5 million grant to help advance the Masse Gateway Project.

Even though the grant was $1 million less than originally requested by the city, Mancuso said the project should still be able to move forward.

It will cost at least $3.1 million and create an entrance off Masse Place into the Harvester industrial complex. The plan is to turn the old buildings into space suitable or light industrial and commercial uses for small businesses.

Mancuso said the the funding "really entitles us to spend a lot more money." In addition to the planned private investment from Mancuso Development, Mancuso implied his company will also need to come up with an additional $1 million to complete the project.

Audio: Tom Mancuso talks about the project.

The Batavian's news partner, WBTA, covered the press conference.

State grant for Masse Gateway comes in at $1.5 million

By Howard B. Owens

The city's application for a $2.5 million grant to help spark redevelopment of Masse Gateway (part of the Harvester Center complex) has been reduced to $1.5 million in the final award.

The city received word today that the funds will be released to the City, according to The Batavian's news partner WBTA.

City Manager Jason Molino told WBTA that the RestoreNY funds were intended to begin demolition and reconstruction of Masse Place.

"It's our hope that this will be the beginning of opportunities to develop that former industrial site into some more commercial and light industrial locations for businesses and hopefully increase jobs in the area," Molino said.

UPDATE: City Council President Charlie Mallow issued this statement this afternoon:

After decades of political inaction and stonewalling, our city has finally taken the first step forward to rebuild its decaying center. This could not have been possible without our City Manager and his staff. Their hard work and determination has brought millions of dollars in grants, as well as financial stability to our community over the last two years. I also want to thank Mr. Mancuso for believing in and investing in our city. Batavia can only prosper when business people like Mr. Mancuso are willing to take a chance and invest their own hard earned money into our community. I would like to give a special thanks to Governor Patterson and his staff for taking the time to understand the needs of our city and ensuring that Batavia receives its share of federal and state dollars to help stimulate our local economy.

Previous Masse Gateway Project coverage.

Masse Gateway assessment changed, could improve grant chances

By Howard B. Owens

Rose Mary Christian's call to RestoreNY about the Masse Gateway Project caused a bit of a stir at the last City Council meeting, but it also helped uncover a mistake in the grant application, Joanne Beck reports.

It turns out, the property in question doesn't carry an assessed value of $825,000, but $278,000.

Both City Manager Jason Molino and City Council President Charlie Mallow said the change in the grant application will actually improve the city's chances of winning funding.

"I think it adds to the application," he (Molino) said Tuesday. "Unfortunately we didn't have a unanimous vote. Overall, it's still a great project; it's got a decent chance of getting funding."

Rosemary Christian casts lone vote against Masse Gateway Project funding

By Howard B. Owens

At tonight's special council meeting, there wasn't too much debate about the three resolutions authorizing the city to apply for RestoreNY funding to spur development of the Masse Gateway Project, but there was tussle over individual council members should be contacting state agencies and possibly subverting the will of the council.

Prior to the vote, council member Rosemary Christian asked a series of questions and made statements that indicated she had been in contact with RestoreNY officials, possibly suggesting the city should not pursue the grant.

Marianne Clattenburg raised a point of order, asking whether it was appropriate for individual council members to contact state agencies about pending council business.

City Attorney George Van Nest said such conduct was inconsistent with City Council rules and the city charter.

When Clattenburg raised an objection to council members making such contact, Christian interrupted and said that she would make such contact if she thought it was necessary.

At that point, City Council President Charlie Mallow handed out a copy the council rules.

"It says council members can't act as individual members," Mallow said.

Council member Kathy Briggs asked a clarifying question: Can a council member ask purely information questions of another agency, without expressing any views? Van Nest said yes.

It's unclear whether Christian contacted RestoreNY on a purely information basis or conveyed information that could run counter to the council vote.

Speaking of the vote, all three resolutions passed with only Christian voting no and Council member Bob Bialkowski abstaining because of a potential conflict of interest.

After the meeting, property owner Tom Mancuso said: "I"m very grateful that the council saw this as a worthwhile project support and now I hope the state will agree."


UPDATE: Joanne Beck posted her coverage tonight, as well.

UPDATE: Dan Fischer at WBTA posted a bit of the conflict on audio. Listen here.

Masse Gateway Project up for council vote Monday

By Howard B. Owens

Three resolutions enabling Batavia to apply for a RestoreNY grant for the Masse Gateway Project are on the agenda of the City Council on Monday.

The council meets in a special business session to consider the resolutions at 7 p.m.

There is no public comment time scheduled on the agenda of this meeting.

The resolutions authorize the application to RestoreNY, provide for a municipal expense match for the project, and designate the city as the lead agency.

Following the special business session, the council will meet to consider several other items. Among the items on the agenda:

  • Batavia Minor League baseball wants to build new restrooms at its facility at MacArthur Park. This would reqire the league to raise funds to build the restrooms, but since the land is owned by the city, the league will be required to donate the restrooms to the city once they are completed. The council will consider a resolution authorizing the project and accepting the donation.
  • There is concern that the Bank Street cross walk isn't safe enough, especially for older people going to and from the senior services center on Bank. The council will consider three low-cost options for improving safety at the cross walk, including repainting the cross walk, adding removable "rumble strips" that remind drivers to slow down, and installing a no left turn sign for drivers coming from the YMCA parking lot.

Video: Tom Mancuso talks about Masse Gateway Project

By Howard B. Owens

After the public hearing last night, Dan Fischer of WBTA and I spoke with Tom Mancuso, of Mancuso Development Group, about the Masse Gateway Project.  Mancuso has been on vacation, so the public has not yet heard from him on the proposal, so this video represents the full interview.

Masse Gateway Project public hearing draws light turnout

By Howard B. Owens

Maybe it was the time, as one speaker noted, but for as controversial as the Masse Gateway Project has seemed, the turnout at tonight's public hearing was disappointing. Only five people got up to speak.

Below are videos of each of the speakers. Note that I didn't necessarily capture the entire speeches of each person, though in some cases I did.


Cox and Christian raising questions about proposed Masse Gateway Project

By Howard B. Owens

Council members Bill Cox and Rosemary Christian tell Joanne Beck they're representing the concerns of their constituents in raising a long-list of questions about the proposed Masse Gateway Project.

A hearing on the project -- a prerequisite to the city apply for a state grant to help fund development -- is scheduled for tomorrow at 5 p.m.

Both Christian and Cox recently sent a list of questions to City Manager Jason Molino to get answers about the project. In his letter to Molino, Cox said that "private contractors and developers in the city have also raised the concern that often with Genesee County Economic Development Center projects no competitive bidding is done and local contractors frequently do not even get invited to bid, which would create local jobs using local people," he said. "Collectively all of these citizens and local businesses have raised some valid points which need some answers and explanations before we vote on the application and hopefully before the public hearing."

Neither councilman has anything against the principal Masse Place property owner, Tom Mancuso or Mancuso Business Development, they said. But both have gotten calls from residents and are trying to represent those concerns

The list of questions, which Beck includes, should serve as good fodder for the hearing tomorrow night. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: This afternoon I e-mailed City Council President Charlie Mallow for his comments on the Daily article and here is his response:

Questions are always good if your goal is to help move the city forward and avoid mistakes. That is a Council person’s job.

In the end our residents need real jobs and a turnaround in our local business climate. It is easy to oppose solution after solution; it is very hard to create alternatives. Batavia is stagnant because of the failure to reignite our central corridor and years of ineffective political leadership on this issue. There is this idea that doing nothing is seen as a better alternative than taking any action. Real leaders take point; they don’t throw rocks from the rear.  

Batavia council schedules public hearing on Masse Gateway Project

By Howard B. Owens

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

City may seek $2.5 million state grant to help with Masse Gateway Project

By Howard B. Owens

The Batavia City Council will consider asking the state a second time for Restore NY funding to help launch the Massee Gateway redevelopment project.

Should the city go forward with the application, Restore NY could provide up to $2.5 million of the estimated $3.15 million cost of the project, which could potentially lift the assessed property tax value of the area from $800,000 to anywhere from $3 million to $5 million.

The remaining $650,000 of funds needed for the project would come from in-kind and cash matches from the City of Batavia and Mancuso Business Development Group (the property owner).

The match comes, according to a memo released by the City Manager's Office, from $400,000 of prior work on the project by Mancuso, a $50,000 in-kind match from the city (meaning inspection time, site plan review and grant oversight) and $200,000 available from a 1982 Urban Development Action Grant.

"The City's contributions to this project will not effect the general fund expenses or require any financial burden or support from the tax levy," City Manager Jason Molino writes in his memo.

The council meets in special session Monday at 7 p.m. to consider the application.

The goal of the project is to demolition and refurbish buildings near Masse Place, between Swan Street and Harvester Avenue. About 40,000 square feet of building would be demolished and another 200,000 120,000 square feet restored.

In using $200,000 from the UDAG fund, the city will draw down the grant money, which has been used for a revolving loan and grant program to help establish small businesses in Batavia. Molino's memo says current economic conditions has made issuing small business loans and assisting economic development difficult.

A memo from consultant Stu Brown about the application states, "Recent discussions with the owner of the complex indicates that he is proceeding with the plans for the project. The approval of a major state grant would enable the project to move forward much more quickly and permit the owner and the city to achieve the goals for the redevelopment of this important site."

The city applied for Restore NY funding for the Massee project once before and the application was denied.

The Restore NY application is due by May 4. Should the council pass the appropriate resolution Monday, there would be a public hearing on the application Aprill 22 at 5 p.m.

Download: Part 1 of Council Packet (PDF) for Monday's meeting, which includes Jason Molino's memo.


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