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redevelopment

July 13, 2015 - 9:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Millennials, population, batavia, business, redevelopment, downtown.

The U.S. Census Bureau put out a press release and the national media ate it up: There are now more people living in the United States who are classified as Millennials than there are Baby Boomers.

The Democrat & Chronicle got into the act by pointing out Millennials now outpace Baby Boomers in Monroe County.

There’s been no similar coverage in Erie County, but Buffalo has enjoyed a reputation for the past couple of years as one of the major cities young adults are helping to revitalize.

So where does that leave Genesee County?

Not on par, it seems.

While nationally, there are 83.1 million Millennials, comprising a quarter of the U.S. population, and the number of Baby Boomers has slipped to 75.4 million, the post-war cohort still rules the roost in the Batavia Micropolitan Area.

According to the Census Bureau Web site, there are 15,422 Baby Boomers locally compared to 14,670 Millennials.

Is Genesee County’s lagging Millennial population a trend that's important?

Absolutely, say those with the jobs related to the area’s development and growth.

“You definitely want to have Millennials in a community,” said Felipe Oltramari, the county planning director. “The next generation will create the jobs and opportunities for future generations to be here. As they become players with purchasing power, we want to make sure they are living here and they’re bringing more buying power and creating more jobs and running our community. From an economic development perspective, and social perspective, you want people here from all sorts of generations.”

The window of opportunity to anchor a small town with Millennials may be closing shortly, according to William Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

And it’s a critically important issue for the future of small cities.

“Most people settle down by age 35, and usually don’t move from one metro area to another after that,” Fuller wrote in an article for Governing.com. “And the demographic group behind the Millennials is a lot smaller. Just like Baby Boomers, the preferences of the Millennials will drive our society for two generations. They’re making location decisions based on their idea of quality of life. And they’re going to make all those decisions in the next few years -- by the time they’re 35.”

The good news, according to Fuller, is even if time is short, the goal is obtainable for small cities.

“Even Millennials … want to live near their families and near where they grew up, meaning that if you can create interesting places, they’re likelier to stay,” Fuller wrote. “And you don’t need the endless hip urban fabric of New York or D.C. to compete. You just need a few great neighborhoods for people to live and work in. For most cities, that’s an achievable goal.”

Interesting places, amenities, activities, culture and the opportunity to interact socially, these are the things planners say Batavia needs to retain and attract Millennials.

“I try to drive this point every time I speak,” Oltramari said. “This generation moves first and then finds a job. If you look, there are jobs here and available, but they want to be where their peers are.”

So how do we create an environment where Millennials want to live?

A key word: density.

According to research by Nielsen:

“Sixty-two percent indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants and offices. They are currently living in these urban areas at a higher rate than any other generation, and 40 percent say they would like to live in an urban area in the future. As a result, for the first time since the 1920s growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them.”

Tim Tielman, a Buffalo preservationist and development consultant, observed at a Landmark Society talk in 2013 that Batavia is hampering its ability create the kind of economic core that attracts Millennials and like-minded residents with its over-abundance of downtown parking.

"One of the biggest issues every city faces is dead zones," Tielman said. "Batavia has dead zones up and down its streets. Dead zones are devoid of commercial activity. You chain too many dead zones together and you destroy your local community."

When you build your commercial district around the car, the district loses its appeal to pedestrians, and when people walk and interact, commercial activity soars, the feeling of community is pervasive, and social and civic capital grows.

"It isn't cars that make a place a commercial success," Tielman said. "It's a success (based) on how well the human animal can get about certain places. It's what appeals and what stimulates them to walk."

More and more, City Manager Jason Molino said, he’s hearing people talk about walkability. Increasingly, it’s what all communities are after, and something — along with the companion concept bikeability — that Batavia is lacking.

“People want quality-of-life amenities,” Molino said. “People will commute a little bit if you don’t have the jobs in this area if they have the amenities.”

Molino got an immersive experience in the kind of lifestyle amenities that help bring vitality to an urban area. On a vacation day, he and his family visited a couple of the shopping districts in Buffalo and then stopped for dinner at Larkin Square. It was Food Truck Tuesday (video).

Larkin Square, part of what is now known as Larkinville, an area once known as the Larkin District, which is considered Buffalo’s first commercial district, was a rundown industrial warehouse neighborhood. Spurred by a $2 million public-private investment in 2009, the Larkin Building and surrounding cityscape was redeveloped and revitalized. It’s become a hot spot in Buffalo for retail, food and entertainment activity. Tielman was a consultant on the project.

“Two things were obvious to me,” Molino said. “You had people coming to the square right after work, Millennials coming right after work, but you also had the senior population and families — people interested in this kind of quality-of-life amenity with vendors, live music, a pavilion and seating area, and a grass area, and 20 food trucks, all reasonably priced.”

There’s an interesting intersection these days between what Millennials want and Empty-nesters want, Molino noted. They want to get away from the demands of suburban home ownership and the lack of a closely knit community fabric and they seek out walkable neighborhoods with plenty of retail, dining and entertainment options.

That’s what he saw throughout his vacation day with his family in Buffalo.

Steve Hyde’s spent some time recently in Larkinville as well and came away with the same observations.

“It’s a fabulous, vibrant place,” said Hyde, who is the president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC).

Hyde has been spending more time recently working with the City of Batavia to help secure funding and support for the city’s Batavia Opportunity Area, also known at the Brownfield Opportunity Area, or BOA.

The BOA plan is focused specifically on redevelopment of properties that are stalled in the revitalization pipeline in the Downtown area, such as the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street. Moving these projects forward would help advance further Downtown revitalization.

A look around town at all the underused and often dilapidated space might make revitalization feel like a daunting task, and though time is short to attract Millennials, Julie Pacatte, the economic development coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp., isn't feeling any pressure, at least in the sense that revitalization needs to occur before Millennials age out of relocating.

"I think we're fortunate that by the time people reach 35, they tend to move back here with their families," Pacatte said. "They want that smaller-town environment, where they know who's who and they like that feeling of community. We're fortunate it in that way, so no, I don't feel the pressure. I do think we have an opportunity to attract younger people sooner into our community and we're excited about that opportunity. I don't feel the pressure of it, but I certainly want to see something happen in a shorter time frame, in the next five years, in terms of turning some of these sites around."

Since the trend in cities across the country is toward density and mixed use, with greater demand for apartments in downtown areas, Batavia has backed several initiatives to convert underused or unoccupied space in Downtown into apartments, and Pacatte has been right in the middle of it.

She said the new apartments Downtown have certainly proven attractive to Millennials.

Molino agreed.

“All of our marketing studies show there is a demand for this kind of housing in Batavia,” Molino said. “People want to come to our area. It’s a core, central area.”

Part of the plan for Downtown is also creating more office space. Businesses that are founded by Millennials or that hire Millennials need space to relocate and grow, Pacatte said.

"A priority for us is drawing more people Downtown to live, work and shop," Pacatte said. "Millennials are the right target market for our Downtown plan."

While Hyde’s job is to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Genesee County, Molino’s focus is a little broader. He wants to see Batavia become a better place to live.

He believes Batavia is ideally suited to be a less-expensive alternative to Buffalo and Rochester for Millennials and Empty-nesters, even when they work in the larger neighboring counties.

“With mobility being what it is these days, if you draw a half-hour circle around Rochester and Buffalo, they’re going to intersect in Batavia,” Molino said. “If people at that half-hour distance as a reasonable community, where can they find those amenities? That’s going to be what sells communities to Millennials and Empty-nesters.”

Hyde said what has already been accomplished in Batavia is attracting Millennials. He knows because his daughter, who works in Rochester, and a roommate, who works in Buffalo, rented one of those Downtown apartments.

“They love it,” Hyde said. “Everything is in walking distance. There are restaurants and bars and things for them to do. We need more of that Downtown.”

A place for Millennials to land in Batavia will increase the impact of STAMP (Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park) if the GCEDC is successful in attracting the kind of high tech, nano tech, advanced materials, solar and bio-manufacturing the park is designed to accommodate. The companies that set up shop in STAMP are going to hire a lot of Millennials who will make good wages and want a lifestyle that is social and active.

Hyde believes Batavia needs to be ready for them, or miss the opportunity to secure future growth.

“We can be a bigger center of economic opportunity,” Hyde said. “We can create a hip, smaller center city with lots of lifestyle choices.”

The BOA is tuned to provide just that kind of boost.

"The opportunity is in front of us," Pacatte said. "We have to make our Downtown more attractive and through these BOA sites, we will really be able to transform the Downtown experience."

July 30, 2013 - 9:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, redevelopment.

It's an ambitious plan, one that takes in 366 acres in the heart of Batavia and targets at least five major areas for redevelopment, and it got a some favorable responses at a special public meeting Monday night.

"There have been a lot of plans done over the past 15 years and they have been shelved," said local businesswoman Mary Valle. "Now, we are ready to move forward. There are a lot of exciting things going on in the county and the city. I do believe the people are ready to support it and more forward."

Perhaps the most dramatic redevelopment proposal involves knocking down part of the downtown mall and extending Jackson Street north to Alva Place.

The plan would open up some of the mall concourse, improve parking and traffic circulation and improve development potential in the area, officials said.

An artist's rendering shows a new three-story, L-shaped building at the corner of the extended Jackson Street and Main as well as a new three-story building on the east side of the new Jackson Street, next to the existing Bank of Castile building.

"I like the idea that we are doing something," said Councilman Pier Cipollone. "I would prefer to see more retail come into the mall. I really like the idea of opening up the concourse.I would actually like to see the entire concourse opened up and create an open area walkway. I understand the notion of an indoor winter area, but I still thik it would make more sense to just open it up and give all those businesses access from the outside."

The plan also calls for redevelopment in and around the Della Penna building on Ellicott Street, to stretch down Evans toward Mill Street and along the railroad tracks almost to Jackson Street.

Included in what's known as the Batavia Opportunity Area is the Harvester Center -- which has already undergone some redevelopment with the Masse Place project -- and what the plan calls the medical corridor, which is the area east of Bank Street.

The plan builds on Batavia Central Corridor Urban Design, Marketing and Development Plan completed in 2006 and the recently completed Community Improvement Plan.

The planning phase is covered under a $260,000 state grant, the Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program.

The presentation, with artist renderings, is supposed to be posted on the Batavia Opportunity Area Web site some time this morning.

Story via The Batavian's official news partner, WBTA.

July 11, 2013 - 11:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, redevelopment.

Genesee County Economic Development Center -- through its financing arm, Genesee Gateway LDC -- is committing $500,000 to redevelopment projects in the City of Batavia as well as the business districts of Genesee County's towns and villages.

The money to start the new revolving loan fund is seeded from revenue generated for the LDC by the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, which in the last year has seen two companies construct yogurt plants there.

"Fortunately, some of the risks we've taken and some of our strategies we've taken have created some capital," said GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde said during a joint meeting Thursday of the GCEDC and LDC boards of directors. "I'm now recommending to the local development board to say, 'let's take some of the strategic investment money from the success of the ag park and reinvest it to support the redevelopment activities and revitalization here in the city and the business centers in the towns and villages.'"

The board approved the proposal unanimously.

The vote followed presentations by Batavia Development Corp. Economic Development Coordinator Julie Pacatte and City Manager Jason Molino.

The city, which is largely built out and has some aging industrial and commercial buildings, has been developing a strategy to pursue redevelopment, adaptive reuse and in-fill development.

An example of redevelopment, Pacatte said, is the Masse Gateway project, which took old manufacturing buildings and turned them into office buildings.

Adaptive reuse would be the project now under way to convert the former Carr's warehouse in Jackson Square into retail, office and apartment space.

In-fill would be the kind of project that Pacatte said needs to take place with the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street where there's one building on the property now and another could be added to create more density and expand the range of uses for the property.

"These projects are very difficult to fund," Pacatte said, "the Carr's warehouse for example. It was a warehouse. It's becoming residential and commercial. The condition of the building today, he (the buyer) would never get a traditional mortgage to do anything with that site, so he needed to start with a lot of equity. He has to look for some other opportunities so he can cash flow the project before the the grants will come in on the back end to reimburse him."

The kind of loans available through the new Batavia Micropolitan Redevelopment Fund could have helped the Carr's Warehouse project.

The loans will need to meet a long list of requirements to be granted and can range from $25,000 to $100,000 at 80 percent of prime.

To qualify, a developer would need to have at least a 30-percent equity stake in the project or already have another traditional bank loan in place. Collateral is required and the developer must make a personal guarantee for repayment.

Legislator Marrianne Clattenburg -- who both while City Council president and as a legislator has been critical of the scant attention GCEDC has seemed to pay to redevelopment in the city -- was pleased with today's decision and was on hand to witness the vote.

"It meets what I'm looking for," Clattenburg said. "It's a start. It's a beginning and it's gratifying to see the culmination of what I believe is a partnership that's forming and a recognition that the county development agency should be into redevelopment while it's doing greenfield development. I'm gratified it's coming about and I look forward to much more in the future."

For more than a decade, at least, GCEDC has been focused on building shovel-ready parks to attract manufacturing and other industrial businesses. Its biggest success so far, with the opening of the Alpina and Muller Quaker yogurt plants, has been the ag park.

The LDC will administer the loan fund. GCEDC could become involved in projects where tax abatements are needed to assist the redevelopment effort, Hyde said.

Molino said it's really been a collaborative effort to develop the new program.

"Developing this over the past few months has been a good opportunity for everybody and hopefully there will be more opportunities where the city, the BDC and the EDC can partner and take advantage of some of the development that's happening throughout the county and really help redevelop and improve some parts of the city," Molino said.

April 11, 2009 - 3:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Masse Gateway Project, redevelopment.

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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