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Projects pushing rebirth of Geneva

Ask the city leaders and they will say Geneva is in the midst of a renaissance.
The city, home to some 14,000 people and located on the eastern edge of Ontario County, is seeing two downtown development projects-totaling some $13 million in investments-that officials hope will spur economic development and expand the city’s tourism base.
“There are some big changes happening here that should have a positive impact on the city,” City Manager Richard Rising said.
Two blocks downtown consisting of mainly vacant, deteriorated buildings recently were demolished for the Lake and Exchange streets project. The city has received about $3 million in grants for various parts of the project, plus there is up to $2 million available it can draw from a low-interest federal loan.
The project includes a $5 million, 55-bed Hampton Inn being developed by Christopher Iversen, president of Chrisanntha Inc. of Gorham, who also developed the Ramada Inn Geneva Lakefront on Route 5 and Route 20.
The hotel should open this summer at Lake and Exchange streets, the former site of Patti’s Lakeview Diner. The project includes a new bus station and taxi service in the former Sampson Glass building on Lake Street and a park.
City officials also are trying to secure money for a train station that would be built on Canal Street.
Rising said at the core of the plan, was “the desire to support and improve the connections to downtown and the lakefront,” as well as help Geneva’s claim to be the “Gateway to the Finger Lakes” in terms of transportation.
The development has spurred improvements throughout downtown, he added, noting since work started last year, many businesses in the area have spruced up their stores, including D&R Furniture and Universal Appliance Service, both on Exchange Street. The business owners have said part of the reason for their improvements was the new projects downtown.
The improvements also helped catch the attention of those at Lyons National Bank, who were looking to move out of leased space on nearby Seneca Street and build a site downtown.
Lyons National plans to build a 5,600-square-foot bank and a 7,200-square-foot adjoining retail and office building from 399 to 401 Exchange St., next to the project at Lake and Exchange streets. There will be drive-up teller windows, a 24-hour ATM and a parking lot. The bank worked with Mossien Associates Architects P.C. of Rochester on the building’s design.
Ground was broken on the bank project last week. The $3.7 million project is being paid for with more than $2.4 million from the bank and a roughly $1.3 million state grant.
It will be the eighth branch built by the bank since 1995. Work is also under way on a 4,500-square-foot branch on Route 414A in Penn Yan.
Lyons National president and CEO Robert Schick said the Geneva branch should be open May 1. It will increase bank employees from roughly eight to 36 and is estimated to add 10 jobs in the adjoining office building, he said.
While there are benefits for the bank, namely tax credits and other incentives since the area is in the city’s Empire Zone, Schick said the new development is having a positive effect throughout downtown.
“You are really seeing the spirit of downtown pick up,” Schick said. “We are really, truly becoming the northern gateway to the Finger Lakes.”
In addition to the bank and office building, Baroody’s Cigar Store and the L&R Diner, which were in a building now demolished, were moved to 405 Exchange St. at the end of the block, which now is owned by Diane Trotta, owner of the diner.
“This is a great example of what private and public dollars can do together,” Schick said. “There are no losers in this.”
Both the hotel and bank have received payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements from the city’s industrial development agency. Under the agreements, the bank and hotel will receive either a property credit or reimbursement from the state on taxes paid there. The agreements provide 100 percent credit or reimbursement on taxes for the first 10 years. It will be reduced 20 percent each year through the 15th year of the agreement until the exemption is eliminated.
City officials said both would pay all city, county and school taxes, noting the reimbursement will come from the state. The amount of taxes both will pay will be determined when the properties are completed and assessed.
Rising said the benefits are the state’s way of creating new jobs and spurring economic development.
The bank and hotel also will receive sales tax exemptions for purchases related to construction for the projects, and the hotel is eligible for a mortgage recording tax exemption.
(adeckert@rbj.net / 585-546-8303)

11/12/04 (C) Rochester Business Journal


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