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At last: DRI funding will restore Clinton & Main, other blighted downtown areas

Home Leasing's plan to redevelop four blighted buildings at or near the corner of East Main Street and North Clinton Avenue will receive $4 million in state funding through the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative
Home Leasing’s plan to redevelop four blighted buildings at or near the corner of East Main Street and North Clinton Avenue will receive $4 million in state funding through the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative. (Photo by Kevin Oklobzija)

Even as Dutton Properties tackled arduous rehabilitation of long-ignored properties in the 100 block of East Main Street, the eyesore at the corner remained: a deteriorating trademark of a bygone era.

Once a bustling center of commerce, the northwest corner of East Main Street and North Clinton Avenue for two decades or more has been a collection of blighted buildings begging for either demolition or rebirth.

Gov. Kathy Hochul at Monday's news conference to announce $10 million in Downtown Redevelopment Initiative funding
Gov. Kathy Hochul announces $10 million in Downtown Redevelopment Initiative funding on Dec. 6. (Photo courtesy of New York State governor’s office)

“You go by this and it just taunts people, it tells you there was once a place where people wanted to be, and we lost the luster,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “That symbol of urban decay has been crying out for a vision for a long time.”

Which is why, regardless of how nice Dutton Properties could make the refurbished Kresge and Edwards buildings look, the architectural carnage on the corner would always devalue the neighborhood.

“Properties that don’t get redeveloped and are blighted have an impact on properties around them,” said Vincent Esposito, senior vice president for regional economic development for Empire State Development.

Enter New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). Tasked with creating vibrant, walkable, economically thriving neighborhoods, the DRI is awarding state funding to cities and towns across New York to help bring their downtowns back to life.

Hochul announced on December 6 how $10 million in DRI funds would be split among five projects in the heart of downtown Rochester, with East Main and North Clinton as the cornerstone of the revitalization effort.

“Until Main and Clinton is vibrant again, Rochester won’t be fully back,” Hochul said. “This is about a vision for a part of the city where it was desperately needed.”

The projects to share funding:

  • $4 million for transformation of the four mixed-used buildings at Main and Clinton. Home Leasing is under contract to close on the purchase of the buildings by spring and begin creation of 11 workforce-rate housing units as well as four ground-level commercial spaces.
    “These are all important projects, but ours is probably the most important because it’s in the worst shape,” Home Leasing CEO Bret Garwood said.
  • $1.75 million to redevelop the Edwards Building (26-34 St. Paul St.) into 114 market-rate apartments as well as ground-floor commercial space. Dutton Properties is the developer.
  • $1.265 million to turn the Kresge Building in a 28-room boutique hotel, also by Dutton, with food and beverage establishments on the ground floor.
  • $1.385 million for development of Alta Vista by the Ibero-American Development Corp. on mostly unused parking lots between Pleasant and Franklin streets and North Clinton. The six-story, new-build would create 76 mixed-income housing units, with space reserved for survivors of domestic violence as well as the Landmark Society of Western New York.
  • $1.3 million for creation of Main Street Commons, an outdoor walkway featuring dining and libations that connects St. Paul Street to North Clinton. The goal is to divide one long “super block” into two pedestrian-friendly blocks.

“This will be transformational for our city,” Mayor Malik Evans said of the five projects.

Rochester was awarded the $10 million in DRI funding last year and was tasked with soliciting development proposals, vetting each one and then submitting its choices to the state for approval.City officials initially earmarked DRI money only for a two-block section of East Main Street, but the local planning committee expanded the development area approximately two blocks north and two blocks east. That enabled inclusion of the Ibero-American project.

“That’s why the process works,” Esposito said. “The local planning committee was able to bring forward that project. Now you have a six-story, multi-income housing unit on what otherwise has been unused surface lots.”
Home Leasing has been lining up funding for the proposed East Main/North Clinton project but needed the DRI support in order to move forward.

“This is the most important piece; this is the crucial piece,” Garwood said.

Said Esposito: “One purpose of the downtown redevelopment initiative, as Secretary of State (Robert) Rodriguez said, is to provide state support when redevelopment needs a little extra love.”

The approval of the project was a relief for the mayor and city officials, who have been embarrassed by the corner’s appearance.

“I kept saying it was an abomination, and I’m glad New York State agreed with us,” Evans said.

The refurbished building will be called The Mayflower, a tribute to the donut shop (Mayflower Doughnuts) that once graced the corner. While creation or re-creation of commercial real estate space is not Home Leasing’s forte, the building’s location makes it a necessary element, according to Garwood.

“We’re careful about how much commercial space we have but this needs to be non-residential,” Garwood said. “We’re pretty confident we will find the right tenant.”

Investing in five projects in one area at the same time ramps up the revitalization efforts, the governor said.
“This is a new era — this is a new beginning,” Hochul said. She said that with typical redevelopment, there is investment in one project.

“And every few years you can invest a few million and then you wait a few years and invest again,” she said. “Having that amount of money concentrated into one small, defined area, you can have a transformational impact. It’s going to look better at the same time. You will feel and experience the difference.”

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GCEDC to consider several project incentives in Batavia

The Genesee County Economic Development Center board of directors will consider proposals for $18.2 million of new investment at its July 1 meeting.

Gateway GS LLC, aka Gallina Development, is proposing to construct the third phase of its flex campus at the GCEDC’s Gateway II Corporate Park in the town of Batavia. The $2.36 million investment involves a 27,000-square-foot facility that would be complete in 2022 for a single logistics and distribution tenant.

The tenant is estimating creating 21 jobs at an average annual salary of $42,000. The GCEDC board will consider an initial resolution for the project; Gateway GS is seeking roughly $387,000 in sales, mortgage and property tax exemptions.

GCEDC also will consider a final resolution for Just Chez Realty LLC. The company is proposing a $450,000 building redevelopment project as part of the city of Batavia’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The project would renovate some 6,000 square feet of a more than 13,000-square-foot building at 206 E. Main St. to create two market-rate apartments on the second floor.

Just Chez is seeking $21,000 in sales tax exemptions.

The board also will consider an initial resolution for two community solar projects on Ellicott Street Road in the town of Batavia. Trousdale Solar LLC is proposing projects that would generate 5 MW and 4 MW of electricity. The payments in lieu of taxes would result in payments of roughly $930,000 to the Batavia City School District and Genesee County over 15 years.

Trousdale Solar is seeking roughly $2.5 million in property and sales tax exemptions.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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Mixed-use redevelopment project begins in downtown Batavia

Construction has begun on a $2.5 million mixed-use redevelopment project in Batavia as part of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The Ellicott Place project, which was awarded $1.15 million through Batavia’s $10 million 2017 DRI win, will improve a nearly 50,000-square-foot building by renovating 10,000 square feet of vacant first-floor space for commercial use and add first-floor interior parking, 10 second-floor apartments, a new elevator and façade upgrades.

Once complete, the project is expected to create roughly 30 jobs in the newly developed commercial space.

“The DRI award continues to support projects that are revitalizing downtown Batavia. The City of Batavia welcomes investments like the Ellicott Place that are producing more commercial activity and creating more market-rate housing in our downtown and more vitality for our city,” said Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr.

Managed by Empire State Development, the project is located at 45-47 Ellicott St. in Batavia’s downtown. The building originally was constructed for a department store and now is occupied by a retail grocer that uses roughly half of the first level. The remainder of the structure is vacant.

“Having another of our downtown buildings transformed is an achievement in Genesee County’s economic growth,” said Genesee County Economic Development Center President and CEO Steve Hyde. “The housing demand created by economic growth in our county is being answered by great projects like Ellicott Place, and I thank our leaders at the state for providing the DRI’s benefits across a wide range of opportunities in Batavia.”

V.J. Gautieri Constructors will construct the project, which will re-activate the entire building and bring additional activity and residents to downtown Batavia.

“The continued revitalization of our community through dedicated donations and the hard work of community members shows just how strong Western New York is,” said Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia. “I’m thrilled to see that redevelopment of Ellicott Place is well on its way to starting, and like many other members of the community, I eagerly anticipate seeing the fruits of the labor of this project.”

The Strategic Investment Plan for downtown Batavia is working with private partners and local assets to implement the other eight projects awarded funding through the DRI. The projects will create opportunities for economic development, transportation, housing and community projects that align with the community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are ready for implementation, officials said.

The downtown Batavia Strategic Investment Plan is guiding the investment of DRI grant funds in revitalization projects that advance the community’s vision for its downtown and that can leverage and expand upon the state’s $10 million investment.

“Our strategic investments in smart mixed-use projects like the redevelopment of Ellicott Place will create a more livable and vibrant downtown Batavia,” said ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-designate Eric Gertler.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Geneva one of eight communities statewide to get EV fast chargers

The New York Power Authority and the state Department of State are collaborating on an effort to significantly expand deployment of electric vehicle fast-charging stations.

The city of Geneva will serve as one of seven communities statewide that will participate in the initial launch of downtown chargers. The fast-charging stations are capable of recharging electric vehicles in 20 to 30 minutes. The statewide initiative will make EV driving more accessible and will help advance the state’s nation-leading climate and clean energy agenda, which mandates economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2040.

The DOS is engaging Downtown Revitalization Initiative communities and securing interest in NYPA’s EVolve NY program, an infrastructure and awareness effort aimed at making electric vehicles a more accessible option for all New Yorkers. NYPA will fund, install, own and operate two EV fast chargers per selected location in DRI communities in the state’s Regional Economic Development Council regions.

“The city is excited about working with the New York Power Authority to provide this innovative technology to our residents and visitors,” said Geneva Mayor Steve Valentino in a statement last week.

The state’s commitment to the expansion of clean transportation is positioning New York as a leader in EV deployment, officials said. In conjunction with EVolve NY and EV Make Ready, other EV charging and deployment initiatives and programs designed to achieve a Charge NY goal of 10,000 EV charging stations by the end of 2021 and 850,000 zero-emission vehicles by 2025 already are underway.

Under the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Drive Clean Rebate program, more than $35 million in rebates have resulted in more than 25,000 electric vehicle purchases as of June of this year.

The “Make Ready” order, which was approved by the state Public Service Commission in July, will stimulate $1.5 billion in new public and private investments and provide more than $2.6 billion in consumer benefits and economic opportunities by using funding from investor-owned utilities to add more charging stations that will be built in key locations to support expanded EV use, with a goal of deploying more than 50,000 chargers by 2025.

Through EVolve NY, NYPA will allocate up to $250 million for public EV fast charging through 2025 to accelerate the market for electric vehicles.

“The Downtown Revitalization Initiative is energizing communities across the state and NYPA is committed to capitalizing on the program’s success by adding electric vehicle fast-charging stations to our downtowns,” said Gil Quiniones, NYPA president. “NYPA’s EVolve NY EV charger infrastructure program is identifying key areas, implementing easy-to-use fast chargers and raising awareness about the benefits and ease of driving electric.

“Together, DOS and NYPA will make our downtowns more attractive, futuristic and functional while helping us make progress in lowering greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and advance the governor’s aggressive climate protection goals,” Quiniones added.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Newark, Seneca Falls on short list for state funding

The City of Batavia won the 2017 round of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This rendering of Main Street upgrades was submitted as part of the proposal.
The City of Batavia won the 2017 round of the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. This rendering of Main Street upgrades was submitted as part of the proposal.

The Village of Newark and the Town of Seneca Falls have been named finalists for the Finger Lakes Region in the third round of New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, or DRI.

The statewide competition is open to vulnerable cities, towns and villages in each of the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils. Participating communities are nominated by the REDCs based on the downtown’s potential for transformation, and one community from each of the 10 regions is awarded $10 million to develop a downtown strategic investment plan and implement key projects that advance the community’s vision for revitalization.

Last year’s Finger Lakes DRI recipient was the City of Batavia, while the 2016 winner was the City of Geneva. Applications for the third round were due June 1, and winners are expected to be announced later this summer.

The Village of Newark’s application, titled “A Village for All Seasons,” outlined the historic Erie Canal in the heart of downtown, while identifying several aspects of recent infrastructure investment including major upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant, new water treatment plant design and reconstruction of South Main Street.

Newark’s submission also highlighted IEC Electronics Corp.’s decision to remain in Wayne County and build a new facility. Catalytic projects proposed by the village include a number of innovative development projects for the former Sarah Coventry Factory, Canal Path and the redevelopment of Lake Street.

“We expect the competition to be fierce, but this funding would be of critical importance to Newark, allowing us to create a foundation for future development that we can build on,” Newark Mayor Jonathan Taylor said in a statement.

Applicants are charged with showing the community’s preparedness to implement projects and an administrative capacity to see them through to completion. They also must demonstrate the community’s vision, goals and strategies to implement a variety of projects that will generate local development and employment and strengthen the economy.

“The Village of Newark has a long history of working well with developers,” Taylor said. “By targeting downtown areas for mixed residential and commercial development, we hope to create a stronger sense of community that better supports business and growth.”

Seneca Falls’ application was an 18-month effort by the Seneca Falls Development Corp., or SFDC, to lay a stronger foundation for economic growth, downtown revitalization and ongoing grant pursuits for the region, officials said.

The Town of Seneca Falls first applied for a DRI grant in 2016. While not a finalist for the award, officials said the experience provided a goal to work toward and ultimately became the catalyst for a comprehensive planning process with the 2018 submission at the forefront.

“Visitors from all over the world come to Seneca Falls to explore and honor its history, to enjoy year-round fun activities and to take in our small-town charm,” SFDC board chairman Joell Murney-Karsten said in a statement. “A vibrant downtown area will not only improve their experience, but also help to revitalize the jewel within the crown of our historic region.”

The proposed DRI area for Seneca Falls is 220 acres in a three-mile perimeter. It encompasses Seneca Falls’ central business district, which includes more than 30 blocks of homes, businesses and historic sites. Some of the town’s proposed projects include downtown parking and walkability improvement, commercial building improvement and programs to reduce the number of vacant downtown parcels.

“The transformation of our proposed DRI area will help attract new businesses and residents to both the downtown area and the surrounding neighborhoods within Seneca Falls,” SFDC Director Greg Zellers said. “As the birthplace of women’s rights, our history is one of progress, and if the selection committee embraces our vision, the DRI grant will ensure we have a future to match.”

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Batavia wins $10 million revitalization initiative

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Batavia this week to announce the winner of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in Batavia this week to announce the winner of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The city of Batavia is the Finger Lakes region second-round winner of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

The Genesee County micropolitan area epicenter will receive $10 million in funding and investments and now will begin the process of developing a strategic investment plan to revitalize its downtown with up to $300,000 in planning funds from the grant.

“This $10 million award will help attract jobs, spur private investment and transform Batavia’s downtown into a vibrant, diverse and economically active business and cultural center,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “By investing in the unique strengths of local communities, we are driving economic resurgence and continuing to move the Finger Lakes forward.”

The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council went through a competitive review process of proposals from communities throughout the region and considered eight criteria before recommending Batavia as its nominee for winner.

Criteria for the winner included a compact downtown of sufficient size to support a vibrant, year-round downtown, as well as having the ability to capitalize on prior or future private or public investment in the neighborhood. The winning city also needed to have recent or impending job growth and have a downtown that was both attractive and livable for a diverse population.

The city of Geneva was the Finger Lakes region’s first-round DRI winner.

“The city of Batavia presented a very solid, collaborative, community-based plan that focuses on smart, public-private investments,” said Howard Zemsky, president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development.

Batavia’s downtown is a mixed-use, affordable neighborhood with access to jobs, anchor businesses and city and county services. Through the DRI, the city of Batavia will accelerate the redevelopment of existing buildings and create additional business and residential opportunities downtown.

“The governor’s commitment of $10 million from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative comes at a time when Batavia is on the edge of major economic development and growth,” Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski said. “The award will propel our efforts forward as our community continues to work together to strengthen and grow downtown. There’s no doubt that jobs and private sector development will follow this investment.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the City of Batavia had won the second-round, $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week that the city of Batavia had won the second-round, $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

DRI complements Finger Lakes Forward, the region’s comprehensive blueprint to generate robust economic growth and community development. The state has invested more than $5.2 billion in the region since 2012 to lay the groundwork for the plan, which is designed to invest in key industries including photonics, agriculture and food production and advanced manufacturing.

“This $10 million investment will provide the tools and resources the city of Batavia needs to succeed,” said Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst. “Together we will take downtown Batavia to the next level, transforming it into a hub of activity and excitement. By revitalizing our local neighborhoods, we are moving our upstate economy forward.”

Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

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