City’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative play could be rewarded soon

Aug 2, 2017

BATAVIA — An announcement in the Capitol Region Tuesday was the first domino in what could lead to a $10 million windfall for Batavia.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a crowd in Hudson, a small city in Columbia County, that they were that region’s recipient of a Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.

In the Finger Lakes region, the same prize was sought by Batavia, Geneseo and Medina — with the latter missing out on a final round of presentations made in June by Genesee and Livingston county groups. Also up for the award are Penn Yan and Canandaigua.

Since that presentation, the city has entered a waiting game. City Manager Jason Molino told the City Council in early July word would come quickly, then revised his expectations to late August when asked by the Batavia Development Corporation last week.

Cuomo’s announcement Tuesday reset the timeline. Molino told The Daily News that he and other officials involved with the proposal are looking for any information pointing toward an announcement. Without that, they will find out when the Governor’s public schedule is released — Molino said the state doesn’t give much notice.

“Everyone has been waiting for the announcement to come. (Hudson) is a good sign that something is going to happen in the next few days,” Molino told The Daily News. “We’ll be checking in regularly, we’re all hopeful we get a phone call.”

Speaking in Hudson, Cuomo reiterated the tenants of the program. He wants to aid communities with compact downtowns that have capacity to be vibrant, year-round spaces; that can catalyze new investment and will combine job growth, quality of life and progressive ideas.

“The first round of DRI proved to be a tremendous success — engaging local communities in a bottom-up approach to creating new opportunities for investment in our New York’s downtown areas,” Governor Cuomo said in a news release announcing Hudson’s prize. “Revitalizing a downtown not only boosts businesses and the local economy, but also benefits the residents who call them home and with this funding, the City of Hudson will have the opportunity to reach its full potential.”

Batavia set the 88-acre Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District as its target area. The city’s plan highlighted the BID area as the key to community prosperity, healthy living and wellness, and the arts, culture and entertainment.

Molino said the grant’s impact would not be limited to the downtown area.

“The brick and mortar is that it’s 10 million to invest in the community through private and public (realms), to trigger investments in downtown core as a lifeline to downtown and community,” Molino said. “It is much more farther reaching to the city. If our downtown gets a resurgence of investment, it will accelerate initiatives in Genesee County — our business parks, STAMP, and even what Bergen is doing with its downtown, and what Le Roy is doing with its downtown. The investment in our downtown is an infusion of investment in the entire community.”

The DRI opportunity comes at a time when the city’s aims are split between projects either stalled — the mall, a new police station — or moving ahead — Ellicott Station, freshLAB, the $100 Million I’m All In plan.

“Batavia has the strategic plans in place to move their downtown forward, and they’ve come back stronger (after last year’s pitch),” said GCEDC Marketing Director Rachael Tabelski, who worked on both the 2016 and 2017 proposals. “The $10 million investment will essentially quadruple the investment downtown and help assets in the Genesee region — it will rehab blighted buildings, and have transportation projects, and quality of life through recreation.”

Whether that vision will be followed through is something that could be revealed at any point, it’s all on the Governor’s tightly-kept schedule. Molino is watching.

“All it is for us is waiting,” Molino said. “If we’re fortunate enough to be selected, (our goal) is to begin the process of making strategic investments.”

By Jim Krencik, The Daily News