Batavia Walgreens vote planned for Feb. 17
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Last August, a frustrated Batavia Alderman Dave Brown said this of the three-year-old proposal for a new downtown Walgreens: "Either move it on or kill it. Let's get a decision."
Decision day is coming on Feb. 17, if all goes well, as city officials and the developer, Batavia Enterprises Inc, continue to work out the last few details in a redevelopment agreement.
City Administrator Bill McGrath updated the city council at a committee meeting Tuesday about the status of the project for 122 W. Wilson St. He will send the proposed contract to council members Wednesday -- with notes about some aspects still not buttoned up -- so they can review it at a committee meeting Feb. 11.
The council will have to decide whether to provide up to $1.143 million in financial incentives to get the project. Aldermen preliminarily approved that in November but later some said they didn't think they were approving that specific amount, only giving staff members "direction" for working on an agreement.
Two voted against it then because it called for sales tax rebates of up to $293,000. The other $850,000 would be supplied by the city, more than half upfront, to pay construction-related costs on things such as moving utilities, grading, soil preparation and landscaping.
That money would come from property taxes on downtown properties, including the Walgreens site, that are set aside for improvements that increase properties' value.
The city would also sell a parking lot it owns near the site for $1 to the developer.
Batavia Enterprises' representatives have said the project wouldn't be economically viable without the incentives. The company has own the property, as well as the shopping center next door where Walgreens has been since the 1980s.
Company representatives say Walgreen Co. would sign a 25-year lease for the new property, which will be about 2,000 feet bigger than the current store. Walgreen wants a new store in part because they want to have a drive-up lane for pharmacy sales.
If the council approves the contract in February, a new store would likely open by March 2015, according to McGrath.
Alderman Michael O'Brien worries, however, that the city would be giving too much aid, hampering its ability to use the money on other projects such as improving the streetscape on Houston Street, or enticing and aiding other businesses.
"Personally I'm not happy with the way its going. It's a great deal of money and we are mortgaging the city's future," he said.
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