Batavia panel supports revised plans for One Washington Place

  • An alternative plan to the One Washington Place proposal would add retail space along Wilson Street in downtown Batavia. The city's plan commission supported the concept this week.

    An alternative plan to the One Washington Place proposal would add retail space along Wilson Street in downtown Batavia. The city's plan commission supported the concept this week. Courtesy of Shodeen Group

  • Revised plans for the proposed One Washington Place project in downtown Batavia have been recommended for approval by the city's advisory plan commission.

    Revised plans for the proposed One Washington Place project in downtown Batavia have been recommended for approval by the city's advisory plan commission. Courtesy of Shodeen Group

 
 
Posted7/3/2020 5:30 AM

More storefronts, fewer public parking spots and the addition of office space are among the key changes proposed for the One Washington Place project in downtown Batavia.

Updated plans for the mixed-use development, which includes 186 apartments, received support Wednesday from the city's plan commission, which unanimously backed the design review and voted 5-1 to recommend approval of a planned development amendment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Several residents voiced opposition to the $40 million project proposed for North River and State streets, saying they don't believe the size, design and residential density are suitable for downtown.

Commission Chairman Tom LaLonde said the concept already has been debated extensively for years, most recently after a prior iteration was presented by developer Shodeen Group in 2018.

"I think that's water under the bridge," he said. "There were a lot of concerns expressed. I personally had a lot of concerns with the development. But this is not a substantial change to what was approved previously, so therefore I'm supporting it."

The 2018 plans, which had been updated from an initial 2017 proposal, called for 190 apartments, a 365-space parking garage and 5,725 square feet of retail along River Street.

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At the request of several city officials, revised plans would create storefronts along Wilson Street, resulting in a net increase of 8,455 square feet of retail, Shodeen President David Patzelt said. Also added would be 2,370 square feet of second-floor office space overlooking River Street.

That would lead to a loss of four residential units, as well as 32 garage spaces -- a primary concern for plan commission member Joan Joseph, who fears the demand from building residents and downtown visitors will outweigh the parking availability.

"I think that's going to be a big problem," said Joseph, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the plans.

But several commissioners supported the revisions, saying they believe parking in the area is adequate and the additional retail and office space strengthens the project.

Batavia aldermen are expected to discuss the amended plans during a committee of the whole meeting, possibly later this month.

The city initially planned to issue $16 million in bonds to fund the public parking component and other eligible costs to be reimbursed through a tax increment financing district. But environmental issues and higher-than-expected cost estimates have delayed the project by about three years, resulting in an anticipated $3 million shortfall when the 23-year TIF expires.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

City officials are now considering dissolving that TIF and creating a new one that incorporates more properties to ensure One Washington Place is financially feasible and to spur other downtown development.

Resident Yvonne Dinwiddie criticized that strategy during Wednesday's public hearing, saying the project is "robbing the other taxing bodies of their rightful and publicly voted tax dollars." Others such as Steve Scharnweber called the development a "monstrosity" and suggested it be downsized or relocated.

Plan commission member Susan Stark said officials need to base their decisions on the facts collected and studies completed, versus generalities voiced by opponents.

"I get a little frustrated when we beat these horses to death yet again," she said.

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