Batavia aldermen: Think smaller for what's next for former One Washington Place site

  • A developer canceled a plan to construct a mixed-use building at Washington Avenue and Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.

      A developer canceled a plan to construct a mixed-use building at Washington Avenue and Wilson Street in downtown Batavia. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer, 2018

 
 
Updated 1/6/2022 2:05 PM

Whatever gets built at Washington Avenue and Wilson Street in downtown Batavia probably should not be as big as the recently scrapped One Washington Place project.

And the design should blend in better with nearby buildings, many of which are brick or stone, aldermen say.

 

"I think we were trying to pack too much into one space," Alderman Abby Beck said during a discussion Tuesday night. "I don't think we should ask everything of this one block."

One Washington Place would have been a six-story mixed-use development with 186 apartments, several stores, and a public parking garage. It would have occupied most of a city block, wrapping around a few other buildings.

But after more than five years of planning, the developer -- Shodeen Group -- canceled the $50 million project on Dec. 29.

The plan was controversial from the start.

Alderman Christopher Solfa said most complaints fell into two categories: People didn't like or trust the developer, and people thought the building was too big.

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"I would have to be convinced to go above four stories," Alderman Mark Uher said.

Batavia owns all the land for the project, including an existing parking deck. The city was going to sell the land to Shodeen for just $10.

Batavia planned to spend up to $16 million to improve the property and construct a new parking garage. The city then would have reimbursed itself with increased property taxes generated by the development because the land is in a tax increment financing district.

In a TIF district, property tax payments to local governments such as school and park districts are frozen for up to 23 years. Any increases in property tax levied, caused by the property increasing in value, is called an "increment" and put in a fund the city controls. TIF money can be spent on work that increases the value of properties in the district.

If the TIF increment didn't cover the repayment, the city could have charged a special property tax on the building to get repaid.

On Tuesday, aldermen said they didn't want to limit the creativity of potential developers by putting too many parameters on what they will accept. They agreed the city should still market the site.

Alderman George Ajazi asked if Batavia-based developer Batavia Enterprises Inc. had ever been interested in the site. Newman said that didn't happen in the past. However, she said officials with BEI have asked to meet with city representatives in February for an informal discussion.

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