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Batavia working to make city attractive to new generation

BATAVIA – Understanding that millennials are taking over the labor force, officials with Batavia’s economic and industrial advancement arm are determined to transform the city into a desirable place for those “20- and 30-somethings” to live, work and play.

Speaking at the Batavia Development Corp.’s annual meeting Wednesday at City Hall, Coordinator Julie Pacatte said her agency continues to invest in downtown business and residential projects in an effort to “attract (millennials) who want to work here.”

“Not long ago, boomers were large and in charge, but not anymore – today millennials are the largest cohort (in the U.S.),” Pacatte said. “By 2020, millennials will make up 46 percent of the workforce and by 2030, millennials will outnumber boomers by 22 million.”

Pacatte said the city has taken an “invest in place” approach to create a wholesome environment that emphasizes diversity in both population and layout of amenities, walkability, and variety of housing and public parks.

She said her agency – in conjunction with Genesee County, Batavia School District, Genesee County Economic Development Center and Genesee Community College – has reached a point where it is able to “sell” the city, and specifically its downtown area, to private investors.

The agency has played a major role in development of apartments on the upper floors of downtown businesses and the transformation of the former J.J. Newberry building into a microbrewery and restaurant incubator known as freshLAB. It also is working toward the revitalization of the 366-acre Batavia Opportunity Area and creation of the 4.3-mile Ellicott Trail walking/bicycle path that will run through the city, Pacatte said.

All of this is being done in an effort to “match up” the city with millennials, who already comprise 27 percent of Batavia’s population, she said. Another 26 percent of city-dwellers are Generation Xers (those born between 1965 and 1979) and 17 percent are baby boomers.

Pacatte said Batavia will grow in size and stature as leaders join together to offer more job opportunities and entertainment venues.

“I’m excited about what’s happening in the city, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will look very different in a great way five years down the road,” she said.

During the agency’s business meeting preceding the presentation, directors approved unanimously a pair of resolutions related to the former Soccio & Della Penna and Santy’s Tire Sales properties on Ellicott Street.

The first transferred the blighted parcels – totaling three acres of the city’s 366-acre Brownfield Opportunity Area – from the city to the agency and the second turned over the title to the corporation’s solely owned subsidiary, Ellicott Station LLC, for the purpose of redevelopment.

Pacatte said the development corporation has a tentative agreement with a “preferred local developer” to purchase the land, and will be making an announcement after all paperwork is finalized, likely in late February.

Directors also approved the corporation’s 2016-17 budget, a $932,825 spending plan that is supported by state, federal and local grant revenue earmarked for downtown revitalization projects.