Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series about city updates and visions from city officials.
If you ever have the opportunity to shop Rodeo Drive, be prepared for personal attention, the feeling of luxury, and some mighty big pricetags.
While strolling down the ritzy commercial zone in Beverly Hills may seem an obscure comparison, it is something worth considering right here in Batavia, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says.
A shopping experience can happen anywhere, she says.
“So here, the retailers like, I think of the bicycle shop, or Charles Men’s Shop, they make it an experience for the person shopping there. I do think we’d have what it takes, and will continue to be more and more attractive as these new investments come online. With the building rehabs (and expansion of the YMCA), all of that starts to build more momentum for people to be downtown,” Tabelski said during an interview with The Batavian. “And when you have people, then having the retail offerings comes naturally. So I do feel that we will succeed in bringing more retail back into our downtown, whether it’s a large department store or in places like Saratoga Springs, where they have small shops that are like the Gap and Banana Republic. I would love to see that here someday, like specialty shops, specialty brands.”
As for why some of the more exclusive-type shops make it while others do not, she thinks it may be about timing. Pollyanna and Dot, for example, was a successful boutiquey shop with a hint of vintage, but “they hit the market before we were quite ready,” she said.
“But you know, they were on the front end of the momentum building,” she said. “I think as we continue, there’s definitely going to be more opportunities for retail offerings. And then the other side of that is online ordering.”
She pointed to some retailers that seem to do a good job at those personal experiences, such as Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle shop, Charles Men’s Shop and Valle Jewelers.
“They become successful because, it’s not just ‘I’m running to get a suit,’ it’s ‘I’m going to see Dave and I’m going to talk to everyone there and I’m going to, you know, get measured for this and that and the other thing, and get dry cleaned all at the same time,” she said. “Or they’re going to have nights where — Valle Jewelers is really good at this — I think they have nights where you can come in and they have hors d’oeuvres, and then everyone stands around and chats, and you can do your shopping for your birthdays for the next few months there. Like I said, it makes it more of an experience than just a ‘I get to run in and get something at Wal-Mart.’ So I think that’s the key to these retailers is finding niches of buyers; They need to operate online, but in person they need to offer these experiences for their customers. And I think a lot of them here do that. And those are the ones that have been successful.”
While we’re downtown, what’s happening with the new police station plans?
“Right now, the police station is under design. And we are just getting our first look at what’s called a schematic design and potential pricing of the police station. So internally, we’ll be reviewing that, we’ll be looking to determine the affordability of all the elements, they kind of give all the elements you want in a building, and then they put it together and they give you a price and you’re like, okay, well, now we’ll move forward with that internally,” she said. “So we are looking forward to the continuing process with the architect and engineering firm we selected, which is Ashley McGraw out of Syracuse. final schematic design.”
From that point, the process moves into design-draft documents of the station. City officials hope that the project can be finalized and go out for bids on construction by the next calendar year, she said. Tabelski predicts that city police staff won’t be moving into new digs until summer of 2024, with an allotted 18-month construction period.
“So overall, I think the process is moving along. And we’re getting through the design elements of the facility,” she said.
As for financing, a “level debt” payment plan that is paid into reserves, and a potential $2.5 million “direct spending request” submitted to senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Chris Jacobs are to assist with capital costs of the new facility, she said.
There is also a City Fire and Public Works departments project that will resume after being stalled during — you guessed it — COVID-19. City staff has “picked that back up” to finally get some work done that, up to now, has only been talking about “for many, many years,” she said.
A $1.1 million project focuses on the Bureau of Maintenance garage, which is to get a new air filtration system to ensure a safe space inside where gasoline-fueled vehicles operate. The fire station is slated for a new generator and boiler, handicap accessibility to the front of the building and parking bay apron and some improvements to the restrooms and locker rooms, she said.
On the other side of town, the new David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena was officially named, per a 10-year lease agreement with Guy Pellegrino for the naming rights. With the end of Firland Management’s involvement (the company announced it was not renewing its contract in June), the city has put out a request for proposals to find a new management company for the Evans Street site.
RFPs are to be into the city by Friday. What if a company wants to put its own name on the arena in addition to managing operations?
“If there was anyone that wanted to come in and rename the rink, it would have to be a renegotiation of that contract. I do not see us changing that in any way, shape, or form,” she said. “So I would consider the naming rights stable.”
The RFPs specify that the contract would be for the McCarthy arena, so a managing company would know up front that the name is in place, she said. As of Thursday, there have been five RFP “respondents” seeking additional information, she said. Some of them have contacted her for more details and/or requested tours of the ice rink.
“So there’s definitely been an interest in operating at the rink. And I’m excited to see what those proposals look like. They’ll be scored internally. And then the recommendation will be brought to the council. And we hope to have everything set by the July 11 meeting,” she said. “I’m very excited to see the interest in operating the rink. I think whoever comes in next is going to have the passion to maybe bring new things to the rink, and continue to operate it and work with the city. The city is responsible for the building and the capital improvements and needs to work hand in hand with the operator. And the operator needs to work hand in hand with GAHA (Genesee Amateur Hockey Association).”
Other groups that use the rink regularly include Batavia City Schools, Notre Dame’s hockey team and a local men’s league.
Overall, she is looking for an entity that would not only have great financial planning capability and business sense, but would also have “a great ability to communicate with all parties to make sure that the ring is being utilized as much as possible, and being put to use in our community,” she said.
“And there’s a return on that to our businesses in the community because the more people we draw into our city for different things like hockey tournaments and hockey games, the more spin-off economic impact we have in our restaurants and our retail and other areas she said. “So there’s definitely an economic impact to the rink, and the respondents are going to really need to highlight how they see themselves running this … and make it a lively and vibrant place similar to what Robbie Nichols Did with Dwyer Stadium. He has done phenomenal ever since, and promotions and involving the KMS dance team, involving Little League, involving the high school baseball team. He’s really brought the community together at the stadium for a lot of different things.”
Next up is about city sidewalk and street repairs, with a map of sidewalk projects to date.
Top Photo: City Manager Rachael Tabelski in her office at City Hall. 2016 File Photo: Gov. Kathy Hochul during a prior visit with downtown retailers, including Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle on Center Street. 2022 File Photo: A crowd celebrates the official naming of the David M. McCarthy Ice Arena, which has great potential to be a booming ice complex, City Manager Rachael Tabelski says. Photos by Howard Owens.