BATAVIA – City aldermen are encouraging a developer to proceed with plans to put 80 residential apartments inside Batavia’s historic Campana building. While aldermen expressed serious concerns about access to the site, lack of parking and a variety of safety issues, they told representatives of Evergreen Real Estate Group that they are open to the firm’s proposal for income-restricted apartments.
More than 100 area residents jammed into the Batavia City Council Chambers for a hearing on the project May 2.
“The building really does need a comprehensive reconstruction program,” said David Block, director of development for Evergreen. Block wants to use the original 1936 factory building and the north addition for the apartments. Evergreen would tap into low-income housing tax credits to help finance the project and offer affordable rents to tenants.
The building has been “seriously under-utilized for 40 years,” Block said. “If the market had a solution, it would have provided it already,” Block said, making his case for the affordable housing plan.
A plan for only market-rate apartments in the building would not work economically, Block said.
“There would be insufficient return, which is why the market has not provided a solution,” he said.
As it is, Evergreen’s $30 million plan calls for 16 market-rate apartments, with the rest being income-restricted. Block said that the development could be expected to produce 20 to 30 students of all ages for Geneva School District 304.
Located at the northwest corner of Batavia Avenue (Route 31) and Fabyan Parkway, the Campana property abuts Geneva. Many Geneva residents, along with representatives from the community’s school system and city government, were present at the meeting, including Mayor Kevin Burns, who declined to comment on the proposal. “I’m here to listen and learn,” Burns said.
Block said Evergreen is seeking no financial incentives from local government, and that the improvements it is proposing would produce a 50 percent increase in property tax revenues from the property.
Noting that the building’s signature glass block windows need work, Block said some of the material would be salvaged from the rear, or west side of the building, for use on the east facade facing Route 31. Despite the addition of parking spaces, the project will leave the property well short of the number required under the city’s code.
The Campana building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a local landmark by the city of Batavia in 2003.
In order to get the needed tax credits, no changes to the expansive front lawn can be made, Block said. “There would be no credits if we put so much as a dog house on that lawn,” Block said.
There are driveways onto the Campana site from both Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway, both near the signalized intersection that is considered dangerous because of high traffic volumes and its layout.
“This isn’t just any intersection,” said 1st Ward Alderman Scott Salvati, expressing safety concerns.
Under Evergreen’s proposal, there would be 36 one-bedroom units, 38 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units.