Proposed Batavia apartment project would aid program for veterans graduating transitional housing
by: Jim Krencik
BATAVIA — A residential project revealed Tuesday would add another level of support for veterans seeking stability in Genesee County.
The project is a partnership between Home Leasing and Eagle Star Housing.
The Rochester housing developer and manager intends to construct a four-story, 55-unit apartment building at 552, 554 and 556 East Main Street in Batavia, according to an introductory sketch provided to the City of Batavia Planning and Development Committee.
A quarter of the $12 million facility’s units — which are projected as a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — would be set aside for veterans who are “graduating” from Eagle Star’s transitional housing apartments.
Eagle Star Executive Director Zach Fuller said the project is a first for his organization, which in Pembroke serves up to 16 veterans in the early stages of their recovery from homelessness and unstable living conditions. Fuller believes the proposed project would offer a permanent housing option and access to veterans services in a supportive environment.
“A lot of the guys come into a situation where they need housing that is clean, safe, and to be honest, with other veterans,” Fuller said. “The veterans pick each other up and being with other veterans helps them get through their hardships in their recovery to full integration back into society.
“Our transitional facility (in Pembroke) is at about 90 percent occupancy,” he continued. “The guys coming in from Buffalo and Bath and Genesee County love Batavia. They want to stay here but they need safe, affordable housing. We feel that with Home Leasing, we can make this happen for them.”
Officials from Home Leasing, the firm behind a redevelopment of the old Holley High School, said they would not begin construction until at least 2018. Financing from the state’s Office of Homes and Community Renewal and site plan approval are still in early stages.
At first blush, the planning and development committee supported the mission laid out, but were far less sold on the proposed design.
The targeted property sits nearly across the street from DePaul’s Batavia Apartment Treatment Program. It is currently three homes that Home Leasing is purchasing, with the proposed project a completely new build.
Tuesday’s presentation was an informal discussion, Bob Bringley of Marathon Engineering said before showing a concept drawing and a potential interior layout.
Under the initial pitch, the 1.2-acre site would narrowly fit the facility — which is to the east of an envisioned combined parcel and oriented facing the west. Fifty-nine parking spaces would run along the west and southern sides in an L.
Bringley said the proposal would need variances for the parking levels and setbacks from East Main Street and a property to the east. The four-story design is allowed in the commercial zone with a special use permit, Codes Enforcement Officer Doug Randall told the committee, but they favored a scaled-down building.
“It seems to be a little intense, not really compatible to the neighborhood,” said committee member Ed Flynn, who recommended downsizing the project and changing the look and placement of the structure. “It’s a little over the top … it’s square, it looks like a hotel, a DoubleTree.”
The design also featured balconies for many of the units, raised gardens and a gazebo. Inside, developers said there would be community spaces, fully accessible apartments for handicapped residents and a laundry facility.
It would be ideal for a downtown project, the committee told Home Leasing to murmurs from city officials and residents who stayed after an earlier discussion about the City Centre site.
Adam Driscoll, a development manager for Home Leasing, said the East Main Street site was chosen after other options within the city were deemed unsuitable. Some had wetlands, or weren’t properly zoned.
Attempts to expand the proposed site to a larger acreage have been unsuccessful as of now, but the developers see enough room to realize their vision.
“Ideally, we were hoping for more units,” said Driscoll, who noted the proposed size is near the minimum Home Leasing targets for sites with a full-time, on-site manager. “We’re trying to make this work as best as possible for the demographics and for us as a developer.”
“We’re very proud of what we do,” he added. “We’re mission-based and we care about the community and our neighbors … we want to accommodate the veterans to be able to stay in the area.”
A preliminary market study for the project identified a primary market area within Genesee County, roughly an oval pulled toward Pembroke but largely in Batavia and surrounding towns.
Driscoll and Megan Houppert, a development manager at Home Leasing, said the rental costs for 31 non-veteran one-bedroom apartments are targeted at individuals and families with incomes at 60 percent of the county’s $64,900 average median income.
The project would also include eight two-bedroom units priced at around $850 a month for residents at 60 to 90 percent of the AMI.
“It’s housing for about 11 percent of the population that’s out here,” Houppert said, similar to Conifer’s proposal phase II project on West Main Street Road and the DePaul project proposed further down East Main Street. Both have been factored into the market analysis.
Developers said after the meeting they intend to keep pursuing the project while considering the committee’s recommendations.