BATAVIA — The city supports an application for a grant of up to $500,000 for the renovation of the Batavia Showtime movie theater, 6 Alva Place, into a multi-functioning events space.
The application for a winter 2020 New York Main Street Anchor Grant was approved during Monday night’s City Council Business Meeting. The approval followed a presentation by Business Improvement District Executive Director Beth Kemp during a special conference session earlier that evening.
Kemp approached the city for support of the application. In a Dec. 21 memorandum to the City Council and Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski, she said the property’s owner would use the grant for facade and interior improvements, and would pay the matching funds for the grant.
“The proposed project addresses the lack of entertainment in our downtown and appeals to five major market segments: college students, business professionals, families, adults and seniors,” she said in the memorandum.
During her presentation this week, Kemp said the plan is for the outdated movie theater space to still include a cinema and add staging areas for other forms of entertainment such as musical groups and comedians, and for conferences and seminars. updated heating and concessions.
“The business plan that I’ve seen has a diverse listing of programming for the community, so aside from your nightly entertainment for young professionals and adults, also looking into daytime programming for our senior population, for veterans and families, additional offerings to our surrounding businesses and organizations to be able to use the venue for renting the space for their own annual meetings and conferences and so forth,” she said. “We see it as a super-impactful project to our downtown. We think it’s a great project and we hope you support our application.”
Councilperson Rose Mary Christian recalled a survey that had gone around to the room in which the respondents indicated what they wanted to see with the growth of the city. The movie theater project was on the list, she said.
“The YMCA was the first one to get any money. The dots on that board was for the theater, so he (the property owner) would be able to renovate it and have different venues over here in the city of Batavia,” she said. “He never got it — never got a penny. It goes with a lot of things and the old saying is, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and that’s how you get it.’”
Councilperson-At-Large Bob Bialkowski said COVID-19 has been the death of movie theaters all over the country.
“The companies are going to live streaming. They’re making brand-new movies and live streaming them the day they come out,” he said. “If we’re not careful, we’re going to be looking at another closed building marking our wonderful downtown. I’m all in favor of this —anything to preserve what we have. Today, recruiting new business is out of the question when we can’t even keep what we have.
“We should be really cautious and approach this and do the best we can with it,” he said.
Council President Eugene Jankowski Sr. said the city is just endorsing the grant application.
“This gentleman’s willing to take an investment and do the inside and outside with a little bit of grant help if he qualifies. That’s up to the state to make that decision or whoever. I think we should fully support it and let him take his risks and he’s his own person and he can handle it from there. A letter of endorsement is the least we can do.”