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By Mike Pettinella

The City of Batavia will take over the operation and maintenance of the city Centre Mall concourse and manage the property as an economic development venture.
An 11-point outline of the deal to end almost a decade of legal battles was revealed at last night’s city council meeting.
The agreement is subject to the approval of City Council, the Mall Merchants Association, the mall property owners and JC Penney, the largest tenant in the mall.
Among other agreements, the City Manager Jason Molino said the city will spend $650,000 to fix the mall's leaky roof, skylights and improve its silo-like entrances. This work will be done by March 31, 2020, Molino said.

Other terms of the agreement calls for the city to:

  • Retain ownership of the concourse;
  • Complete roof, silos and skylight capital improvements (estimated at $650,000) no later than March 31, 2020;
  • Pay 100 percent of capital improvements, with future capital improvements paid by all property owners with revenue from a user fee (which would replace the current mall maintenance fee);
  • Perform mall maintenance and operations (coordinated by the Department of Public Works and Batavia Development Corp., respectively);
  • Establish a user fee by local law based on square footage for property maintenance fee;
  • Continue to maintain budgeting and accounting;
  • Charge single parcel owners that own more than 11,500 square feet the set user fee at 11,500 square feet;
  • Set the user fee at $2 per square foot for years one, two and three; $2.04 per square foot for year four, and $2.06 per square foot for year five. After year five, the fee will be based on the projected budget.
  • Eliminate all parking restrictions in city parking lots, with the city to restripe in 2017;
  • Turn over the fund balance as of March 31, 2017 to the Merchants, with the Merchants returning any fund balance to the city on April 1, 2022.

In the event that any parcel owner or JC Penney refuses to sign the agreement within 10 days of approval by the city and mall association, both parties shall support an application to the court by motion or Order to Show Cause to gain approval of the settlement or have the agreement ordered.

"All must sign off on past agreements and sign the new agreement," Molino said. "Until then, these cases (pending litigation) are still open."

Molino said both parties have been meeting over the past 18 months, with a mediator playing a significant role in forging this settlement agreement and putting an end to suits and counter-suits, claims and counter-claims over which party is responsible for maintaining the mall concourse and capital improvements, including the perennial leaky roof.
During negotiations, three other solutions were considered, Molino said. They were (1) having a private developer buy the mall; (2) having the Mall Merchants Association buy the mall concourse at fair market value, and (3) having the city lease the concourse to the merchants for fair market value

All three were "taken off the table" as restrictions in the current agreements would render those options as not feasible from a financial standpoint, Molino said.

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