Savarino Companies

New Gowanda build will provide mental health services

The Observer

5/1/2016

GOWANDA - If there's anything better than getting rid of a dilapidated building while providing resources for community members in need, it's doing all that AND increasing tax revenue.

That's just what Savarino Companies (the project developer), the village of Gowanda, the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, the town of Persia and the Zoar Valley Recovery and Treatment Center have in mind for the old print shop on South Water Street, which will be torn down to make way for a state-of-the art, multi-million dollar outpatient mental health clinic. Though the clinic - which will move from its current location in Collins - is a state-owned facility, it will only lease the building, meaning PILOT payments and then tax money will continue to roll in.

Corey Wictor, executive director of the Cattaraugus County IDA, explained to the OBSERVER that this project has been in the works for some time, but has only recently moved far enough along to be announced publicly.

"This project has been around since 2013," he said. "The developer had submitted an application then to the IDA to consider their project, but initially, they had chosen a location on Jamestown Street. However, through discussion that transpired throughout 2013 and 2014, it was decided that that location would be better utilized as a retail or restaurant operation. Savarino (the developer) worked very hard with local officials on a Plan B site, and that did take some time to nail down a proper location. They wanted something that was accessible by public transportation, but that also had room for parking and that (fit with) the size of land they needed."

It wasn't until 2015 that the old print shop on South Water Street was selected.

"The chosen space comprises the old print shop, plus a vacant parcel of land," said Wictor. "(Savarino Companies) also worked to purchase two houses next to (the print shop) for a larger footprint."

Wictor reported that the village of Gowanda, the town of Persia, and the developer were all in agreement, and enthusiastic about the project. A public hearing was held in early March, and members of the community who attended were all in favor of the effort.

"The village (of Gowanda) is working hard on increasing pedestrian flow, and fostering culture and retail growth," Wictor said. "There's a lot of forward momentum and great activity going on - it's really impressive."

HELPING NEIGHBORS

Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever spoke with the OBSERVER about the project.

"We are excited to be working so closely with Savarino Companies and the Zoar Valley Clinic," she said. "It's been wonderful to see this come together. The old print shop has been a blight to the village for some time, and we're so happy to see a multi-million dollar facility coming in to take its place. The timing is so wonderful; our Community Connections effort has been helping people in the area access the treatment they need, and having an outpatient clinic right downtown will be instrumental with that."

Officer-in-Charge Steve Raiport of the Gowanda Police Department has been instrumental in establishing Community Connections and running the program. He said the new location of the clinic can only be good news.

"It will be a pleasant sight to see the printing press building come down, as it has been an eyesore for years in the middle of town," he remarked. "It will drastically improve the dynamics of that corner of Walnut and South Water streets. It is a pleasure to have a facility like the Zoar Valley Clinic be in the village, as the police department has partnered with the clinic to help combat the drug epidemic in and around (Gowanda). Having the facility and staff here will allow us to work closely with them and to keep that open communication on helping individuals with mental health and drug addiction issues."

Ben Rosen, director of the Public Information Office for New York State Office of Mental Health, shared this with the OBSERVER:

"The new Zoar Valley Clinic, soon to be constructed in Gowanda, will deliver high-quality and comprehensive behavioral health services to Western New York residents. The clinic has been designed as a spacious state-of-the-art healthcare facility and its central location is easily accessible via public transportation. We thank the village of Gowanda and the Savarino Companies for helping the Office of Mental Health provide better behavioral health services to more New Yorkers."

MOVING FORWARD

The Cattaraugus County Legislature approved the project earlier this month, so, as Wictor said, "it's moving in the right direction."

He also shared some of the project's other details, and the developer's plans for the space.

"The new clinic will provide about 18 jobs centered in Gowanda, with those people more likely to make use of businesses there - in addition, people who travel to Gowanda for treatment and counseling will likely shop and dine in the village as well. As far as the space, the developer is looking to retain the bigger trees on that property, use decorative lighting, and tie the building aesthetically into the downtown area," Wictor said.

Though this sounds like a lovely way to do business, it's pretty standard for Savarino Companies, according to the developer's website:

"We're about more than building residential developments and commercial facilities. We're about building better communities. We're about building a better place to work," it reads.

For the Industrial Development Agency's part, Wictor said, they worked with Savarino Companies on a tax abatement program, which will benefit everyone involved.

"All of the costs (for building the clinic) are up to the developer," he explained. "For the tax abatement program, a developer approaches the IDA and asks how we can help them save on costs. Through that program, they save 8 percent on all furnishings, furniture and equipment for the project. The benefit to the community is the new jobs and the higher tax base, so it's great for everyone. This was definitely a qualifying project."

For the first ten years, Savarino, the owner of the property and "landlord" for the state-owned clinic, will make PILOT payments to municipal entities instead of taxes. Basically, it's a way to "step up" to the taxes that will be owed on the assessed value of the property in year 11.

"Instead of paying the total tax on the assessed value, they're stepping up to that amount over time," said Wictor. "It's not a removal of a tax; (the property is) not going off the tax rolls. It's a graduated ten-year program, and they pay full taxes on the assessed value in the 11th year. This is because developers invest all their money up front, and we want to encourage that; we want to encourage growth and development in the county."

PILOT payments will be based on assessments of those parcels as they are now. They will graduate the first five years by 25 percent, with years 6 to 10 seeing a 50 percent increase.

"For this, we ask that the developer, who is from Buffalo, uses local business, labor, and suppliers whenever possible," added Wictor. "We want to keep the money 'at home' when we can."

Wictor said the final closing should be complete soon, which is great, since the developer wants to get started as soon as possible.

"Demo could begin this spring, but that's up to Savarino," he said. "I know they've been moving as fast as they can on it."

"We're hoping the ground-breaking ceremony will be announced soon," said McKeever. "It may even happen as early as May."



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