Batavia plans downtown boardwalk shops: pop-up sheds to entice visitors, help start-up businesses

BATAVIA – Shoppers should expect to find a new marketplace in downtown Batavia next summer, featuring eight tiny buildings where pop-up merchants will be hawking their wares.

The Boardwalk Shops of Batavia will occupy a portion of the parking lot at the southeast corner of East Wilson and South River streets in the heart of the downtown business district.

There, visitors will find the quaint 12-by-12-foot sheds, or “chalets,” lined up in two rows and providing temporary homes for start-up retail businesses.

Plans for the project have been gradually coming together ever since a group of city officials and business leaders from Batavia took a trip to Muskegon, Michigan last spring to inspect a similar project in that community’s downtown.

The structures are to occupy the northern portion of what is commonly called the “Art Stop” parking lot, known for its display of sculpture.

The parking lot is widely regarded as underutilized, separated as it is from other businesses by the heavy vehicle traffic navigating the Route 25 dogleg.

The city of Batavia is commissioning Batavia MainStreet, the downtown business organization, to plan and operate the boardwalk shops.

To pay for the project, the city will use up to $110,000 in state economic development grant funds it already has at its disposal.

“MainStreet will be responsible for the planning and execution of the construction of the shops, boardwalk and landscaping, subject to plan approval by the city,” Batavia City Administrator Laura Newman said.

Each of the sheds will cost about $8,000 to construct. Businesses renting the spaces are expected to pay a fee of about $2,000 per year.

The buildings will be equipped with electrical service, but no plumbing. The structures could be moved if needed.

“MainStreet has done an excellent job sourcing materials and services to build the shops as economically as possible,” Newman said.

Two of the sheds are expected to be constructed by students in the Batavia High School building trades program, giving the future carpenters a hands-on opportunity to work on a community project.

The Batavia School Board will review the partnership agreement at Tuesday’s meeting.

Initially, city officials had considered using the former Larsen-Becker property, now a city parking lot along North River Street, for the pop-up businesses. This would have made the shops a logical extension of the Saturday Batavia Farmers Market on North River.

However, it was later decided that the North River parking is too valuable, and that the Art Stop lot, despite street-crossing challenges, enjoys a high-visibility location that invites success.

Batavia MainStreet Interim Director Jamie Saam noted that the southern portion of the Art Stop lot will remain open for parking, giving shoppers easy access to the chalets.