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updated: 2/22/2012 5:17 PM

Geneva panel rejects teardown of historic gas station

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  • John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com The Geneva Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday denied a request to tear down the former Pure Oil service station at 502 W. State St. The building currently houses The Pure Gardener store.

      John Starks/jstarks@dailyherald.com The Geneva Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday denied a request to tear down the former Pure Oil service station at 502 W. State St. The building currently houses The Pure Gardener store.

 
 

The owner of the historic Pure Oil service station building in downtown Geneva is considering whether to appeal denial of a request to tear it down.

The Geneva Historic Preservation Commission Tuesday denied a plan to tear down the former station at 502 W. State St. and build a bank drive-through in its place.

The vote was 5-1. Commissioners did not believe the request met federal standards regarding why a historic building cannot be preserved.

Joe Stanton, founder and president of the building's owner, Fagans Inc., said he and the bank haven't discussed whether to appeal the decision to the city council.

St. Charles Bank and Trust filed the application for a building permit to demolish the building, build the drive-through, and remodel the first floor of the building to the west, for a bank. Because the building is in the historic district, the preservation commission's permission is needed.

Stanton said the bank "was very, very interested in using it as it is now," routing the drive-through lanes through the former service bays. "We loved that idea, and tried diligently to make it work."

The service station opened in 1937. Stanton bought the property in 2006 to prevent possible blockage of windows on the east side of his then-new building at 514 W. State.

"I always thought I would be able to keep the gas station as is," he said.

Stanton told the commission Tuesday that to recoup the estimated $360,000 of repairs and renovations that would bring the building up to current code, he would have to charge nearly double the current rent.

Moving the building would be difficult, as it sits on a concrete pad, and the deteriorated condition of the exterior brick walls and the lack of interior demising walls would make it unstable during the move.

The building needs brick and roof repair or renovation, replacement of heating and ventilation equipment, removal of paint inside that likely contains lead, and the addition of interior handicap-accessible restrooms, according to Stanton.

The bank wants to lease the whole first floor of the 514 W. State building.

Doing so would mean current first-floor tenants would have to move, including the Art Box art materials store.

"I have worked seven days a week 9-7 for the past 9 months, and made huge personal sacrifices to survive and succeed in this economy," Art Box owner Len Bielefeldt said in a prepared statement. He had suggested to Stanton creating the "West Side Art District," featuring his store, Simitree, a photographer's studio, The Pure Gardener, and The Underground Theater, anchored by restaurants Bien Trucha to the east and the Urban Grille on the west.

He said he likes Stanton, and that Stanton has been a good landlord.

"I am too tired and strapped too fight, and worst yet, I am getting too tired to create, and at Art Box, that is what we do. I don't think I can handle a move," Bielefeldt said.

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