Commercial parking in the area of Third Street in downtown St. Charles has been a problem for years. But city officials last week committed to a $1 million remedy.
In the city's second recent major purchase of downtown property, aldermen approved buying the VFW building at a price of $800,000. The post is located at 119 N. Third St.
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The VFW building itself is about 5,600 square feet. It stands on 35,000 square feet of land, including an existing 40-space parking lot that the city already leases from the VFW. City officials plan to add 45 spaces to that parking lot by demolishing the building. The demolition is expected to cost about $200,000.
VFW Spokesman Col. Duane Buttell said in a written statement that the VFW post was getting more expensive to maintain as the 61-year-old building aged. Both money and reasons to keep and maintain the building have become harder to come by as the VFW's membership roster has dwindled.
"The city of St. Charles has been an avid supporter of the VFW and veterans in St. Charles," Buttell said. "We will use the proceeds from the sale to continue the VFW's long-standing commitment to supporting veterans and their families."
Specifically, the VFW members plan on moving their operations to Fifth Avenue, where the American Legion Post meets. The long-term vision on the city's end of the deal may eventually see another downtown parking garage erected on the site if future redevelopment calls for it. That would match the future vision for that area of the downtown as currently called for in a new draft of the city's comprehensive plan. For now, city officials expect the 85 spaces will be enough to keep patrons of downtown businesses from taking up parking in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
"This purchase will allow the city to expand public parking in the North 3rd Street area and provide greater convenience for area business owners, employees, residents and visitors," Mayor Don DeWitte said in a written statement.
The $1 million needed to purchase the property and pay for the VFW building demolition will come from the same pool of funds recently used to buy the former George's Sports Center adjacent to the Arcada Theatre. The money comes from funds not needed for other capital projects. However, city officials said neither the VFW purchase nor the sports center purchase used any money from the special tax that helped fund the construction of the Red Gate Road bridge.
City Administrator Brian Townsend said in an email interview the city does not yet have a definitive plan on paper for the sports center.
The details won't come until the city "can assess the condition of the building and determine what potential project partners, including the owner of the Arcada Theatre, are willing to do," Townsend said. There is $125,000 in the new city budget earmarked for that work, he added.
The city paid $230,000 for the sports center. The goal is to use the building to support the theater, Townsend said.