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posted: 8/7/2013 5:34 PM

Batavia leans to allowing demolition of First Baptist building

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  • Community members took self-guided tours June 30 of the First Baptist Church in Batavia. The city owns it, and is considering letting any potential buyer tear the building down.

       Community members took self-guided tours June 30 of the First Baptist Church in Batavia. The city owns it, and is considering letting any potential buyer tear the building down.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • People recall attending church in the First Baptist Church of Batavia sanctuary, during an open house June 30. The city owns the building, and is considering letting any potential buyer tear it down.

       People recall attending church in the First Baptist Church of Batavia sanctuary, during an open house June 30. The city owns the building, and is considering letting any potential buyer tear it down.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

When Batavia sells the former First Baptist Church building, it likely won't require the purchaser to keep any part of the building, according to the direction the city council gave staff members Tuesday night.

No vote was taken at the joint committees of the whole meeting. The consensus was that city officials should advertise for requests for qualifications from entities interested in redeveloping the site without restrictions.

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"Tearing down historical structures in town is something I am completely against," said Alderman Kyle Hohmann, adding that offering developers that option is in the best interest of the city, he said.

And the council agreed not to put any more money into the buildings than absolutely necessary -- no roof repairs, no shoring up the foundation and no fixing leaking windows, which had been estimated to cost $775,000.

A parking lot, however, will be repaved, as it is used by patrons and employees of downtown businesses.

According to a report from public works director Gary Holm, if any or all of the building has to be saved, that will reduce the density of the development that could occur, and may make the site less attractive to a buyer.

The sanctuary was built in 1889. Additions were made in the 1930s and 1950s, and could be removed, according to Holm.

The city bought the site in 2006 for $762,000 to make way for a proposed straightening of the Route 25 jog at Wilson Street. That plan has been abandoned.

The congregation moved to a new building, west of town, in 2008.

Alderman Steve Vasilion again recused himself from discussion about the site, because one of his architectural clients, Batavia Enterprises Inc., may be interested in it, he said. BEI representatives toured the building during an open house last week.

"I think we have put enough money into the building," Alderman Lucy Thelin Atac said. Alderman Michael O'Brien, who favored the staff recommendation, warned that if the roof fails, it will bring the building down with it.

Resident Duke Wahl, something of a watchdog on city financial matters, agreed the city shouldn't fix or renovate the building.

"The numbers were kind of alarming to me," he said. A complete renovation, including adding an elevator to make it fully accessible, has been estimated at $3.5 million. "Restoring to me is kind of out of the question."

He also urged the council to consider using the site for parking to help businesses on North River Street. "They really need parking out there," Wahl said.

Staff members will prepare the request for qualifications and present it to the council for review at an unspecified date.

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