Batavia's wish to sell the Thomle Building at 2 E. Wilson St. has been dashed.
Corcoran Commercial Real Estate of St. Charles is withdrawing its proposal because it couldn't reach an agreement to also buy the privately owned building next to it, City Administrator Bill McGrath told aldermen at a committee meeting Tuesday night. Corcoran wanted to combine the two buildings and put a restaurant on the first floor and apartments on the second.
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"This is one of those things where now I go back in time and say 'Should we really have pursued more the Tini (Lounge) bar, because we kind of put a lot of eggs in this basket,'" Alderman Susan Stark said.
The Tini Lounge was another proposal for the Thomle Building, submitted by Michael Grudecki, who owns a decor business. Grudecki wanted to build a martini bar that would be open five days a week.
McGrath said "the potential for that (the Corcoran) project was so good, it certainly outweighed going after the Tini bar," particularly since city staff members thought the Tini Lounge's financial projections were not adequate.
Corcoran had proposed buying the Thomle Building for $1 and getting a $590,000 city grant to help buy the other building and bring both up to current building code, including putting in sprinklers. It estimated the result would be a $1.8 million facility.
McGrath said the city council will have to direct city staff members about what to do next, which could include seeking new proposals or asking Batavia MainStreet if it is interested in hosting a business incubator space there. A few years ago, the city rented the space out as an incubator and charged low rents to help new businesses get off the ground. Before that, the building housed the MainStreet office.
The Thomle Building was constructed in 1878 and once housed a station for the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad line along the Fox River. The city bought the abandoned building in 1997 for $75,000 and spent $100,000 to repair it. Batavia MainStreet remodeled the interior.
Mayor Jeff Schielke said he thinks one reason finding a buyer is difficult is due to concerns about parking. The lot in back of the building is mostly private, belonging to yet another person. He said the city should try to buy or lease that lot.
"Because we are not going to go any place on that side of the street (with development) without some understanding of how that parking lot is going to work," he said.
Stark asked if there was anything the city could do to put pressure on the owner of 4-6 E. Wilson to do something with his property, which has been vacant about four years. Its last tenant was a maternity-and-children's clothing store. But since the space doesn't have any code violations, the city doesn't have much leverage, McGrath said.
"Really, a lot hinges on that building in the center that takes up a lot of space," Stark said.