The crumbling Cetron factory in downtown Geneva could be replaced by 200 apartments, plus shops and restaurants, under a proposal presented Monday to the Geneva City Council.
Marquette Cos. of Naperville wants to tear down the factory, and a house the factory owned, to build a five-story building at Seventh and State streets from Richards to Peyton streets.
The first floor would have the shops and restaurants.
"Really the main point is creating that pedestrian environment and engaging the street (State)," said Jeff Prosapio, project management director for Marquette Cos. Marquette envisions building upscale apartments, with an average monthly rent of $1,500, that company officials think would appeal to people in their 20s and 30s.
No official plans have been presented; only an artist's rendering, based on the company's other projects nationwide, was shown.
That concept was also presented to the plan commission June 26. The commission had questions about the density of the project, which would be on about 2 acres; traffic flow; and the height of the building. There are stores and houses to the east of it, another factory to the north and houses to the west.
"We've been harping and harping and harping about (getting) density, and then density shows up and everybody goes, 'Well, this is too dense,'" said Alderman Tom Simonian.
The site is identified in the city's Downtown/Station Area Master Plan as a good site for a mixed-use development with multifamily housing. City officials believe having more people living in the downtown business district will increase business.
"In terms of the scale of our town, this is a big, big, massive development," Alderman Craig Maladra said. "What I need to learn is how a town the size of Geneva can accommodate a development this size without losing aspects that make Geneva attractive."
But he liked the appearance suggested in the artist's drawing. "I'm not going to say this is a bad idea," Maladra said.
"For the moment people forget this has been an ugly location for the 40 years I've been in town," said Alderman Chuck Brown, in whose ward Cetron lies. "I'm really hoping we can move forward here and bring more people to our downtown," he said.
No vote was taken. The property would need to be rezoned for residential and commercial use.
In 2007, the city council found the factory site and part of the neighborhood around it would be eligible to become a conservation tax-increment financing district, so that taxes on the properties in the district could be used to pay for incentives to improve or redevelop the properties. But it never created the district.
In 2010 the Geneva Library board voted to buy the site, but in 2013 it backed out. Library trustees refused to say why they changed their minds. The library paid for tests looking for environmental hazards on the site, but the board has refused to release the results.
Cetron made electronics equipment, including vacuum tubes. The factory shut in the mid-1980s.