Geneva OKs Sixth Street School demolition
The Geneva City Council approved Monday the demolition of the former Sixth Street School, reversing a decision made last Wednesday by the city's Historic Preservation Commission.
It did so despite requests from residents to slow down and consider whether anybody was interested in buying the building to adapt and re-use it, perhaps for housing or offices.
Alderman Mike Bruno was the only one to vote "no." He also tried to table the matter until the April 6 regularly scheduled council meeting, and four other aldermen agreed with him. But that was denied when Mayor Kevin Burns voted against it. Alderman Chuck Brown was absent.
Burns said he called the special council meeting, which took place after the regularly scheduled committee of the whole meeting, because the matter was "fresh," that city planning staff had thoroughly reviewed the application and that there was no new information to be presented since the HPC hearing. The council had 30 days to consider the building owner's appeal of the HPC decision.
Kane County has owned the building since 1989. It houses the offices of the Regional Office of Education, taking up about half the space. The county has a contract to sell the site to the Geneva Public Library District.
Library officials are considering constructing a new building there. The board president said last week it does not want to re-use the three-story, 90-year-old building.
The building is in the city's nationally registered historic district, so standards set by the secretary of the interior apply for any modifications to outsides of buildings or for demolition. The preservation commission ruled the county hadn't met one of the standards -- it didn't prove that the building couldn't reasonably be adapted for other uses, such as offices or housing. The presence of the ROE, in fact, indicated the building could be used, according to HPC chairman Scott Roy.
The county contended it would cost $3.6 million, or about three times the site's worth, to bring the buildings up to current building code.
Alderman Dean Kilburg and several audience members pointed out that the county had essentially neglected the building since buying it. It has drainage, heating, ventilation and rodent-infestation problems, according to the county; it also needs a new roof and would need elevators installed to make it accessible to the disabled.
Resident Jeff Golden, who lives in the neighborhood, countered that could once be said of a house on Second Street that now houses an upscale restaurant. He said he toured that house while looking to buy a home in the historic district and saw mold, rodents, crumbling ceilings and more.
"Everything that you are saying is wrong with this building was wrong with the Patten House," he said.