'Stuck in time': A look at some Tri-Cities projects that seem to drag on

  • The former Mill Race Inn restaurant complex in Geneva: Most of the buildings were razed in 2016, and the city is hiring a consultant to come up with a redevelopment plan.

      The former Mill Race Inn restaurant complex in Geneva: Most of the buildings were razed in 2016, and the city is hiring a consultant to come up with a redevelopment plan. Rick West | Staff Photographer, May 2007

Posted10/3/2019 8:26 AM

As residents go about their daily routines throughout the Tri-Cities area, something else becomes part of that routine through familiarity -- seeing commercial or residential projects not doing much of anything for long periods of time.

We're talking about those projects that, for the most part, remain artist's renditions or site plans or even just ideas swirling around in developers' or city officials' minds.


Some call these projects "stuck in mud," others call them "stuck in time." Sometimes they are simply on a timetable in which something has backed up original plans.

Those variables could be the cost of materials, an unforeseen circumstance that makes some materials hard to obtain, a setback in soil testing, a problem with financing, a backlog of developer projects or a logjam in obtaining proper permits.

We're left to wonder about many of these facets when seeing projects that appear to be going nowhere.

We hope something like a total redo of the Harris Bank building in downtown St. Charles doesn't fall into this category over time, but plenty of other projects leave us wondering.

We experienced it in big doses with the First Street revitalization in St. Charles. It has been Exhibit A for understanding that things don't always go as planned, especially timing. But, ultimately, they do happen.

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Shodeen Construction is at the forefront of many projects in this area, some of which have taken years to get in motion. It seems to be the company's method of operation, but it's hard to argue with what Shodeen has accomplished locally.

At the moment, Shodeen is moving along on the Prairie Centre residential/commercial project at Lincoln Highway and Prairie Street in St. Charles at the former 27-acre St. Charles Mall site. But it's been a project a decade in the works, it seems, in terms of getting city approval and Shodeen feeling comfortable moving forward. It has clearly moved on from being "stuck."

But not much is happening with the One Washington Place apartments project in Batavia, based on some contaminated land findings, or the Mill Race property in Geneva, which is still being debated in town. Before long, they will officially be "stuck in time."

Some readers have asked me to quit being so negative about the Charlestowne Mall area on the east side of St. Charles, a scenario that certainly qualifies as being stuck in mud, time and everything else in between.


So many developers have had their fingerprints on this, I've actually lost track and interest.

Nothing worthwhile comes of me moaning about this unfortunate situation St. Charles was sucked into. But as long as the Classic Cinemas movie theater is in operation, and Von Maur continues to operate and places like Cooper's Hawk restaurant locate nearby, it is a little easier to grin and bear an empty mall.

In terms of other potential retail development, those who drive through the Randall Road and Main Street intersection in St. Charles often may wonder if the proposed Audi car dealership is ever going to unfold there.

St. Charles continues to push for Audi to open a business in the city, but it is at least slightly uncertain what property owners have in mind at the moment.

Rita Tungare, director of community and economic development in St. Charles, tells me the owner has indicated an interest in operating in the city, but has not provided any type of timeline for doing so.

From the city's standpoint, it's just a matter of hoping Audi comes forward to file applications to start the project.

It's been 60 years

The timing seems right for me to mention that the Colonial Café on the east side of St. Charles last week celebrated 60 years of operation.

In this day and age, that's significant staying power for a family restaurant operation.

It was a coincidence I mentioned Colonial recently as the restaurant in the Tri-Cities area I have been to the most often. I have always liked the place for ice cream, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The Colonial Café at 1625 E. Main St. opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1959.

Colonial Chairman Tom Anderson has often talked about the evolution of his father's business. Those who have lived in St. Charles all, or most of, their lives likely remember the "Snappy Snack" burger joint at the corner of 11th and Main streets that ultimately became the Colonial franchise.

Over time, Colonial has had a place on each side of St. Charles, operating on the west from the spot that is now the Taste of the Himalayas at 110 N. Third St. and later at a location near the old St. Charles Mall site. The wrecking ball took out that site when the current Colonial on the west side along Randall Road opened more than 10 years ago now.

More about Lincoln

Batavia author Dan Van Haften and his writing partner David Hirsch, an attorney from Des Moines, Iowa, have written another book about Abraham Lincoln.

The two have focused on the science behind Lincoln's reasoning and how he studied matters and came to his conclusions.

This book is titled "The Tyranny of Public Discourse: Abraham Lincoln's Six-Element Antidote for Meaningful and Persuasive Writing."

The book "frames communication problems and then presents clear, step-by-step solutions," Van Haften said in an email.

The authors wrote the book "to explain Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson's method for civil, scientifically reasoned, fact-based persuasion," Van Haften said.

"It is essentially the scientific method for human problems," he added. "It is uniquely practical, and couldn't be more timely."

Publisher Savas Beatie released the book in late July.

Lots of ham

I just happened to be hungry when walking by, and the place drew me in the way it is supposed to -- through the photos of sandwiches posted on the window.

So it is, I stopped for the first time at Bezo's Sandwich Shop at 208 W. Main St. in St. Charles.

I picked the ham sandwich and it was a good choice. In fact, it ended up serving me well for two meals.

Like any other restaurant or deli in the area, Bezo's has seen rave reviews or thumbs-down from those taking the time to share feedback online. You sometimes have to wonder the motivations behind some of these reviews, but let me just say no one affiliated with any place I go to pays me to visit, nor do I have a vested interest in any one restaurant in this area.

From that vantage point, I can declare Bezo's makes a really good sandwich and the place is worth trying. It may not be in the best spot for parking, but it's not the first business in this area facing that challenge.


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