Residents continue to debate Campana apartment project in Batavia

 
 
Updated 8/17/2017 6:00 AM
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  • Batavia residents continued to speak out about whether the city should let apartments be built in the landmark Campana factory building on Wednesday during a continuation of a plan commission public hearing.

      Batavia residents continued to speak out about whether the city should let apartments be built in the landmark Campana factory building on Wednesday during a continuation of a plan commission public hearing. Rick West | Staff Photographer, April 2017

Batavia residents continued to speak out about whether the city should let apartments be built in the landmark Campana factory building on Wednesday during a continuation of a plan commission public hearing.

Just as it was when the hearing began on Aug. 2, the meeting room was filled, and an overflow was set up in a nearby conference room so people could watch it on television.

Residents again expressed concern about adequate parking, whether stormwater displaced by increased parking would be well-handled, if the Geneva school district would get enough in property taxes to handle the influx of students expected, and about safety at the intersection of Fabyan Parkway and Batavia Avenue.

Several more spoke about whether the building was even a suitable place to live.

"Why was a housing project ever proposed for the Campana building? It's not suitable for human habitation," said Guy Prisco of Batavia, citing the glass block windows and supports that would run down the center of the interior hallways.

"It gives the appearance of warehousing people. Such (affordable) housing should be dignified housing that is located in areas that provide services (they need) and not the vehicle to fund a historic renovation project," Prisco said.

"It is a concrete dungeon with few usable windows," Geneva resident John Rockwell said.

Others pointed out that dividing the $30 million estimated cost by the number of apartments means spending $375,000 on average to build the units.

"It is a very inefficient way to build affordable housing," Aleksandr Romonov of Geneva said.

But Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley supports the plan, according to representative Margaret Egan.

So does the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County, said Patricia Lackmann, vice president of that group. "It's the last, best chance" to preserve the building, and fits with the league's support to have more affordable housing built in the Tri-Cities, she said.

"The Campana building is a white elephant. It is also an iconic landmark," Egan said. The few proposals made over the last 20 years, such as letting a charter school move in, would not have restored the building, she added.

The developer, Evergreen Real Estate Group, has received an allocation of $12.5 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits and is applying for several million dollars in federal historic preservation credits. The developer intends to restore the masonry on the exterior and replace many of the glass blocks in the windows.

But several residents questioned whether taxpayer money should be used for historic preservation.

"The property (land) is valuable, if not burdened by historic preservation regulations," Geneva resident Sandy Ellis said. "If no buyer feels this is a good investment, then why is it a good deal for taxpayers?"

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