Developer drops controversial Campana apartment plan

A controversial plan to put 80 apartments into the former Campana factory building in Batavia has ended.

The developer, Evergreen Real Estate Group, withdrew its application in a letter received Friday morning, according to Batavia Community Development Director Scott Buening.

The last time aldermen voted on the plan, it was 9-5 in favor at an October committee of the whole meeting.

In November the council learned the owner of a neighboring property had filed an objection. Under a little-known provision of Batavia's zoning code, that meant at least 10 aldermen, a supermajority, would have to vote in favor for the plan to pass. Mayor Jeff Schielke would have been prevented by state law from voting on the proposal.

That led to a succession of voting postponements, including on Nov. 20 when the developer requested a delay to Feb. 5, saying it would consider revising the plan or withdrawing it.

Ahead of Monday's council meeting, opponents were rallying to again pack the council chambers, with the website sending emails and text messages to members.

Evergreen unveiled the plan in May 2017. It called for 64 of the 80 apartments to be government-supported housing, mostly for low-income tenants. Evergreen would finance construction in part by selling Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

It had received an allocation of $1.34 million, and the sale of the credits could generate up to $14 million in equity, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

At council meetings and hearings before the planning and historic preservation commissions, many speakers questioned the plan. Some said they did not want low-income housing near their homes. Many said the plan would compromise traffic safety at Fabyan Parkway and Batavia Avenue.

People also questioned whether the historic landmark, with its glass block windows, was suitable for people to live in.

Others spoke in favor of the plan, saying the area needs more affordable housing. The Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley favored the effort, seeing it as a way to preserve a building in need of work.

"Campana, as a building, is sitting there with a lot of needs," Schielke said Friday. "If nothing is done for another five to 10 years, it is going to be a sorry situation."

The property is zoned for mixed uses, including stores and housing.

"The one way it is going to get saved is through private investment," Schielke said.

The director of development for Evergreen could not be reached for comment.

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