How Shodeen's plans for former Mill Race Inn property could affect Island Park

  • What remains of the Mill Race Inn in Geneva. Concerns about the fate of Island Park have made some Geneva residents question Shodeen Corp's plans for the Mill Race property.

      What remains of the Mill Race Inn in Geneva. Concerns about the fate of Island Park have made some Geneva residents question Shodeen Corp's plans for the Mill Race property. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Updated 7/11/2019 2:18 PM

After Geneva city officials held a public meeting and released an artist's rendition of the concepts envisioned for the former Mill Race Inn property, it triggered the expected flow of yeas and nays on social media.

It was similar to nearly 30 years ago now, without the digital opinion capabilities, when Shodeen Corp. first proposed the Herrington Inn complex on the west side of the Fox River.


In both cases, shouts of joy for a major upgrade clashed with shouts of concern over losing city charm and history.

This time around, some residents fear what Shodeen Family Foundation really has in mind with early concepts that include a new restaurant, townhouses, apartments and open public space.

Some expressed concern that a large project could damage Island Park.

I'd drop that argument fairly quickly, unless you spin it around to start considering what a new project could do to help Island Park.

We walk through Island Park every week. This park has served the community well, and still hosts community events, but its future is at least a little uncertain.

In spots, it's a pretty nice park. But, overall, this is not a wonderful park by any definition because it succumbs to Mother Nature fairly easily. And the park district knows it.

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This park district site is what it says it is -- an island set in the Fox River. But it has eroded over time with various low spots, to the point where a heavy rain or high river is going to make Island Park suffer.

And the geese rule this roost, leaving their marks in hundreds of places in the park and along the riverside path.

It remains a nice setting for fishing, biking, walking or sitting on a bench. But other types of activities risk being canceled because of too much water and mud.

The park district, a few years ago now, moved its summer concert series out of there. It knew bad weather and what it does to the park was not a good mix for a regularly scheduled series of community events.

Where does it leave us?

Without knowing how all of this could be worked out, it would be a good idea if a significant part of negotiations with Shodeen and Hitchcock Design Group centered on how the developer felt he could help resolve some Island Park problems.


This park could become a highlight of Geneva and part of a go-to walking or biking route for all visitors.

After all, the park setting is going to be a key to the success of this development. And the development could be the key to the future viability of the park.

Child care to doggy care:

Over time, the empty La Petite Academy child care center at 2423 Fargo Blvd. in Geneva became an eyesore.

At least once in a past column, I mentioned it was almost haunting in that much of the playground equipment was still in place nearly a decade later. It looked like the place was deserted by nuclear fallout.

That's all changing now, as a Dogtopia dog day care facility will be taking over at that site soon -- and the building and grounds are already being spiffed up for its new tenants.

Senior care in Batavia:

The mounds of dirt and construction fencing along Fabyan Parkway, just west of the Walmart store on Randall Road, likely leave many motorists wondering what is being built in that area near Janet Lane.

It's work being done on a planned senior care housing project called Windmill Landings.

Batavia city officials approved the 142-unit project a year ago now, which will have an address of 2401 Hawks Drive. It will sit near the Windmill Manor senior apartments along that street.

It's a project from Iowa-based Russell Construction, which confirmed to me last week that it is still on target for completing this facility in 2020.

Fifteen years of sweets:

For as big of a sweet tooth as I have, it is odd that I have not yet had a brownie from the Cocoa Bean pastry shop in Geneva.

An acquaintance once told us this place had the best brownies they ever had. A declaration like that always gets my attention.

When Oprah Winfrey declared on her TV show in 2005 that Moveable Feast in Geneva had some of the best brownies she had ever eaten, it did not take me long to make a visit there and find out on my own about these "Deeply Fudgey Brownies."

So it is, with Cocoa Bean this month celebrating its 15th year of success in Geneva with owner and pastry chef Paul Saucedo, I have to place it on my "to-do" list to try the brownies.

It wasn't an Oprah recommendation, but I've heard enough good things about this pastry shop from others to know I simply have to visit.

I had that in mind at the Cocoa Bean booth at the French Market in Geneva last Sunday morning, but the ladies at the booth explained that their chocolate goodies don't fare well in the outdoor heat.

A Riverside gold mine:

Our first visit to Riverside Pizza & Pub on Wilson Street in Batavia delivered what we felt it would -- an excellent setting, pizza and service.

It's an interesting facelift of the former Walgreens site, to say the least. It has an industrial motif, with wood beams across the ceiling rafters now in plain view.

As for the food, my wife wanted a veggie pizza, while I had visions of at least sausage and black olives. So my vision covered half of that veggie thin-crust pizza.

Like its other locations in South Elgin and St. Charles, this Riverside Pizza site will have staying power, and Batavia will be glad it has become part of its downtown landscape.

Upon completion of our dinner, we stayed downtown and visited Batavia Creamery for ice cream. That makes it a win-win for everyone.

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