Former bank site in St. Charles an opportunity for developers

  • The former BMO Harris Bank location in downtown St. Charles is a prime location to be considered for redevelopment for other uses.

      The former BMO Harris Bank location in downtown St. Charles is a prime location to be considered for redevelopment for other uses. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Posted9/5/2019 2:03 PM

Any developer interested in prime riverfront property in downtown St. Charles has to be looking at the empty BMO Harris Bank site on Main Street and thinking, "What if?"

We're not developers, but this thought crossed our minds when walking along Main Street last week: This would be a good spot for condominiums or loft units to complement the other housing projects in town.


It would get more people close to the Arcada Theatre and downtown restaurants, and would likely help Blue Goose Market, with more shoppers walking over to First Street.

"It's a fine piece of property right there on the river, and there's no doubt it sits right in the entertainment district," said Rita Tungare, director of community and economic development for St. Charles. "There is an opportunity to create something there."

It's been a bank building since it first opened in 1964 as the State Bank of St. Charles, which operated there for decades. It's only slightly difficult to envision something else going there, but cities across the country have had to deal with this scenario -- empty bank buildings in downtown areas eventually becoming something else. In fact, St. Charles has already done it a couple of other times.

For now, city officials aren't involved in the Harris Bank site process. The bank still owns the building and Tungare is hoping to hear some news about it in the next month or so.

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"I'm definitely hoping to hear before winter sets in, and I have nothing to base that off of, other than instinct in knowing how long it has been on the market and such," Tungare said.

Because it is privately owned, the city won't get involved until it hears what a new owner might have in mind in terms of reconfiguring the building for a different use or tearing it down to build a new structure.

So far, the city has had some zoning inquiries from interested individuals contemplating purchasing or leasing the building. In a commercial real estate world, those would be considered the earliest "feelers" to get a sense of property value and what the city would approve in that location.

"We have to respect the private property rights at this time," Tungare said. "But the idea of it being housing or mixed use; sure, anything is possible within the central business district."


Time to eat

Geneva's Festival of Vine starts Friday, Sept. 6, and, as I have done for many years, I will be scoping out the Flavor Fare with the full intention of trying at least a few of the offerings from participating restaurants.

There's no real strategy to all of this, other than maybe trying a restaurant you haven't been to. Otherwise, you tend to establish favorites fairly quickly.

For me, that could be any number of Flavor Fare booths. At first glance, those catching my eye this year include the lobster roll from Nobel House, filet mignon slider from Geneva Ale House, lobster mac and cheese from Inglenook Pantry, and marinated pork taco from Del Barrio Mezcaleria.

If I eat all of that in one round, I might be making another stop: At the drugstore for a bottle of Tums.

Preserving history

Interested in preserving local history? You should know about the efforts of the Thornapple Questers.

Thornapple Questers has donated to various local historical projects and groups. It operates as part of Questers International, a nonprofit established in 1944 to support history preservation, restoration and education.

The local group is hosting a Vintage Sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, and Saturday, Sept. 7, at 402 Sixth St., the home of Cathy Rex in the Geneva Historic District.

Quester members and friends donated the vintage glassware, silver, china, linens, furniture, artwork, garden, jewelry and other items for the sale.

"We are a small, but mighty group of ladies who continue to believe it is fundamental to preserve the past for the future," member Pat Pretz said.

The organization has supported the Durant House Museum, Garfield Farm, Corron Farm, Preservation Partners of Fox Valley, Geneva History Museum, St. Charles History Museum, the 1843 Jones Law Office at Camp Kane in Langum Park and the Whitney one-room schoolhouse project in Campton Township.

Clarifying demolition

It makes sense that the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission would cringe if someone gave the impression the commission would never allow a house in the city's historic district to be demolished, no matter what condition.

It's been well documented that various residents over the years have had lengthy debates with the commission about various changes they'd like to make on homes in the district. But a group created to preserve a city's history is going to have some strict guidelines to follow. Cities that don't have groups like this lose their connection with the past.

Last week, when writing about the interesting rehab project at 201 N. Third St. in Geneva, I wrote that demolishing the home wasn't an option in the historic district. As the story was told to me, it wasn't an option the owners were looking for, as they wanted to go through with the rehab and get consideration for the state's historic district tax assessment freeze program. But it was still an option.

I just didn't make that clear in the story. So, it should be noted that houses along River Lane, Fourth Street and the Sixth Street School have been demolished in the historic district because it was the best option.

Goblets for Batavia

You can raise your large wine goblet to toast the Batavia Historical Society on this one.

But you have to buy that goblet to do so. The historical society is stepping in to sell the Batavia-themed wine goblets, at $10 for a pair, to help raise funds for the damaged windmill by City Hall and for the Depot Museum expansion project.

The city of Batavia asked the historical society to sell the goblets because the city cannot sell them in a retail setting.

The goblets are on sale from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Depot Museum gift shop every day of the week, except Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A working Seabee

It's possible that the most attention the Seabees ever got out of World War II was when John Wayne was in a movie called "The Fighting Seabees."

But those who know how the military functions and the important roles various units have, understand the importance of the U.S. Navy's Construction Force, or the Seabees, for the last 75 years.

They catch our attention again because Petty Officer 2nd Class David La Cure, a 2000 Geneva High School graduate, is a member of the naval construction battalion center located in Gulfport, Mississippi.

La Cure is serving as a Navy construction mechanic responsible for repairing and maintaining construction equipment for the Seabees, who operate under the motto of "We Build, We Fight."

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