Delays put Batavia's One Washington Place project in jeopardy

 
 
Updated 2/14/2020 8:55 AM

One Washington Place, Batavia's downtown, mixed-use development plan that includes luxury apartments, a parking garage and commercial space, has been hit by delays that could sink the project.

City Administrator Laura Newman told aldermen at this week's committee of the whole meeting that due to multiple delays, the project is getting started three years after the city agreed to provide tax increment financing for the development.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The project, at North River and State streets where Route 25 jogs, is a 2016 public-private partnership between Batavia and Shodeen Group, the developer.

To finance One Washington Place, the city planned to issue $16 million in bonds. But the amount of time remaining on the TIF isn't enough to pay off the bonds, Newman said.

In a TIF district, property taxes above a certain point are funneled into development rather than to local governments.

"Ideally you want a project to move forward the day after you establish the TIF," Newman said after the meeting.

If the development is going to move forward, the city could either consider extending the TIF up to 35 years or establishing another TIF that could include other zones, she said. Another option is to reduce the project's scope to fit the shorter timeline.

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Because of investments by local businesses and decisions based on the plan, if the project doesn't happen, "it would be devastating," Alderman Dan Chanzit said.

The delay was mainly caused by environmental issues, Newman said.

In 2018, remediation plans for the soil and groundwater were worked out with the developers after they found lead-contaminated soil while removing buildings on the property. The agreement had Shodeen responsible for the remediation and demolition while the city paid for it. Construction was expected to begin in May.

"It is extremely frustrating to now, all of a sudden, consider additional options, or wait for options, which is more time, which is more delay," Alderman Marty Callahan said.

Mayor Jeff Schielke asked the council to give Newman and city staff a chance to figure out a way to make the project work.

"I think we're doing some things right here," he said. "We've just got this glitch in the road."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The council plans to take up the discussion again on March 3.

The site didn't start out as a location for a multiuse building. The process began in 2004 when Batavia acquired the First Baptist Church property with a plan to fix the jog at Route 25 and Wilson Street, creating more of a curve. But it turned out that plan wasn't financially feasible.

Since then, the city has a lot invested in the project, including acquired properties, acquired easement rights and demolition costs, Newman said.

Before the next discussion, she will be contacting other taxing bodies, such as Kane County, the park district and the school district, to work out the TIF details and develop a plan to present to the council. With a TIF extension, construction could begin later this year.

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