Batavia council to vote tonight on One Washington Place plans
There's little question among Batavia aldermen that the proposed One Washington Place project has the potential to act as an economic engine for the city.
But, opponents ask, at what cost?
Updated plans for the roughly $40 million mixed-use development at North State and River streets are up for a vote during today's city council meeting, as is a third iteration of an agreement with the developer, Shodeen Group. Aldermen narrowly supported both measures last week in preliminary votes of 8-6.
The controversial project has been in the works for years, a process that has been riddled with revisions, delays and lengthy debates. Current plans call for constructing a six-level building with 186 apartments, 14,180 square feet of retail space, 2,370 square feet of offices and a 333-spot public parking garage.
Several aldermen said they believe the development will serve as a catalyst in the downtown, boosting its economic vitality, attracting residents and spurring other growth opportunities.
"This is a way to generate revenue," First Ward Alderman Michael O'Brien said. "This is a game-changer for our city."
But some have taken issue with the size and scope of the project, saying it doesn't fit with the character of the downtown. Though similar developments have been successful in other suburban communities, such as Wheaton and Elmhurst, Second Ward Alderman Marty Callahan said he's concerned Batavia will lose a piece of its identity if officials decide to follow that trend.
"I want to be us -- standalone us -- which is a dying breed," he said.
Callahan voted against the Shodeen deal and development plans during last week's committee meeting, along with aldermen Elliot Meitzler, Tony Malay, Joe Knopp, Mark Uher and Keenan Miller.
Under the proposed redevelopment agreement, Batavia would plan to issue $16 million in bonds to cover the public parking component and other eligible costs. The funds would be reimbursed through a tax increment financing district, in which property taxes generated above a certain level are funneled into redevelopment rather than to local governments.
The project is not financially feasible and would not move forward without the creation of a new TIF district, city Administrator Laura Newman said. That process, which requires a public hearing, input from other taxing bodies and final approval by the council, is expected to carry into late this year.
One Washington Place is expected to generate about $1 million in incremental revenue per year, though some aldermen noted that the windfall of cash would not be distributed to affected taxing bodies until the 23-year TIF expires.
Still, Newman said, the project would provide the city with financial stability into the future, in addition to bringing in more residents, businesses and economic activity in the short term.
"I think if we want to see the downtown flourish, we need to create density down there," Seventh Ward Alderman Drew McFadden said. "This is a project that certainly does it."