Developer pulls plug on controversial downtown Batavia apartment plan
The controversial One Washington Place development in downtown Batavia, which was expected to break ground in January after nearly six years of planning, is dead.
Shodeen Group founder and chief executive officer Kent Shodeen himself came to tell Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke and city administrator Laura Newman the news Wednesday, Schielke said.
"I have been supportive of it since it has been conceived. I am disappointed that it (the cancellation) had to happen," Schielke said. He had cast several tiebreaking votes that kept the project alive.
The six-story building -- containing 186 apartments, a few stores and a public parking garage -- would have taken up much of a city block at Wilson Street and Washington Avenue.
Schielke said Shodeen told him the project had become too expensive.
"It was just purely a decision based on the numbers," Schielke said. For example, the cost of the building's precast concrete panels had increased more than 100 percent, Schielke said.
Shodeen President David Patzelt -- Shodeen's point person on the project -- could not be reached for comment Thursday morning. A news release from the city said Shodeen cited inflation, instability of the financial markets and supply-chain disruptions as "insurmountable obstacles."
The proposal was unveiled in July 2016 with an estimated $40 million cost.
Many critics argued the building was too big and too tall.
The city's plan commission voted against the proposal, but the city council ordered it to reconsider. The commission grudgingly approved it after it learned it couldn't consider the height of the building or its size.
City financial incentives also were criticized. The city owns the land and planned to sell it to the developer for $10.
The site originally included a former church, dentist's office building, a parking garage and a small insurance agency building.
The city paid $715,000 in 2006 for the First Baptist Church and razed it in 2017. It paid $600,000 for the dental building, including moving and equipment costs. For the insurance building, which a former longtime alderman owned, the city paid $195,000, more than double its appraised value, including moving expenses.
The parking garage is still there. The dental and insurance buildings were demolished.
The city was going to spend up to $16 million for public improvements, mainly the construction of a new 333-space public garage in the building. It was to be reimbursed by increased property taxes generated by the development or, failing that, a special-service-area tax on the building.
But the project was delayed when Shodeen discovered it had made a mistake estimating the cost of the garage, driving up the price by an estimated $6 million to $8 million. Then lead-contaminated soil was discovered, and a plan had to be made to deal with it.
Then Shodeen delayed creating construction documents until it was sure it could get a $30 million construction loan, which, Patzelt told the council earlier this year, took longer than expected.
The mayor remains optimistic. But, he said, it is up to the city council to decide whether to remarket the site.
"I think we've got a viable site for something nice to make for the downtown area," he said.