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Mill Race Inn continues to generate development interest

GENEVA – The shuttered Mill Race Inn at 4 E. State St., Geneva, survived the recent floods with the use of sump pumps, a real estate broker said 

So even as Island Park was submerged in the recent flooding of the Fox River, the iconic restaurant still stands, broker Nick DiBrizzi said.

“We have a lot of sump pumps in there,” DiBrizzi said.

Plaza Bank owns the restaurant, which closed January 2011. The 15,000 square feet of restaurant space with seating for 400 and the 1.3-acre site originally was listed for $2.2 million. DiBrizzi said it was reduced to $1.8 million, then to $1.1 million; after a new appraisal, it was reduced to $890,000. 

“That generated at least 10 showings in the last week or so,” DiBrizzi said. “That property is gorgeous. The view is just incredible. One restaurant group is thinking of a steakhouse. They’re just in love with the place.”

The Mill Race Inn began as a blacksmith shop in 1842, but eventually turned into a tea room in the 1930s. Its name was taken from the gristmill where water diverted from the river turned the mill’s wheels, called a “mill race.”

Geneva Economic Development Director Ellen Divita said the city is asking consideration for the original blacksmith shop to be kept as an anchor for whatever project comes there.

“It is identified as one of the opportunity sites in the downtown master plan,” Divita said. “We are aware of several serious inquiries. Each one is looking at incentives … each project is decided on its own merit.”

Divita said the city would consider a tax increment financing for that area if the project was right.  

TIF is a redevelopment tool where property or sales taxes are diverted for specific uses, such as infrastructure improvements, demolition, utilities and development or redevelopment of substandard buildings, over a period of 23 years.

“The city will always consider an economic development incentive,” Divita said. “In this particular area, you do have the potential of creating a new TIF or extending an existing TIF.”

Divita said officials could create a new TIF district or extend the existing East State Street TIF district to include the Mill Race area for its remaining 13 years.

Other options would be to rebate sales tax or create a business district, she said

Eddie Bluemel, vice president for Plaza Bank in Chicago, which owns the Mill Race property, said the issues create “quite a conundrum for us.”

“There is substantial interest in the property, and we are doing our best to sell it,” Bluemel said. “It is just languishing and a bit of an eyesore. What do we do? That is the real question.”

Bluemel said the recent appraisal of $900,000 has spurred some offers. Some have been for about half that amount.

“One person made an offer – as though it were vacant land – of $10 a foot. Looking at our square footage, it comes out to maybe $700,000 to $650,000 for vacant land,” Bluemel said. “But that is not vacant land. They want to demolish the building, and they are backing the cost associated with that into the number.”

Bluemel said he would contact Divita regarding the possibility of a TIF as a development incentive for the property.

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