GENEVA – While the bank that owns the Mill Race Inn is struggling to find a buyer, Geneva city officials say they are on the verge of ordering the shuttered restaurant building razed because of safety concerns over its deteriorating condition.
The restaurant, at 4 E. State St., Geneva, closed in January 2011. Because of its location next to the Fox River, the structure has flooded several times. Also, a colony of raccoons has been living in the ductwork, and the building has been the target of vandalism, officials said.
Mayor Kevin Burns said the city is “perilously close” to demanding that the structure be torn down, even before a sale and redevelopment plan is settled.
“We are fed up with the eyesore and want to move quickly on eliminating it,” Burns said. “We are perilously close to requiring and demanding that the bank move posthaste on razing that property, or I will work with the city council and appropriate staff to invest our own resources to do so.”
If the city has to spend $75,000 to $100,000 estimated to take down the building, it would have a recapture agreement with the successful bidder on the property so the city could be reimbursed. Burns said it would require city council action to appropriate the funds, if a buyer for the property does not emerge soon.
Burns said any demolition would include working to preserve the stonework and the original blacksmith shop, which dates back to 1842.
“The city is well aware of the condition of the Mill Race,” Burns said. “We have been in constant contact with the owners, not only for the condition of the building and safety hazards, and windows boarded up. They are well aware of the condition and our frustration with it – and our patience is wearing thin.”
Edward Bluemel, vice president for Plaza Bank in Chicago, which owns the Mill Race Inn, said he was not surprised as city officials had told him the building would have to come down.
“We may have to address that,” Bluemel said. “It may be a reason to push through a sale and put the cost [of demolition] on the buyer ... The bank does not have a lot of experience with tear downs.”
Economic Development Director Ellen Divita said bank officials have been very cooperative with the city regarding property maintenance and code issues at the Mill Race.
“They have not been cited,” Divita said. “We know of the raccoons and one broken window. The fire and building departments have contacted the bank to get a structural review of the building. Police are providing extra monitoring to make sure it is secure.”
What officials hope will solve the issue, Burns said, is a buyer’s bid and a redevelopment plan that is accepted.
“We are anxiously awaiting news from several bidders on whether or not they have secured the property,” Burns said.