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Batavia residents weigh in on what to do with former church building

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 6:32 a.m. CDT
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(Eric Schelkopf – eschelkopf@shawmedia.com)
Batavia residents and city officials on Tuesday toured the former First Baptist Church building in downtown Batavia as part of an open house. The building needs an estimated $3.1 million in repairs so it can be reused, and city aldermen are weighing what to do with the building.

BATAVIA – A flood of memories hit Batavia resident Lois Dahlstrom on Tuesday night as she toured the former First Baptist Church building as part of an open house.

Dahlstrom, 67, attended Sunday School there as a youngster and was married in the church in 1969. As aldermen weigh what to do with the city-owned building, Dahlstrom hopes it will not be torn down.

“I would hate to see it torn down, but structurally, I guess it is not in good shape,” she said.

A Northbrook-based firm, WJE, has estimated it will cost at least $3.1 million to repair the former First Baptist Church building at the corner of Washington and Wilson streets in downtown Batavia so the building can be reused.

The city has owned the facility since 2006, including the late 19th-century original church, a north addition built in the 1930s and a classroom wing built around 1959. The Batavia City Council recently hired WJE to assess the building’s condition.

The firm has inspected the building, and recommended repairs be made to the exterior and interior of the 1889 church, 1930s addition and 1959 classroom wing, as well as the building’s mechanical systems. The firm recommended the city budget between $3.1 million and $3.5 million for the work.

Gerry Dempsey, chairman and CEO of property management and development company Batavia Enterprises, was among those touring the building. The company has renovated two churches in Batavia into office buildings.

“This is the first time I’ve been in the building,” Dempsey said. He said the corner where the building sits is ideally suited for retail or commerce.

WJE listed an estimated $775,000 in repairs to prevent additional damage to the building materials or features. The repairs include a new roof; gutter repairs and new downspouts at the 1889 church; a new roof; scuppers and downspouts at the 1959 addition; masonry lintel repairs at the 1930s addition; and lintel repairs at the 1959 addition.

Batavia-based Alpine Demolition Services has submitted an estimate of $146,250 to demolish the property.

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