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Developer proposes apartment complex for Campana building in Batavia

Many units would be income-restricted under plan

A developer is proposing residential housing in the landmark Campana building at Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway in Batavia. It was built in 1936 to serve as a factory for The Campana Company, which produced Italian Balm.
A developer is proposing residential housing in the landmark Campana building at Route 31 and Fabyan Parkway in Batavia. It was built in 1936 to serve as a factory for The Campana Company, which produced Italian Balm.

BATAVIA – A developer proposes putting 80 residential apartments inside Batavia’s historic Campana building, with most of them being income-restricted.

Evergreen Real Estate Group wants to use the original 1936 factory building and the north addition for the apartments.

The Campana building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a local landmark by the city of Batavia in 2003. In its heyday, the Campana firm manufactured a line of cosmetics, and was noted for its radio advertising.

Today, the building houses several commercial tenants, some which would be displaced by the apartment development. Located at the northwest corner of Batavia Avenue (Route 31) and Fabyan Parkway, the building is notable for its central tower and horizontal line of glass block windows.

The proposal presents a complex series of issues that city officials will have to grapple with, but the most critical is transforming most of the building into an apartment complex.

“Making the building primarily residential – that is the issue at hand,” Batavia Planning and Zoning Officer Joel Strassman said.

Batavia officials were scheduled to consider the concept at their Committee of the Whole meeting May 2, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., after Kane County Chronicle press time.

Under Evergreen’s proposal, there would be 36 one-bedroom units, 38 two-bedroom units, and six three-bedroom units.

The developer would make use of low-income housing tax credits to help finance the project in exchange for affordable housing. Low-income households are defined as making no more than 60 percent of the median income in the local area.

Evergreen also is expected to seek federal historic-preservation tax credits to finance some of the needed renovations, including work on the mechanical systems, tower, roof, masonry and glass block.

In its submission to the city, Evergreen said it would add new small windows below the ground floor’s glass block on the east side in order to provide operable windows, stating they would be “mostly hidden from view. … Additionally, clear windows will be added on the building’s north and west sides allowing for large, sun-filled units.”

Any alterations to the exterior, including the windows, will require a review by the Batavia Historic Preservation Commission.

“That’s going to be a big issue,” Strassman said.

Another issue will be parking. Under the proposal, the construction of additional parking at the site still will leave the property significantly below what is required to serve the apartments and the remaining businesses in the south and west wings of the building.

“It doesn’t meet our code for parking,” Strassman said.

The developer will either need variances from the city, or seek to have the project designated as a planned unit development, Strassman said.

Batavia Building Commissioner Jeff Albertson said that while the Campana building needs work, the basic structure is sound.

Creating apartment spaces inside the existing building will require interior demolition work, Albertson said.

“They’re going to have to gut what’s there,” Albertson said.

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