BATAVIA – A crowd packed the Lincoln Inn to learn what might be ahead for Batavia from 10-term Mayor Jeff Schielke at the annual mayor's breakfast hosted by the Batavia Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 9.
He predicted residential projects eventually will fill in remaining properties to grow the city to what he estimates will be a population of between 33,000 and 35,000 people. It now stands above 26,000.
"What's driving them all here is the quality of this community," Schielke said. "We're doing something right [that's] got a lot of people knocking on the door."
He acknowledged the challenging revenue climate, but remained positive about the long-term picture for the city. He noted that currently under construction are the 80 units of an affordable senior apartment complex off Randall Road near Walmart called Windmill Manor.
And whether the proposed Shodeen development goes forward at Wilson Street and North Washington Avenue or not, he wants to see a high-density residential project on the property "to keep our taxes realistic," he said, adding that "other developers are standing in line."
He said he spoke a day earlier with company founder Kent Shodeen, who told him he'd like to have further discussion about the One Washington Place plan, whose projected construction costs have left its future uncertain.
On the entertainment front, Schielke said Funway owner Bob Hansen has purchased the neighboring Producers Chemical Company property, with plans to add outdoor attractions.
A portion of the mayor's slide presentation showed sites in Batavia in the middle of the last century and what they look like today. One of the past alterations to the landscape was the construction of Riverrain Point, a senior affordable apartment complex along the Fox River.
"Hundreds of people I grew up with [live with] great dignity and security because Riverrain was there," he said. "It speaks well to what happens when you tear things down."
Schielke took a moment to lobby for support for the fundraising drive underway to expand the nearby Depot Museum.
His talk also focused on Batavia's prime river frontage. Among the stretches is the temporary parking lot on the former Larson-Becker property on North River Street. That city purchase included land on the east side of the street, where he suggested the parking could be moved later to free up the riverfront land for development. And he would like to see the nearby bike trail extended north.
Schielke mentioned that coming improvements include a modern wastewater treatment plant, and noted the former Circuit City near Trader Joe's will be home to a Sierra Trading Post after the first of the year, and the closed PartyLite industrial building will see upgrades from the new owner, a real estate investment trust, to make it more appealing to prospective tenants.
He listed the restaurants added in the past year, which include Hot Pan Noodles and Dumplings, Salsa Verde, Dunkin' Donuts, Briana’s Pancake House Restaurant and Denny's. And in the works are plans for a sit-down Rosati's pizzeria restaurant, as well as the reopening of an eatery at the former Range. The existing Taco Bell will be getting a colorful makeover.
Schielke acknowledged the 50th anniversary of Fermilab, and its future plans for construction along Kirk Road as part of its neutrino experiment spanning multiple states.
He noted the current renovation of the local Aldi grocery store, and praised the company whose U.S. headquarters are in Batavia. He mentioned the company is holding onto 60 adjoining acres available for possible corporate expansion.
"Aldi is proving to be very supportive … in our town," he said, citing, as one example, its donation of items to the Batavia Access Toy Drive.
Before Schielke took the podium, a representative of Northwestern Medicine, a sponsor of the breakfast, said the hospital merger that included Delnor in Geneva now brings subspecialists from Lurie Children's Hospital to the suburban area. Among the added programs at Delnor are pediatric rehabilitation services.
And Holly Deitchman, president and CEO of the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, invited residents to nominate people who have made significant contributions to the city for the Citizen of the Year Award, which will be announced Jan. 25. For information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630-879-7134.