BATAVIA – Under a best-case scenario, excavation could begin this coming autumn on the One Washington Place project in downtown Batavia.
The massive downtown mixed-use project lumbered ahead Jan. 2, even as it squeaked through another Batavia City Council vote, this one to approve alterations in the redevelopment agreement with Geneva-based Shodeen Construction.
Just like last month, when aldermen were split 7-7 on changes to the number of parking spaces, residential apartments and retail space sites, the deadlocked council again left the decision to Mayor Jeff Schielke.
The mayor’s yes vote to approve the complex legal document with Shodeen means that the developer can get the project back on track.
Shodeen President Dave Patzelt said in an interview that even if the process goes smoothly, it will take eight or nine months before construction crews can begin digging.
Batavia Community Development Director Scott Buening confirmed that as a realistic time frame.
Patzelt said his next step will be to prepare revised plans to be presented to the Batavia Plan Commission and Batavia Historic Preservation Commission. Assuming approval by those two bodies, the plan will come back to aldermen for yet another vote.
After that, Shodeen will be able to draw up construction documents and go out for bids, Patzelt said.
Last summer, bids on the project had come in $6 million to $8 million higher than expected for the $40 million project. Patzelt said he had underestimated the cost of construction for the subterranean portion of the public parking garage; also, the slope of the property’s East Wilson Street frontage presented difficulties.
The higher bid numbers prompted Patzelt to request changes to the plan late last year that ultimately were approved with Schielke’s tie-breaker.
The revised plan increases the number of apartments by eight, to 194, while decreasing the parking space count by 15, to 335.
By eliminating retail shops on East Wilson Street, it also leaves just 5,725 square feet of commercial space along North River Street, down from the original 14,608 square feet that had been planned for the building.
The other major change included in the redevelopment agreement is an increase in the city’s bond issue by $2 million, for a total of $16 million, to help finance the project.
City officials are quick to note that the bonds will be repaid from tax increment financing district funds generated by the increased value created by the project.
Moreover, they point to a Special Service Area and other provisions in the redevelopment agreement that make Shodeen responsible for repaying the bonds if the TIF district does not generate enough revenues.
With the changes, city officials and Patzelt now are calling One Washington a $50 million investment in downtown Batavia.
Voting in favor of the revised plan were 1st Ward Alderman Michael O’Brien, 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff, 3rd Ward Alderman Dan Chanzit, 4th Ward Alderman Susan Stark, 5th Ward Alderman Lucy Thelin Atac and 7th Ward Aldermen Dave Brown and Drew McFadden.
Voting no were 1st Ward Alderman Scott Salvati, 2nd Ward Alderman Marty Callahan, 3rd Ward Alderman Elliot Meitzler, 4th Ward Alderman Tony Malay, 5th Ward Alderman Mark Uher and 6th Ward Aldermen Michael Russotto and Nick Cerone.
Those voting against the plan cited the elimination of the East Wilson Street retail space.
“It goes to the vision of what the town is,” Callahan said.
Supporters of the project said that even with the changes, it still will accomplish the city’s original goals for increased parking and housing downtown.
“This is a type of housing Batavia needs,” Stark said.
Proponents also argued that the project will spark commercial development nearby.
“This is an engine to revitalize the downtown,” McFadden said.
Last year, the Plan Commission voted down the proposal on the grounds that the six-level building is too tall, but aldermen overrode that decision.
Buening said that this time around, the Plan Commission’s review is expected to be limited to the changes in the project, including the number of apartments and parking spaces, and the alterations to the East Wilson Street facade.