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Workshop on Mill Race property draws 70 Geneva participants

'This has to work for everybody'

GENEVA – About 70 community members attended a public workshop June 24 at Riverside Receptions & Conference Center in Geneva about the future redevelopment of the former Mill Race Inn property at 4 E. State St.

Called a charrette, the intense planning process involved an overview of the possibilities for the 1.8-acre property, questions from the public and dividing up the crowd into groups in which they could brainstorm possibilities.

“We are here to talk about concerns and shared values,” said Rick Hitchcock of Hitchcock Design Group, the consultant team that is leading the planning process.

“This has to work for everybody,” Hitchcock said. “It’s got to work for the property owners. It’s got to work for the city. … We’re not going to redevelop the Mill Race Inn. That’s history. We’re going to cut that loose and let it float down the Fox River tonight. ... What are the new memories we are going to make on that site, as community, as investors?”

One issue is the remnant of the original 1838 limestone structure, which the owners had planned to raze, but preservationists delayed by having it declared landmark status. The delay does not mean it will never be removed or razed, only that the owners will work with the consultants and public to consider it.

The north wall and east wall of the structure are in such bad shape, they would have to be dismantled and rebuilt to be structurally safe, said Michael Breclaw, an architect at FitzGerald Associates Architects.

“We can’t just reinforce and tuck- point them,” Breclaw said. “The west wall and south wall are in shape. They can be repaired.”

Bridget Lane, owner of Business Districts Inc., said if a developer were to put in an 8,000-square-foot restaurant, it would cost $5.16 million; or for a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, the cost would be $1.95 million.

Lane said restaurants change concepts every three to five years, so it isn’t enough to build for today, but to build for a history.

Since the economic crash, investors are putting their money in non-property products, Lane said. And younger people are not buying starter homes, but renting and saving for larger, nicer homes.

The next session was an open house June 26 at Riverside Receptions.

Hitchcock said the consulting team will distill the best ideas into one strategy that will be presented at 7 p.m. June 27 at Riverside Receptions.

“Then we’re going to take that strategy and refine it over the following months,” Hitchcock said.

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