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Geneva OKs easement relief for Ashland Center improvements

Plan includes creating park-like setting on North 3rd Street

GENEVA – Aldermen unanimously recommended approval of public-private partnership with a property owner on North Third Street to facilitate right-of-way improvements, which includes a release on an ingress/egress easement on the property.

The two-vote recommendation at July 1 Committee of the Whole is with
Ashland Ventures LLC, 25 N. Third St.

Paul E. Kawalek, president of Ashland Ventures, said he had a five-year plan for the building when he bought it in 2014 and now it is coming to fruition.

“What Ashland Center at 25 N. Third St. really is – we consider it to be – a gateway to the historic district,” Kawalek said. “We are at the very north end of the district. And therefore, it is an important building. ... It has always been an economic engine for the block. The building was a very large element in an asphalt sea. Everything was about the cars.”

Originally a grocery store, then a bank, Ashland Ventures redesigned the building to replace the drive-through bank lanes to add private and handicapped parking, create a park-like setting, an outdoor environment for tenants and to increase an outdoor presence for the city’s historic district.

He added an arbor, green space and pavers that created a pedway, or pedestrian walkway.

in 2018, Ashland Ventures added sustainable green space landscaping, ecologically friendly pavers, enabled additional municipal parking and expanded the appearance of a park environment, he said.

“Hoisted by our own petard – by eliminating the drive-through lanes, we created a street,” Kawalek said, to explain why he needed a release from the 20-by-40-foot ingress/egress easement. “You can now see directly all the way to Second Street.”

Releasing the company from the easement will allow for the extension of the proposed park-like setting on the boundary of the historic district, increase foot traffic on Third Street and encompass the entire to blocks of the north end, Kawalek said.

The company will then create a European style park, Kawalek said.

“It has trees, it has sustainable landscaping. The city will provide the irrigation as part of their extension from the knuckles near it. It only needs irrigation for a short period of time because of the plants that we’re putting in – just to get them started," Kawalek said.

The park would have two benches, six bike racks and a litter bin, he said.

“This is not just a garden. This is a place for people to walk, congregate, rest and get into the community,” Kawalek said. “This plan can be executed, we think, by Labor Day.

As to controlling traffic through their private parking lot, he said they would use planter boxes that would be spaced so pedestrians, people on bikes or in wheelchairs could get through.

“It’s a way of creating a very passive fence,” Kawalek said.

City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins said the recommendation is to release for the ingress and egress, as the city still has its rights protected to access to its utilities there.

Kawalek's full presentation is available on YouTube through the city's website,

The City Council will take final action.

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