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What's next? Plans for Mill Race Inn still in 'think-tank' mode

The Shodeen family has bought the historic Mill Race Inn, a historic restaurant at 4 E. State St. in Geneva that closed in January 2011. The Mill Race Inn began as a blacksmith shop in 1842, but eventually turned into a tea room in the 1930s.
The Shodeen family has bought the historic Mill Race Inn, a historic restaurant at 4 E. State St. in Geneva that closed in January 2011. The Mill Race Inn began as a blacksmith shop in 1842, but eventually turned into a tea room in the 1930s.

GENEVA – A month and a half after Geneva developer ShoDeen bought the Mill Race Inn, in Geneva, a company official says ShoDeen does not yet know what it wants to put there.

"We have just started trying to plan and have think-tank meetings," said David Patzelt, president of ShoDeen Construction. "We don't have anything yet; we have no solid idea yet. It's nothing we can approach anybody at the city with."

The historic Geneva property, at 4 E. State St., Geneva, was purchased by 4 East State Street Holdings LLC March 1 for $550,000 from Plaza Bank, according to property records. The holding company was created through the Shodeen Family Foundation, according to the Illinois Secretary of State records.

The Mill Race Inn's restaurant closed in January 2011. It began as a blacksmith shop in 1842, but it eventually turned into a tea room in the 1930s. Its name was taken from the gristmill where water diverted from the river turned the mill’s wheels, called a “mill race.” 

After foreclosure, the property had been on the market since November 2012, its first listing price at $1.2 million, records show. 

Patzelt said ShoDeen has had no private meetings with city officials, nor applied for a demolition permit.

"We have been in Geneva 50-some-odd years and done so many projects in Geneva that we felt we should become involved in that project," Patzelt said.

Eric Shodeen, president of ShoDeen Management Company, did not return a voicemail message seeking comment on the company's plans for the property. But others speculated on what kind of development could go in that area on the Fox River.

For Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, the possibilities range from a hotel that would complement the Herrington Inn, which is at 15 S. River Lane, located just across the river from the Mill Race property, to a restaurant and retail site.

"Or perhaps some housing opportunities such as condominiums," Burns said. "I have every confidence that Shodeen Development Corporation will propose a plan that not only accentuates the beauty of the riverfront but adds to the electric and dynamic downtown business district."

Burns said ShoDeen has done other quality developments in Geneva, and he would expect no less in this one.

"I welcome their creativity and their vision," Burns said. "When they have their ducks in a row and get ready to raze the property, we will issue whatever permits necessary to clear the land and ready it for redevelopment."

Michael Simon, owner of The Little Traveler, 404 S. Third St., said the property would be well-suited for residential development.

"More and more towns are having residential density in the downtown that Geneva does not have," Simon said. "There are fewer opportunities for people to live downtown."

Simon said a combination of condominiums or some higher-density housing would be perfect for that area. Or, Simon said, creating a cousin to the Herrington across the river. 

"It would be a wonderful venue with a great location, with the right people in charge," Simon said.

Joseph Stanton, another downtown property owner and developer, said he doubted that a restaurant in that location would be financially sustainable. Any type of commercial development there would have to be a destination place, Stanton said. 

"That would be a tough corner to get in and out, and impossible for any retail to survive there. The direction they would go would be residential condos or townhouses," Stanton said. "The only other thing is … some extension to the Herrington across the river."

A year ago, when the selling price of the property was reduced to $899,000, Stanton had put in a bid and said he planned to develop it for condos, but the bank rejected his offer.

Stanton would not say how much he offered at the time, but that the bank probably thought it was a low offer.

"There were no surveys. It was in foreclosure – a pig in a poke. The building is in terrible condition – uninhabitable. It's been flooded so many times," Stanton said. "The $550,000 they paid is not that cheap of a price."

Stanton said he has no regrets that the property now belongs to ShoDeen.

"I have no regrets," Stanton said. "I am very happy the Shodeens took it. I want somebody to do something Geneva would be proud of and something that would last, and the Shodeens have good track record. I think they do a great job over there."

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