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Geneva council votes 6-4 to proceed with Mill Race plan

Former Mill Race Inn site on track for redevelopment

Geneva's Mill Race Inn was demolished several years ago. The City Council voted to redevelop the site on July 15, potentially bringing townhouses and a riverwalk to the space.
Geneva's Mill Race Inn was demolished several years ago. The City Council voted to redevelop the site on July 15, potentially bringing townhouses and a riverwalk to the space.

GENEVA – After 3 1/2 hours of discussion before a packed council chambers, Geneva aldermen voted 6-4 on July 15 to proceed with a proposed redevelopment plan for the former Mill Race Inn site at 4 E. State St.

To be clear, officials said the vote endorses the parameters from last month’s intense planning process called a charrette. It represents a continuing partnership with the Shodeen Family Foundation and Hitchcock Design Group to refine the proposal, which still has to go before the Historic Preservation Commission and the Plan Commission where height and scale could be reduced, officials said.

The proposal as a result of the charrette planning process is a $35 million investment of 124 residential units of townhouses and apartments, coupled with a public riverwalk.

Several people objected to the scale of a 60-foot-high structure at the former Mill Race Inn property.

Among those objecting was resident Lee Eysturlid.

“It’s disappointing to see what’s happening,” Eysturlid said. “I’m kind of in shock. … This is an immense disappointment.”

Resident David Balsan said he and his wife moved to Geneva from Naperville because the city reminded them of what Naperville used to be while they were growing up.

“A project of this size and scale would be appropriate in Naperville,” Balsan said.

Aldermen also struggled with the proposal.

“The overall footprint and size is definitely a concern for me,” 4th Ward Alderman Gabriel Kaven said.

David Patzelt, president of the Shodeen Group, said the charrette planning process was a 50-50 partnership with the city.

“What happens to us every day in a partnership is some people are not always happy,” Patzelt said. “You accept some things you really don’t like, but understand. … If you vote yes, you will continue to walk down this mysterious path. … We’re willing to go.”

Third Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg said this was not the end, but the beginning of a process.

“I think tonight what we’re encountering is somewhat of a reality check,” Kilburg said. “The reality is we have a developer who is prepared to put his money into the site. … It has to be profitable and it has to be something that serves the community long-term.”

Kilburg said the proposal will increase the downtown population, giving more support to restaurants and shops.

“We’ve got one foot in the bucket,” Kilburg said. “Maybe we need to put both feet in the bucket and the outcome will be something we’ll probably be happy with.”

Voting yes were 1st Ward Alderman Michael Bruno, 2nd Ward Alderman Michael Clements, Kilburg, 4th Ward Alderman Jean McGowan, 5th Ward Aldermen Robert Swanson and Craig Maladra.

Voting no were 1st Ward Alderman Tara Burghart, 2nd Ward Alderman Richard Marks, 3rd Ward Alderman Becky Hruby and Kaven.

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