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Batavia’s One Washington Place project expected to be completed in 2025

BATAVIA – The One Washington Place downtown redevelopment project is to be complete by April 9, 2025.

That’s the final date in a series of seven deadlines under an amended agreement with Geneva-based Shodeen Construction that was approved by the Batavia City Council on Sept. 7.

However, the first four deadlines, all in 2022, were of the most concern to aldermen.

They include submission of construction bid drawings by Jan. 5, application for a building permit by March 6, a notice of intent to proceed by June 8 and finalized construction contracts by July 5.

Failure to meet any of those deadlines would entitle the city to declare Shodeen in breach of the agreement and to terminate the project without exposing the city to liability for any of the developer’s costs.

The three remaining dates involve actual construction of the $50 million multi-use project, including 186 apartments, a 331-space parking garage and more than 16,000 square feet of commercial space in the heart of the downtown.

The first of these, a June 8 start to construction, comes ahead of the deadline for producing the final construction contracts and on the same day as the notice to proceed. This date is the least significant of the seven.

However, the Sept. 3, 2023 deadline for completion of the two-level parking garage and the April 9, 2025 deadline for finishing the entire project are to be enforced with $1,000-per-day penalties.

The deadlines for the notice to proceed and subsequent construction would be pushed back if the city fails to issue the building permit by June 4, 2022. But with the March 6 deadline for Shodeen to submit the permit application, this appears unlikely.

Aldermen approved the redevelopment agreement on a 10-4 vote. The decision did not come without the usual drama that has been the hallmark of council debates over the project for the past five years.

Under its redevelopment agreement with the city, Shodeen would be entitled to reimbursement for its costs associated with the project should the city terminate the deal without cause. To date, those costs are estimated at $500,000.

Several aldermen indicated they believed paying the money would be worth getting out of the deal.

Fourth Ward Alderman Tony Malay made a motion to postpone voting on the amended agreement until an itemized list of Shodeen’s expenses was to be produced. Second Ward Alderman Leah Leman seconded the motion.

“I cannot agree that this is what we want for the keystone of our downtown,” Leman said. “It’s just not Batavia.”

When the roll call to postpone was taken, 5th Ward Alderman Abby Beck and 4th Ward Alderman Joe Knopp joined with Malay and Leman, but the other 10 council members voted no.

Then, on an identical 10-4 vote, aldermen approved the new deal.

Those voting in favor included First Ward aldermen Jennifer Baerren and Christopher Solfa, 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff, 3rd Ward aldermen Dan Chanzit and George Ajazi, 5th Ward Alderman Mark Uher, 6th Ward aldermen Nick Cerone and Michael Russotto and 7th Ward aldermen Keenan Miller and Sarah Vogelsinger.

Vogelsinger, elected to her council seat last spring, said she had been “a hard no” on the project when elected last spring, but has since changed her mind.

“I believe it will be a catalyst for growth in downtown Batavia,” Vogelsinger said.

Wolff, who while frustrated by delays in the project has been one of its strongest supporters, said that to postpone or walk away from the deal now would be bad public policy. It would send a message to future potential developers that Batavia is not a place they want to do business, Wolff said.

One Washington Place will be a six-level structure covering most of a city block bounded by North Washington Avenue, East Wilson, North River and State streets.

The project has been in the planning stages for five years and suffered through several delays.

The first came when Shodeen miscalculated the cost for the parking garage. The city increased its commitment to the project by $2 million, bringing the total to $16 million, but delaying the project by a year.

The city will own and operate the parking garage when construction is complete.

Later, city officials discovered that the building site is contaminated with lead, requiring a lengthy approval process with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for a plan to clean up the property during excavation, causing another year-long delay.

Last year, city officials determined that there was not enough time left on the existing tax-increment financing district to generate enough revenues to repay the bonds that will be issued to fund the public improvements, including the parking garage.

They waited until the start of this year to approve a new TIF district in order to maximize the 23-year period as specified in the state law.

Then in July, Shodeen missed a deadline to submit construction drawings. The builder cited increases in the cost of building materials, as well as the uncertainties caused by supply-chain shipping problems, both caused by the pandemic.

The higher costs meant the developer needed to secure a larger loan from its bank. The loan commitment came Aug. 20, only days after aldermen had threatened to cancel the redevelopment deal.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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