GENEVA – Geneva alderpersons Oct. 2 approved a third extension to a developer for an apartment and commercial project at the former Duke & Lee’s site, 609 S. Third St.
The proposed mixed-use building is to have 60 apartments, 6,014 square feet of commercial space and 63 off-street parking spaces. According to the city’s zoning ordinance, site plan approval is effective for one year unless a building permit has been issued and construction has commenced. That hasn’t happened yet.
The project originally was approved Aug. 17, 2020.
The City Council approved a second extension a year ago.
Owner Juan Jose Crespo now is requesting a third extension for another year to allow for building permits and the beginning of construction.
Brian Zatz, the property’s broker, said the owner has an option for someone to buy the property, but they’re just going forward to get financing.
“That’s the most difficult part,” Zatz said. “We believe this is going to happen. … The objective would be for them to break ground in 2024, all things being equal.”
Fifth Ward Alderperson Robert Swanson objected to a third extension.
“We are seeing the same pattern year after year saying let’s renew it for one more year,” Swanson said. “The first year, it was COVID. The second year, it was a change in ownership. This year, it’s a change in ownership and it’s being set up for sale, going on year four. [This] is a very important property for the entryway to our downtown. Is it going to happen?”
Zatz said he could not make a prediction.
“The person who holds the option said they wanted to build the project as designed,” Zatz said. “If you spend money on something, I believe you want it to happen. … It’s not an insignificant sum. On that basis, I don’t think the person holding the option wants to walk away.”
Zatz said everyone else they dealt with wanted to be given six months to work on financing – but without putting money down on an option – and every would-be buyer ultimately didn’t buy.
“This is a whole different approach for putting the deal together,” Zatz said.
First Ward Alderperson Anias Bowring asked if there was a downside to the city extending site plan approval for another year.
“It’s a ‘by right’ development, anyway, so they weren’t requesting variances,” Bowring said.
“By right” means a project meets all the city’s zoning requirements and does not need variances or zoning amendments, officials said.
Community Development Director David DeGroot said the project is permit ready.
“We completed the detailed review and had the permit ready to be issued, so extending it allows that to occur without further delay,” DeGroot said. “But it does not preclude any other development coming in with a different proposal.”
Fifth Ward Alderperson Craig Maladra said he agreed with Bowring that extending the site plan is not a downside to the city and allows the prospective new owner time to get financing.
The council voted 8-0 in favor with two absent, 3rd Ward Alderperson Dean Kilburg and 4th Ward Alderperson Martha Paschke.