Batavia plans to buy site for food pantry, toy drive

City would raze east side building, construct new facility

To create a new space for the Batavia Food Pantry, the city would buy this 1.25-acre property, which includes a 14,000-square-foot commercial building at 330 and 338 Webster Street, for $550,000 from Aiken Properties.

BATAVIA – The Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry and Clothes Closet, along with the Access Christmas Toy Drive, are two of the community’s oldest and most successful social service programs.

But the food pantry’s facilities always have been cramped and the toy drive has operated over the years from makeshift locations in vacant retail spaces.

Now the city of Batavia is planning to change all that with construction of a new facility on the near east side.

The city would buy a 1.25-acre property that includes a 14,000-square-foot commercial building at 330 and 338 Webster St. for $550,000 from Aiken Properties.

Located at the southwest corner of Webster and South Prairie streets, the building would be razed.

A large open parking area on the west side of the property would be the site for a new building to house the food pantry, clothes closet and toy drive while the newly opened space nearer to the intersection would become the parking lot.

City Administrator Laura Newman said the property, near the downtown but tucked away in an inconspicuous location, is a perfect fit.

“It checks a lot of boxes,” Newman said.

First, the city needs to do its homework before buying the property.

The city is armed with a $3 million federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant secured by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, who was Batavia’s representative in Congress until the most recent redistricting.

HUD guidelines for the grant require an environmental assessment to be performed.

The city has negotiated an option to buy the property for $50,000, Newman said.

The owner will take the property off the market for six months under the arrangement.

If the city decides to go ahead with the purchase after obtaining a favorable environmental review, the $50,000 would be applied to the sale price, Newman said.

Should the city decide not to execute the sale, $25,000 would be returned and the seller would retain $25,000 as compensation for taking the property off the market.

The Batavia City Council approved the deal at its Jan. 16 meeting.

If the sale goes through, the intention is to construct a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot building complete with a loading dock.

The property purchase price and the cost of the environmental review would be paid from the $3 million grant.

“We’re going to use those $3 million as wisely as possible,” Newman told the council at a committee level meeting a week before aldermen gave final approval.

In response to questions from aldermen, Newman described plans for the new building to be “as low-cost as possible, but one that would stand the test of time. We may seek added funding to get the project across the line.”

The city would own the building, providing the space rent-free and covering the cost of utilities.

Established in 1981, the food pantry and clothes closet serve Batavia families in need.

Donations come from the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Batavia grocery stores, food drives and individuals.

Volunteers donate their time to sort the donations, stock the shelves and help clients when they come to shop.

The clothes closet is an integral part of the organization. Volunteers manage racks of apparel and help clients find the right article of clothing in the right size.

Until recently the food pantry and clothes closet were located in a small structure on Flinn Street next to the Batavia Wastewater Treatment Plant.

That building was torn down to make way for an expansion of the sewage facility.

Currently, the two operations are temporarily located in a space leased by the city at 431 Raddant Road, across the street from the Batavia Public Works building in an industrial park.

The toy drive, which dates to 1949, provides holiday gifts to Batavia children and teens from families in need.