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Batavia historic group opposes mayor on River Street building

The BataviHistoric PreservatiCommissihad recommended 106 North River St. downtown historic district be reclassified from 'contributing' 'significant.'  BataviMayor Jeff Schielke

The Batavia Historic Preservation Commission had recommended 106 North River St., in the downtown historic district be reclassified from "contributing" to "significant." Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said he has serious reservations about changing the historic value of the two-story wood structure. | Linda Girardi~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 17, 2013 6:32AM

BATAVIA — The city’s Historic Preservation Commission has decided to stick with its original recommendation to upgrade the historical classification of a 90-year-old downtown building.

Commissioners voted 3-2 this week in favor of not amending a previous recommendation to change the historic property classification status from “contributing” to “significant” for the two-story wood structure at the northeast corner of North River and State streets.

The building at 106 N. River St. was once the location for a grain and feed bag distribution business that ended around World War II and a heating and air-conditioning company around the 1960s.

“Our role is to preserve history. It may not be the most glamorous of history, but we are still upholding what we believe in. It’s wrong for us to yield to development and say we’ll save bits and pieces,” commission member Ron Fessler said.

Mayor Jeff Schielke had suggested the historic advisory board reconsider its recommendation to upgrade the structure’s historical value.

Schielke said the city invested $3.5 million in streetscape improvements on North River last summer and although there is no formal redevelopment plan, the vision is for future development.

“Sooner or later the building will come down because it has no historical value and probably would stand in the way of a greater and grander plan or idea someone will bring forth. I wonder why we would create additional hurdles when in fact this is probably one we will not want to save,” the mayor said.

Schielke said the building was built sometime between 1910 and 1915. He said after researching the building’s history, he could find “no historical importance.”

The building’s owner is the Larson-Becker Co., which has other properties on North River. Brett Larson, company president, told commissioners the building has a limestone foundation and is used for storage.

“I am a history buff and proud of the city’s historic buildings and could understand the ‘significant’ status if there were a number of old wood buildings in the downtown that created a boardwalk look, but there are mainly modern brick buildings on the street,” Larson said.

Commission Chairman Phil Bus broke a 2 to 2 tie vote, which kept the commission’s original recommendation in place.

“This is a part of the history of the city and it is important for us as a commission to view this as a long-term process and the review is an important part of the process,” said Bus, a former Kane County director of development.

The recommendation will be sent back to the Community Development Committee. The City Council will have the final say.

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