QuickStory: HPC Votes 5-1 Against Demolishing Pure Oil Building
Geneva's Historic Preservation Commission recommends that the city does not grant a demolition permit for the present home of The PURE Gardener.
With the applause of about 50 passionate spectators, Geneva's Historic Preservation Commission voted 5-1 Tuesday to deny demolition of the former Pure Oil gas station, today's home of The PURE Gardener, at 502 W. State St.
The six-member recommending body voted against a request for a demolition permit despite a thorough case made by property owner Joe Stanton, commercial architect Jeffrey Lietz and St. Charles Bank & Trust President Tom Hansen that an adaptive reuse of the property simply was not a viable option.
Stanton developed at least five separate plans since 2007 that would have kept the historic building intact. The third iteration—to restore the outside of the existing building and modernize the interior—would require a $360,000 investment, Stanton said.
"To retire a debt of the value of the property and the cost of the improvements, we would need a tenant paying almost $34 a square foot in rent plus pass-through expenses just to break even," Stanton said. "That is almost double the existing rate."
The St. Charles Bank & Trust plan calls for the bank to take over the existing Stanton building at 514 W. State St., demolish the Pure Oil building and purchase and demolish an existing home to the south. That would create a parking lot that could extend all the way to James Street, as well as a modern drive-through facility with a historic architectural appearance.
Stanton and the bank representatives had hoped that the former gas station building could be reused by converting the garage bays to drive-through lanes, but the configuration of the traffic flow and the cost of renovating the building were prohibitive.
"After going through this machination, it was pretty clear I can’t make the numbers work," Hansen said. "If we are going to use this site, it has to be substantial enough for us to use, in a building that’s pleasant and my employees would want to come to work in. We like the location, we love Geneva and we want to be here."
HPC members said they were bound to uphold standards set by the Secretary of the Interior regarding the demolition of historic buildings. It was on that basis that five commissioners voted against the demolition request.
Nanette Andersson said she hoped that Stanton and Hansen would go back to the drawing board at least one more time.
"I remain unconvinced that an adaptive reuse cannot be found for it," she said. "It is in a prime location. It’s got great curb appeal, it is just a beautiful building in its own right, not to mention the historic aspect of it."
Stanton said, in the present economy, the building might sit vacant for a long time if the bank does not move forward with its plans.
"If I lose a viable option now, it’s not going to be available to me. To be turned down because something may come up in the future is unfair and unrealistic," he said. "At some point, you just can’t carry it anymore."
Commissioner Kurt Wehrmeister voted to recommend the demolition because Stanton had done his homework and could not find a viable option.
"I think Joe Stanton, in what he has done in this community, has earned the benefit of the doubt. It would be a sad day (if the building were demolished), but this is a man who’s put his dollars on the line, which is something none of us have done. It was obvious to me that he had bent over backwards to try to find any possible way to save it," he said.
The HPC is a recommending body, so the developer does have the option of taking the issue to the city's Plan Commission and full City Council.
"That would be one of the options," Hansen said. "But at this point, I don't know. It's something we need to discuss."