QuickStory: Lots of Ideas on Coultrap's Fate—But District Will Keep the Land
A variety of ideas and opinions come out of the first of two public hearings on the possible demolition of the Coultrap facility. But one message is clear: The School District intends to keep the property.
But the groundswell of preservationist opinion wasn't quite as loud—or as pure—as the outcry to save the Pure Oil building. In fact, there were nearly as many ideas about what to do with the Coultrap building as there were speakers.
One message did come through as clear as a school bell Monday night, however: Whether Coultrap stands or falls, the district has no intent to sell the land beneath it.
"At some point in the future, because the high school is landlocked, we are going to need additional space," School Board President Mark Grosso said. "We do feel it would be short-sighted to sell this property and then have to buy it back. We do want to retain ownership of this property."
Grosso said that ultimately—whether it's 30, 40 or 50 years in the future—the high school will need more room, which means that selling the Coultrap property to a developer is not an option. And he underlined that by saying it twice.
"The district wishes to retain this property for future expansion at some date—we don’t’ know what that date is—for expansion of our high school," he said.
A second clear message Monday night was that the city's Historic Preservation Commission won't weigh in on the Coultrap conversation as a voice representing the city of Geneva. The seven-member advisory board had drafted a letter requesting that the School Board consider adaptive re-use of the building.
HPC member Kurt Wehrmeister said Monday that Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns did not forward the HPC's letter to the School District, in part because the building is outside the city's Historic Preservation District. But Burns encouraged HPC members to express their opinions as individual citizens or as a group.
Wehrmeister spoke first at Monday's forum and asked, on behalf of the HPC, that "all possibilities be explored."
"With the exception of City Hall and the courthouse, this is quite possibly the most historically significant public structure in this community," he said.
The building at 1113 Peyton St. has served as Geneva's high school, junior high school, middle school, elementary school and now is home to School Board meetings and a few ancillary uses.
In April and May, the HPC and City Council heard testimony from many residents opposed to the demolition of the Pure Oil building, a blue-roofed former gas station on West State Street that now is proposed as an adaptive reuse as a bank drive-through. Many of the speakers at Monday's forum expressed similar feelings about the preservation of Coultrap.
Geneva History Center Executive Director Terry Emma said her grandmother attended high school in the Coultrap building, where Monday's meeting was held, and her children performed on the stage to the audience's right.
"The historic preservation of this building is a no-brainer," she said. "I felt like that with the Pure Oil building, it’s a no-brainer. I understand where you’re sitting today with dollar signs in your head ... I understand your plight. What I’m asking for is creativity. I don’t’ know what the answer is, but I’m here to ask you, take a breath, take a deep breath, and please save this building."