- Editor's note: This is the fourth of a multipart summer series by Tara Knott and Garrett Lance looking at the iconic Geneva buildings for sale and what they mean for Geneva's long-term development. See the series intro .
For more than seven decades, the dedicated staff at the has served the townspeople in rain, snow, sleet and hail. But on a sunny Monday morning, there were few townspeople to be seen at the building on State Street.
The staff—Danny Ortiz, Jim Cowell and Donna Beranek—didn’t seem to mind the lull in the workday, talking and laughing with each other.
“This guy is what makes Geneva a historical site,” joked Ortiz, pointing to Cowell. “He’s been around since Ben Franklin.”
From the way Beranek rolled her eyes and chuckled, you’d never guess she’d only been part of the team for a week. But Beranek is just filling in for a while as her home post office in Naperville deals with reorganization.
“We have a very similar building in our downtown area which was for sale and has sold,” Beranek said. “They’re doing some restorations inside, and they’re going to let the post office still rent space.” Her voice trailed off. “I kind of hope that’s what happens when this building sells.”
The For Sale sign in the front lawn is just the final blow to the post office’s decline. For years, the mail carriers have been operating out of an annex behind a McDonald’s, and along with other aesthetic repairs, the building will need a fresh coat of paint.
But Jeff Gittelman, senior vice president at the commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle, said he was impressed with the building’s sound structure.
“There was a tremendous amount of concrete used when they built it, and certainly Third Street is a unique location given the tourists who, myself included, travel up and down that street. We think it’s an interesting property for redevelopment,” Gittelman said.
He imagines the building—which has 5,700 square feet on its main floor, as well as a large basement level and an upper room that could be used for conferences or office space—as the home of several retailers or a new downtown restaurant. Jones Lang LaSalle has set the property’s value at $1.2 million.
Geneva businessman and developer Joe Stanton had petitioned the city in early 2010 to do an exterior rehab and adaptive re-use of the building that would have allowed the post office to remain at its present site.
Stanton's plan was to keep the post office entrance on Third Street and create a new building entrance (for a new tenant) to the left of the current main entrance as you face the building. Room for two additional tenants would have been created with a lower basement area, according to minutes of the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission.
The components of the deal did not come together, however, opening the door for other tenants.
“I’m actually talking with somebody right now—a new party,” Gittelman said. “We actually have come close on a couple occasions to transactions, but I believe in both cases the developers did not have tenants for the entire building, and therefore they were not able to proceed. But it creates a lot of interest in the community.”
The staff was also interested to hear the real estate agent’s plans, as they said they’ve been kept out of the loop.
“Just one day you drive by, and there’s a 'Sold' sign on it,” said Beranek, shaking her head.
Cowell agreed, chiming in from behind his window. “It’s built to be a post office. Nothing else should be here.”
But Ortiz, who’s worked at the post office for 17 years, wasn’t getting sentimental—not right then, anyway. “Have you seen the economy lately?” he asked. “It is what it is.”