Regular Patch readers will have noticed that there seem to be a lot of articles lately about the state of the city of Geneva. With vacancies dotting the downtown, it certainly appears that Geneva itself is at a crossroads. Do we continue to hold dear what we have valued in the past, or do we change with the times?
Last night, the City Council heard an appeal from property owner and developer Joe Stanton. He appealed the decision to deny demolition of the Pure Oil building at 502 W. State. Stanton had previously gone before the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission and the Committee of the Whole. While the debate was long and often contentious, the council voted that the city will continue to value its historic character for the benefit of current and future citizens. The appeal was denied.
It won't be a surprise to anyone who attended what my personal feelings are. I firmly believe that preservation of the Pure Oil building is not only beneficial in the long term for Geneva, but also for the country as a whole. Our heritage as embodied by the Lincoln Highway and its buildings is vanishing. Winston Churchill said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter, our buildings shape us." We are shaped by our sense of place and our roots in that place. Geneva has a great sense of place and is a great place to be rooted in for that reason.
But. It came up in the meeting, and on the Patch, and was on my mind as I drove home last night. Now what? Indeed, now what, Geneva? Never one to back away from a question, I have some suggestions.
1. Get involved. While sometimes it may not seem like one lone person can make a difference, it does. Attend some meetings. See how your town runs. Have a conversation with your representatives. Write a letter, send an email, sign a petition. If you have an opinion, share it. Let your voice be heard.
2. Get more involved. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have heard the same idea repeated ad infinitum. We all came out to save the building, and now we're going to fade back into the woodwork and let Mr. Stanton and the city fix the problem of what to do with the building. Don't be that guy. We've only solved one problem—the building won't be demolished. Right now, at least. Don't know where to begin? May I suggest the Preservation Partners of the Fox Valley? They're from right here in St. Charles, and unless I miss my mark, they will be speaking to Mr. Stanton as this all goes forward to figure out what to do now.
3. Shop local. Nothing speaks to commitment like putting your money where your mouth is. In this particular case, it's spring. Why not go ahead and buy your plants from instead of the big box on Randall? Sure, it may cost you a little more, but you may solve two problems with one stone. One, you'd be supporting a business that is in Geneva, run by Genevans. Two, the MacLeans are committed to organic and natural practices. They even sell seeds from a particular favorite of mine, the Seed Savers Exchange. Based out of Decorah, IA, their mission to save seeds and varieties that might otherwise vanish forever dovetails nicely with the Pure Gardener's organic, local and footprint reducing feel.
I certainly don't pretend to have all the answers, but as the 21st century rolls on, we must make preserving what makes Geneva great part of the conversation, or face the possibility that we, and Geneva, will be left behind.
So now I put it to you, Patch readers. Now what?