What Should Fill the Mill Race Inn?

Visions for Vacancies: What would be the best use for the former Mill Race Inn property?

The sign on the front of the says, "Great Food Since 1933."

But should the former Mill Race Inn become another restaurant, or are there other potential uses for the scenic property along the Fox River?

Whomever is the next owner will have some challenges. The age of the building and its nearness to the river mean it likely will require some level of improvements. Add that cost to the $2.2 million asking price for the restaurant, Gazebo outdoor-dining/nightclub, parking lot and one-acre of prime riverfront property, and you are looking at a significant investment.

The building has been vacant since the restaurant

There are many tools in the city's toolbelt to encourage redevelopment, from a new downtown business district to tax-increment financing options.

So Patch asks you, what would you like to see in the former Mill Race Inn property? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

Patrick Ryan March 28, 2012 at 07:00 AM
ann holt-harris March 28, 2012 at 11:29 AM
What a great idea!
tjohnson March 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM
There is always a market for a great restaurant and that location is one of the best in the area. I just hope the 2.2 mil asking price doesn't mean that it stays on the market so long that buildings completely decay.
ann holt-harris March 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM
It could also be an outdoor activity center with stores such as REI, Patagonia, and Orvis who could give fishing lessons, canoe and kayak lessons, backpacking seminars, and bird watching seminars. The park could be planted so Geneva would have a little arboretum of native plants and offer gardening and nature art seminars. That would still leave room for a restaurant.
tjohnson March 28, 2012 at 12:49 PM
That is a great idea. The Gazebo is the crown jewel of that property - that could be retained and an REI-type store located right on the river and bike /xc trail...nice!
genevaman March 28, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Another restaurant that really focuses on Weddings would do terrific. I have eaten at the Mill Race in 5 different decades and the bottom line is the food became BAD as prices went up and the inside decor looked the same as in the 70s. Get a good head chef, get some new inside decor and redo the floor plan. ann holt-harris - i like the outdoor activities lessons, that would be smart and profitable.
Ellyn Conejo March 28, 2012 at 04:32 PM
It should be something that brings in tax revenue and a cultural aspect. Our area could use an Indy/foreign film theater, perhaps of the nature of a brew and view. Perhaps weekdays it could double as a restaurant with some type of live entertainment and party meeting rooms. It needs something to remind people that it is there.
Patrick Ryan March 29, 2012 at 08:08 AM
The building is a flood risk and should be torn down for a new state of the art library
Terry Flanagan March 29, 2012 at 09:01 PM
The key may be in the name. I don't believe that Mill Race was ever an inn, in the sense that it had guest rooms. But it might make a very nice small hotel with a great restaurant and continued use of the gazebo. I think Geneva has room for another first class hotel like the Herrington and that the location, with access to the river trails and Island Park, and, of course, the view would work well.
Stacy March 30, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I see lovely visions for all of the spaces downtown, but it is tough to lure retailers in this environment. The Merra Lee Stores would make a GREAT Apple Store, 302 (although filled with a much looked forward to nightclub venue with live music) would have made a great American Eagle Outfitters (we actually saw this quite successfully in our old hometown of Lawrence, KS in our old movie theater). The Mill Race Inn would make a lovely bed and breakfast (small hotel with a GREAT restaurant) OR a great place to gather for live outdoor concerts in the summer with the gazebo area serving food and drinks, kayak and fishing gear rental, and perhaps a band shell. I LOVE our small local shops. However, I think we do need something to bring young families and teens back downtown. The Oil building is lovely as the Pure Gardener. I am so saddened that the rumor is that Stanton wil not be putting money into renovations and that the store will not be able to remain in its place. I believe that the citizens of Geneva would be willing to help restore this to a usable space in order to see it survive, but it has yet to become a viable option for us. The Pure Gardner is in its prime location and there are very few places where it would exude the charm it has right now. To me, that is the marriage of an ideal location.
Pamela Jeffrey September 16, 2012 at 05:17 AM
In San Francisco there is a very successful "Warming Hut" on the waterfront and is part of Crissy Field. The Warming Hut features a cafe and coffee bar. Also, they have a gift shop that features locally made goods, crafts, and books about the Bay Area. I think a concept like this would work well with the idea of outdoor activities such as backpacking, hiking, biking, walking,
Kathy M. October 23, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I moved to St. Charles last year and had another friend move here last month. My friend told me her Mom was so excited to eat at Mill Race Inn. I told my friend that it closed last year and she said her Mom was going to be devastated. I am hoping that the City of Geneva is working on any of the great ideas mentioned above. Many people move here because of the trails along the Fox River, so it will get the foot traffic.
Peter Smith January 31, 2013 at 07:03 PM
The Mill Race Inn needs to stay the Mill Race Inn. The restaurant is a landmark and has been such since 1933. To change all that would be to lose this. I believe it was poorly planned when built. There really shouldn't be a subturanean level. That would mean the Mill Grill and the Duck Inn would be no more. Unless a sophisticated pump system can divert flood water away, which is highly unlikely. It's surprising that the village allowed it to be built with these basement type floor plans. The last owners didn't know what they had, and didn't have the money to take care of it. It needed some restoration, especially after the two floods that left the siding rotted. But the previous owner took care of the flowers in an around the outside of the restaurant. It was a pretty sight. The last owner, because of lack of funds or lack of insight let the appearance go. Also they got cheap on things like entertainment for the Mallard Inn and Gazebo. This used to draw crowds waiting to get in the Gazebo. The food quality, service, and prices detered people from coming. Also, the owners prefered guests (friends) had empty tables waiting for them. This has urked me off many times when visiting. I would ask if I could sit in the table at the window, and the owner would tell me that it was for another guest. It would be there vacant for a good half hour. The restaurant under the last owners was going Greek. It had grecian chicken, and flaming saganaki.
Peter Smith January 31, 2013 at 07:08 PM
No. There is already the Herrington, and that is having problems getting the guests. Not a good idea!
John Smith March 12, 2013 at 03:53 PM
I don't know what the prices or dress code (if any) has been for the last two years but if the "young crowd" the restaurant owners expected to attract were like my 20-something kids and their friends, they are likely to be still living with their parents, even those with college degrees in anything but computer science, and pretty much stick with IHop-priced restaurants and sometimes Applebees if a special occasion calls for fancy drinks. They wear jeans or their work clothes (which are casual) if they are coming directly from work, but would be put off by a restaurant with a dress code, especially one which requires a jacket and tie, which is not the same as having manners. My generation at that age, at least, was similar. Something more informal and less expensive but with bar drinks so there is an excuse to stay and socialize seems to appeal to members of the younger generation that are fortunate enough to have jobs. Or, we could kick out the pols who refuse to hold accountable the banksters, and vote in those who will then use the corporate welfare money that is saved to create or foster the creation of decent-paying jobs. Then it would be possible to upgrade the Mill Race Inn into a midwestern Chevy Chase Club, where members have nothing more to worry about than whether to allow tennis dresses to have a colored trim instead of being all white and sustaining their affluent lifestyle via lobbyist bribes. Our memories of how things were sadly must be put aside.


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