New Plans for Pure Oil Building

Holy smokes! New plans will go before the HPC, keeping the building facade, but still using it for a bank drive-through.

Without a long review of the plans, you have to give a tip of the hat to Joe Stanton and the  St. Charles Bank & Trust for going back to the drawing board and finding another plan to preserve the Pure Oil building and the proposal that could bring the bank to downtown Geneva.

Critics immediately will note that the previous argument was that it couldn't be done. And now the plans show that it can.

According to a report from the city staff, what's being proposed is an adaptive use of the building as the bank’s drive‐through facility. The revised plan preserves the building’s State Street‐facing elevations (north and east) but also includes the demolition of the southern section of the building, removal of the garage doors, and the punching a hole in the west wall of the building for use of the westernmost service bay as a drive‐through banking lane.

The plan includes repair of the building overall, including window repair and repainting, the report says. The east section will be preserved, but no specific use has been identified. Suggestions include a public information center or public restrooms.

The plan calls for demolition of the building at 12 S. Fifth St. It is listed as "non‐contributing to the historic district," according to the city's report.

"The building has been altered over the years, so its demolition would not be considered a loss of a historic building," the report says.

Plans also call for modifications and additions to the 514 W. State St. building, which include adding architectural features that echo details of historic architecture. 

"The changes proposed come close to replicating historic styles but the building would still be discernible as newer construction even as it ages," the city's report says.

The HPC is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. May 15 at City Hall.

The proposed plan provides 17 spaces on site, and six or seven in the right of way.

Noel G. Rooks May 09, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Mike Bruno May 09, 2012 at 12:39 PM
This plan seems to generally seems to meet preservation requirements so will probably be approved with little change. It is my understanding that it would have to go before the Plan Commission for special use because of the drive through. Hopefully they will consider that we need another downtown bank like a hole in the head. In my opinion, a bank is the opposite of pedestrian friendly and would significantly isolate the west portion of our retail corridor.
Stacy May 09, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I know beggars can't be choosers here. However, this building seems to lose all of its original charm in becoming a bank drive through. I know this will probably end up being approved by the city, because it does keep the building's original structure, but I don't think I've seen anything so ugly. Not to mention the increased traffic on an already dicey corner with no stoplights (and please don't add another just because of the bank). I just see accidents galore.
Jeff Ward May 09, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Dear Readers, Here's a perfect example of how to build a lifetime of good will and then blow it in two short months. Everything Joe Stanton did for Geneva prior to this waste of time now means nothing because this is what he will be remembered for. He went before the city council and said he had no choice but to tear down the building complete with architect in tow. Then, one short month later, he says he really didn't have to tear it down at all. It's really sad. Jeff Ward
Rob Brundige May 09, 2012 at 01:30 PM
One word: STUPID
MG May 09, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Is this building currently the cute little garden center? I don't remember the name, but is it closing? I'm sorry I'm a little out of the loop - having just moved here and subscribing to this fabulous website!
Jason May 09, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I know this will be considered unproductive but I couldn't agree with Rob more: STUPID, ugly, and tacky. Why the city bending over backwards to accomodate a guy who wants to shoehorn a bank drive through in a historically significant building that already houses a thriving business when THERE IS A VACANT BANK WITH A DRIVE THROUGH 2-BLOCKS AWAY is beyond me.
Rick Nagel (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 02:25 PM
There will be a lot of discussion and a lot more to report, but at first glance, it's hard to see this as anything but a win-win. It allows a business to come to the downtown, preserves the historic character of the community—much the same as the preservation of the former Community Hospital building facade, and to a lesser extent, the Herrington Inn (which preserved more of the old creamery's sandstone than its architecture, if I recall correctly. It adds parking, and has enough flexibility to allow different adaptive uses down the road. The devil is in the details, of course, and we'll see where it goes from here, but I say kudos to Joe for coming up with a creative option.
Walter Larson May 09, 2012 at 03:05 PM
My only question is how does generate income for the city other than property taxes. There is no guarantee that people who bank there will partake of the other businesses downtown.
Leslie Juby May 09, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Rick, A win-win situation would be not only saving the historic building but also driving sales tax revenue and foot traffic into other businesses. A bank drive through is clearly not a win-win.
Mary Rudakas May 09, 2012 at 03:16 PM
It is indeed much more charming, adorable and lovely as a garden center. Although I'm excited to hear the building won't be torn down, and logically I give kudos for there being an alternative, it's a little sad seeing such an extremely charming garden shop being turned into a boring old drive-through. It doesn't get much more boring than that, really, and like some other commenters said - there are enough of them already (?)
Colin C. May 09, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Having been involved in the community effort to save and adapt the original building I see this as an acceptable (not perfect) compromise. I would really prefer that the building be completely restored and the Pure Gardener allowed to stay there but that does not seem feasible, given the economic circumstances that exist. We wanted, more than anything, to save the Pure Oil building. Restoring and adapting the building as a drive thru is better than having it boarded up and left to rot, which seemed to be the alternative. I agree that having a bank in there is not a popular option but let's face it, they will be paying for the restoration; a good deal for Geneva. And, as electronic banking takes over, if the bank goes out the building will still be there and still be adaptable to yet another use. So, nobody gets everything that they wanted. We compromise and maybe get enough. As Rick said, the devil will be in the details. If the HPC approves this plan and it clears the other city department reviews we trust that the restoration and landscaping will live up to the plan that is presented. If so, overall, it will be a plus, I think. As to the Pure Gardener, I would love to see them stay in Geneva and continue to thrive. I would love to try to get a community effort to help Craig and Annette move to a new location. Unfortunately, I understand, through rumor only, that Batavia may be wooing them more effectively than Geneva. I hope that's not true.
Rick Nagel (Editor) May 09, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Keep in mind that any business that brings traffic to downtown Geneva is a good thing. Examples include the post office and the library—even City Hall. One of the big losses for Geneva, as I understand it, was the exit of the downtown courthouse. Good blog on the topic coming at noon today by Mike Bruno, with a different opinion than mine.
Storm Nielsen May 09, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Much how many attorneys have been viewed, banks and bankers are often seen as necessary evils infringing upon society. Especially after the banking meltdown and bailouts while huge salaries were given to their inept top management. Besides, do they generate any sales revenues for the locality? No. The bigger view here is why there needs to be another bank on another viable business corner while a nearby building that was formerly a bank (Hamilton and N Third Streets that has drive-thrus) sits empty. In this day of electronic banking, I nfail to see how a bank, especially a Drive-thru type is actually needed - hence, brings customers into the business district. Take note the next time you're at a drive-thru. They hardly have any tellers! Why? Because they're cutting corners - cannot afford them. A more encouraging sign would be a simple kiosk with an ATM. If I were customer of this bank, I would question why my money is not being put to better use through interest on my accounts. Not spent on something whose time has past.
Stacy May 09, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I hope not true as well. The Pure Gardener is a Gem. It brings beauty to an area not quite known for it. A bank is just Ho Hum. I don't see how this is a true benefit to Geneva. Once adapted into a drive through, it cannot be easily adapted back. Once the bank closes in a few years we'll end up with a fast food joint cause it has a convenient drive though. I've seen it a million times before in my old hometown. I understand this is a compromise, but I just don't see how this is the "win-win" that people make it out to be. I am all for helping The Pure Gardener find a space, but short of moving into the old bank next to Great Harvest (too big) where there is parking or building something cute in that empty lot next to Bien Trucha, I can't figure out where they could go to get ample space and parking for their needs. We need them in Geneva. It would be a shame to send them to another town because they were pushed out for bank. I know it is just one Geneva resident's opinion, but I always try to shop Geneva whenever possible and I hate to be pushed out to another town that welcomed them with open arms. This year we were voted one of the best downtown's by the West Suburban living magazine. I don't see how another bank in a historic building add one iota to the charm and beauty of our community.
Noel G. Rooks May 09, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I'd like to see them stay too. Retail Minded magazine recently sponsored a cash mob there that I attended. We had a decent turn out. I do wonder why the bank isn't interested in the other bank building, and I think the answer is that it doesn't front State Street. I'm still not 100% certain how I feel on this. On the one hand, it is an adaptive reuse of the property. On the other hand, this is essentially a redo of the exact same plan Stanton said wasn't viable before. What's changed? Too, once you significantly alter the building, there's no going back.
Noel G. Rooks May 09, 2012 at 07:42 PM
The counter to that, Rick is that banks don't generate sales tax revenue.
Terry Flanagan May 09, 2012 at 09:47 PM
This may have been Plan A all along, since so many things about the original proposal didn't make sense. Most likely city staff will recommend the new plan and special use approval. With demolition off the table, the bank becomes more palatable, even though another bank is the last thing we need. It doesn't say much for Joe's imagination that every historic property he buys starts to look like another financial institution. But it's his property and I'm sure the project suits his purposes of preserving the view from his other building. Unfortunately, filling up the historic district with banks doesn't really fulfill the purpose of an historic district. I assume that the bank will close its other facility on Randall, leaving another dead bank in Geneva. We seem to be piling up bank carcasses as we sacrifice more real estate to the insatiable appetite of banks wishing to relocate. If banks reinvested in the community instead of themselves, we might actually start to see some improvement in the economy.
Stacy May 10, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Terry, that is a good point I hadn't considered. Another empty building in town does us no good either. The bank would never have two faciliies in Geneva. I believe you've made the best point yet!
Noel G. Rooks May 10, 2012 at 02:13 AM
True. I believe at one point StCB said that they found the drive thru at their current location difficult, which I understand, it is tight over there. I think that definitely means that location will close.
marsha engle May 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Annette MacLean May 11, 2012 at 02:06 PM
(as posted in Mike Bruno's thread) There is only one problem with this plan- it looks like The PURE Gardener with flowers, benches, etc BUT it's not. We will no longer be there. The Art Box will not be there. The photography shop has seemed to disappear over night ( I peeked into his window) after supposedly just signing a month to month lease with it's landlord- St. Charles Bank. The owner of Always in Style told me that if we are not there , she really has no interest in resigning her lease. That is three retail businesses gone in one swoop. Not to mention the young family that lives in the house behind The PURE Gardener. The house that is stated to be insignificant. I wonder if they have learned of their fate? All of the highschoolers that we employ will not be able to walk to work after school anymore. And, last but certainly not least, where is Daffny the duck going to lay her eggs? She lives there too.
Leslie Juby May 11, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Annette, Couldn't agree with you more. It isn't about another bank drive through in a prime retail location...it is about the continued destruction of what makes Geneva so special. I wonder if the powers that be will ever learn that once you shoot the golden goose, there are no more golden eggs.
Len Bielefeldt May 14, 2012 at 03:13 PM
win-win, really Rick! almost every business on this block is finished, win-win really.


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