I took a much-needed visit back to where I grew up – Geneva, IL – this past weekend. Geneva is where much of the “good examples” that I cite come from. A small, river town along the Fox River…it has always been known for its unique shops, historic treasures, great parks, and beautiful downtown.
Unfortunately, like pretty much every town across the U.S., Geneva has faced its fair share of sprawl. The city has always done a great job of preserving beautiful buildings and places, thus enabling it to keep its uniqueness and charm. I came across an article in the Geneva Patch last week about the possible demise of a truly unique and place making building. Living two and a half hours away, it’s hard to just “pop in” for a visit. However, I knew I was going to be in town this past weekend so I thought I needed to see the building for myself.
I had expected to see a downtrodden, vacant building with no possible use. The reality is that this building is very well-kept and still full of life. What is presently there is a perfect example of what should happen with old structures that aren’t being used for that which they were originally built. Pure Gardener is the current occupant. Not only did they play on the original business name of Pure Oil, but they’ve added an element to the downtown which is lively and vibrant. I mean that literally – the greenery that is on display is an inviting sight. To tear this building down and everything good that is currently going on for a bank drive-thru is cringe-worthy.
Luckily, the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission had voted 5-1 to deny the demolition of this city treasure (one that appears on the Chamber of Commerce’s brochure). While it is fully understandable that the debts owed on the property and the building adjoining it are high, to lose a substantial piece of downtown for the sake of possible economic development would be a huge blow to the city’s identity. Of course, there may be an appeal or a re-visioning of the developers plan. But for now, the building is safe. It’s hard to know where to draw the line, but having community support makes a big difference. They have my support in their preservation attempts even though I’m no longer living there.
I’ll have plenty more on my trip since it provided great inspiration for me in other areas, as well.