Geneva officials are considering offering economic incentives to help a pair of restaurateurs buy and revive a vacant downtown building.
The property at 124 W. State St. is under contract to be purchased by Cody and Chanel Renkosik, operating as Industry House LLC, according to city documents. The couple plans to transform the 14,000-square-foot warehouse and commercial building into an open-concept space to be occupied by a second location of their Ottawa restaurant, Burger and Sushi House, or B.A.S.H.
The Renkosiks are expected to invest more than $3 million into the property, which has been empty or underused for the past few years, Economic Development Director Cathleen Tymoszenko said. To help cover a portion of those costs, city officials are considering rebating 75% of the 1% municipal sales tax generated at the site over the next decade, capped at $365,200.
Aldermen voted 6-2 during a committee meeting this week to support the proposed economic incentive agreement, which also includes the deferral of a parking fee of up to $150,000, reimbursed by sales taxes after the property owners are rebated. The measure will be brought back to the city council Aug. 3.
"We're trying to create a cycle of investment," Tymoszenko said. "If we (thought) that this would be viable without some type of inducement, we wouldn't be here."
The Renkosiks began working with the city a year ago to identify improvements required for the property, formerly occupied by Bicycle Heaven and H4 Training, according to a city council memo. They later decided not to move forward because of the high costs associated with the project.
Eager to "bring back life to a challenging State Street vacancy," the memo says, Geneva staff members brought the parties back to the table, at which point a public gap financing option was presented as a contingency of a new sales contract.
"It's a big investment in the building itself. It's just a large number, but the return is great," Cody Renkosik told aldermen. "I would imagine you'll be seeing your money before 10 years."
The first B.A.S.H. location opened in Ottawa seven years ago, offering a unique pairing of sushi with burgers and other gourmet American food, Renkosik said.
The new Geneva restaurant would accommodate 242 people inside, with a patio that can hold more than 60 people and a private event space on the top level of the warehouse, documents show. Plans also call for creating restrooms, a commercial kitchen, an open window feature and various infrastructure and utility upgrades.
Fifth Ward Alderman Robert Swanson expressed concerns over offering such incentives to a potential new business amid the coronavirus pandemic, when all restaurants are "hurting very deeply."
"I think the optics of that at this moment in time is not supporting existing businesses," said Swanson, who voted against the agreement along with First Ward Alderman Tara Burghart.
City officials have been working with interested investors on a case-by-case basis to tackle several vacancies along State Street, which serves as an entrance to Geneva's downtown, Tymoszenko said. A sales tax rebate is one of the few tools the city can use as a non-home-rule community to incentivize improvements and "reverse disinvestment" in the area, she said.
"This will be an attraction, another reason to come to Geneva," Tymoszenko said. "It's an investment into the future of the community."