Two key properties in downtown Aurora — the buildings next to the Hobbs Building on River Street and the Terminal Building at Galena Boulevard and Broadway — could see significant redevelopment soon.
That was a takeaway this week during an Aurora citywide Neighborhood Meeting that featured the city of Aurora’s economic development team.
David Dibo, economic development officer, and Don Hughes, economic development coordinator, were featured speakers at the meeting, and took those attending on a mental trip through downtown to talk about what could be happening there.
“You can’t go anywhere downtown without seeing some building that’s in play,” Dibo said. “You’re going to hear a lot of announcements.”
One of those could be at the Terminal Building, Galena and Broadway, considered a key building at an intersection at the heart of downtown.
The historic building was built in 1905, and was once the Hotel Arthur. It became the terminal and offices for the former Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad — hence the building’s name — and it was also home of the popular Broadway Diner for years.
It has been vacant for years now, which Dibo pointed out is not a great situation for a building at the heart of downtown.
But the good news is a redevelopment company with a good track record, the Rockford-based Urban Equity Properties, recently purchased the building, as the signs it posted in the building’s windows would indicate.
Moreover, the company has redevelopment plans for apartments in the building, along with a restaurant in the 3,500-square-foot first-floor space where the Broadway Diner once was.
Another key redevelopment possibility could take place further west at River Street and Galena, where the 126-year-old Hobbs Building sits. The historic building, also known as the Crosby Building, was distinguished by the onion dome feature that jutted out of the roof for years.
The city has taken ownership of the building and took the onion dome down because it was structurally unsound and posed a safety hazard. The dome is in storage, awaiting its chance to be placed back where it was for years as part of a redevelopment project.
Dibo said new owners purchased the two buildings next to The Hobbs. He said because some negotiations relative to that are “in play,” he would not discuss the details.
Questions from those at the meeting centered on what is generally the main topic when downtown is discussed — how can the city interest people who come downtown, particularly the hundreds of thousands who attend events at the Paramount Theatre and RiverEdge Park, stay downtown.
One of the answers is restaurants. And Dibo said while there are fine restaurants downtown already, the city is seeking to create more of a critical mass of downtown nightlife spots.
“If you speak to restaurateurs, they say, where are the people,” Dibo said. “When you speak to those developing apartments, they say, where are the restaurants? There’s your chicken and egg scenario.”
Still, he said there is interest in restaurant development in various places throughout the downtown.
[David Dibo] said the “core” of the plan is “creating vibrancy downtown.” … “A lot of downtown — about 90 percent — was built before 1950 and a good amount of that before 1900,” Hughes said. “You have to bring the buildings to 2018 standards.”