Batavia is considering adding several small shed-like structures, called Boardwalk Shops, to be used by local businesses downtown this summer.
The committee of the whole on Tuesday unanimously approved a motion recommending the city council back a partnership agreement with Batavia High School and Batavia Mainstreet, the group that works with downtown businesses, to create the 12-by-12-foot shops.
The design is to include 12 units, but the project would start with eight, including two to be built by high school students.
Officials hope to open the shops Memorial Day weekend. They would operate during the summer and rely on foot traffic to generate business.
The plan is to use not more than $110,000 in grant money the city has for generating economic development. Each structure will cost approximately $8,000 to build, and businesses will pay a fee of about $2,200 per season to rent the space.
"What better way is there to reinvest in the community?" said Alderman Marty Callahan, who brought the idea to the council.
The shops will have electricity but not water. Any food sold would have to be brought in and not prepared on site. Callahan said the city will be looking at businesses with "sustaining power" that could sell a variety of items, such as T-shirts, soaps and coffee.
He said he first learned of the structures in the spring when he read an article about similar shops in Muskegon, Michigan.
In June, Callahan, other officials and members of Batavia Mainstreet went to Muskegon to check out the shops there.
"Muskegon proved this is possible," he said.
Bob Hansen of Batavia Mainstreet said the group already has commitments from local businesses to help with materials.
"Building this with a volunteer force will, in my mind, make it work financially," Hansen said.
The partnership with Batavia High School is very important, he added.
"The idea came up back in August to get the high school kids involved," he said. "Not just with the building trades, but also with the architecture side."
The shops will be on the north side of the Art Stop parking lot, east of the Fox River and just south of Wilson Street. The site will have to be leveled to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
"Our challenge is the location," City Administrator Laura Newman said.
Callahan said the site is the best choice right now, but the units will be designed to be movable.
"The portability is the part I'm most intrigued with," he said. "If it doesn't work, these are mobile buildings that can be moved."
Mayor Jeff Schielke said he has concerns because the project will take away some of the downtown parking.
"I don't know what kind of message the city and Mainstreet are sending to new businesses moving into town when we say we are going to take away the parking that's available," he said.
Alderman Tony Malay disagreed.
"I would contend that it would do just the opposite," Malay said. "It would send the message to our businesses, 'Hey look, the city of Batavia is making an investment to bring people down here so we're going to have more customers.'"