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Article updated: 1/14/2013 7:04 AM

Naperville developer mum on latest Water Street plans

By Justin Kmitch

After three failed attempts, Marquette Companies is preparing to return to the Naperville City Council next month with yet another plan for a proposed Water Street Development that could change the face of one of the region's most successful downtowns.

The Naperville-based developers say they've reworked their proposal for a large-scale project that would include a hotel, restaurant, retail shops, office space and parking garage.

But several council members say it's too early to know whether the latest proposal will garner enough support -- especially because as of late Friday, none of them had seen it.

"I haven't heard a thing, so I don't know what they've done. It sounds to me like they're throwing up a Hail Mary and seeing who jumps for it," said Councilman Paul Hinterlong, who has spoken against previous renditions. "They apparently want this to be a big secret, but it's not going to look good if they keep this all a secret and something bad happens."

The developers have asked to make what they say will be their final attempt to win council approval on Feb. 5. Before that meeting, however, they plan to conduct an open house from 4 to 7:30 Thursday, Jan. 17, at Naper Settlement's Pre-Emption House to unveil the revised plans.

Just last month, council members rejected the third revision, in which Marquette Companies scrapped a proposal for 62 apartments in the complex and agreed to reduce the height of the development's tallest point to 82 feet from 90 feet.

In addition, the Holiday Inn Express hotel planned for the site, between the DuPage River and Aurora Avenue, with Webster and Main streets as its east-west boundaries, was downsized from six stories to five.

The developer said roughly 163 to 177 hotel rooms would be in a building on the south side of Water Street, with between 62 and 76 on the north side in a building bordering the DuPage River. A pedestrian bridge first proposed in 2010 to connect the second floor of both buildings was brought back into the design.

A rooftop restaurant on the hotel was to bring the development's highest point to 82 feet, while most of the main building would have remained at 65 feet.

Critics, however, said the plan still did not fully address their concerns about height and density. The developers think they've got the solution, but they aren't sharing any details yet.

"We've been working diligently with city staff, our architects, and traffic and parking specialists to address the issues brought up in public meetings and by members of the city council," Nick Ryan, managing director of Marquette Companies, said in a prepared statement. "We are revising our plans to reflect the specific concerns, and we believe that the updated plans will meet the guidelines and spirit of the Water Street Vision Statement and the Naperville Downtown 2030 Plan."

Beyond that, the plan remains a mystery. Marquette officials have declined interview requests to discuss specifics. Attorney Kathy West said the company's strategy is to ensure everyone sees the latest version at the same time.

Councilman Robert Fieseler, who has said his "feet remain planted firmly in the air," regarding his support for the project, is concerned there are still too many unresolved issues relating to traffic and parking concerns. "I'm undecided. I am not ready to cast a vote in favor of the project because I just don't know what the details are at this point," he said. "I'm really looking forward to see what kind of Hail Mary they throw me. But ultimately I think there's still going to be a lot of informal dialogue and coalescing on the developers' side as they prepare their final presentation for February."

Councilman Steve Chirico, a supporter of the original plan proposed last year, said he will be disappointed if the challenge of reducing height causes the restaurant portion to be eliminated. Other than that, he's not sure what to expect either.

Mayor George Pradel, who has not publicly taken a side in the debate, said he hopes Thursday's unveiling is the last.

"I hope everyone goes and gets their questions answered and concerns addressed," Pradel said. "This area has been undeveloped for too long, and it's time to get this thing moving."

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