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updated: 3/6/2013 8:51 AM

Naperville council backs new Water Street Project

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Naperville's once-controversial Water Street Development has taken a big step toward becoming a reality.

Council members voted 7-2 late Tuesday to approve a site plan for the 2.4 acre project on Water Street, which will include a 166-room hotel, 71,000 square feet of commercial space, 26,000 square feet of office use, a 524-space parking deck, improvements along the south shore of the Riverwalk, and a pedestrian bridge.

Proponents and opponents have lined up on their respective sides since the 2007 project was resurrected last year. Proponents said the project was just what the city needs to remain a vibrant attraction and location.

Opponents, however, have maintained the once proposed 83-foot height of one of the buildings and the projected increase in traffic flow would be enough to destroy the character of the downtown.

Tuesday night, both sides compromised and agreed on a project they believe can work just east of the city's municipal complex. The developer, Marquette Companies, came in with its latest proposal that lowered the height of all buildings to no more than 69 feet and shaved a half-story from the parking garage, decreasing the available spaces from 550 to 524.

"I think the public process we've gone through in four months has been really positive. The public's concerns were heard and incorporated," said councilman Bob Fieseler. "I'm ready to support this."

Councilman Paul Hinterlong agreed.

"We've come a long way through this process but this will be a great opportunity for downtown," Hinterlong said. "It's a compromise and I think it's a fair one. I think we're there."

Councilmen Doug Krause and Grant Wehrli cast the two negative votes. Krause said the projected traffic congestion had not been properly addressed.

Wehrli, a longtime opponent, however, said he was ready to support the plan, but only if the developer was forbidden to use "Riverwalk" in naming any of the buildings. Ultimately his fellow council members did not agree to limit marquette's naming rights. So Wehrli voted "no."

Tuesday's vote was just the first hurdle, however, as the actual ordinances approving the project are not likely to be prepared until early April. At that point, the developer is also expected to approach the city, asking for as much as $7.5 million in hotel tax rebates.

Following the vote, Marquette Companies co-founder Nick Ryan said he hopes to begin the project this year.

"We've been committed to this project all along," he said. "And the compromises made mean it will be a win-win for everyone."

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