Naperville's 'ugly gray box' begins transformation
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Hard hats were worn, shiny shovels were brandished and photos were taken. But most importantly, ground was broken Monday on a project 12 years in the making in downtown Naperville.
As officials tossed small shovelfuls of rock, backhoes and bulldozers rumbled in the background, signaling the beginning of the $30 million Main Street Promenade East project.
Built by BBM Inc. — the husband-and-wife development team of Dwight and Ruth Yackley — the two-story building along the east side of Main Street between Benton and Van Buren avenues will open its shops and offices next September.
"With this new phase we are taking what was once an ugly gray box that has been here for five years and making it into something beautiful and something I hope the city will be proud of," Dwight Yackley said. "We are starting what will become the next piece of the development we started in 2001, the Main Street Promenade. Back then the promenade was just a dream for Ruth and I, but now I'm happy to say that the stores have done very well and the office occupancy continues to be good."
Three years of planning, marketing and recruiting tenants cleared the way for the 51,000-square-foot development with only one 5,300-square-foot retail space and one 7,000-square-foot office space left to be leased, Dwight Yackley said. Already signed on are J. Crew, Anthropologie, Bluemercury, Hot Mama, Michael Graham Salon and Spa, Frost Gelato and DavidsTea.
The majority of the second-floor office space will be occupied by a Regus business center that will offer executive suites and conference rooms for rent.
Mike Evans, president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, said it's always nice when the developer has a planned opening date when ground is broken.
"The Main Street Promenade is a symbolic project, much like Water Street is, for the entire regional economy," Evans said. "Once you put a shovel in the ground, that's always the first good sign that things are coming back to where you need them to be and this is going to move along. He has a date, at least, so this year will move pretty fast."
As construction begins, the city has closed Main Street between Benton and Van Buren avenues and converted Van Buren to a one-way westbound street from the entrance to the parking garage west to Main Street. Main will be rebuilt and realigned as part of the project, and the developers are putting $600,000 toward streetscape improvements including an additional row of on-street parking, curbs, sidewalks, benches, landscape planters and trees.
The third phase of the promenade eventually will add another line of shops and offices on the west side of Main Street extending north from the original building to Benton.
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