Construction and development will be a major focus this year in Naperville, with more than a half-dozen major projects bringing hotels, stores, restaurants, a nature center, an activity center, a recycling facility and an indoor sky-diving business to the city.
Some of the projects -- such as the Knoch Knolls Nature Center and Main Street Promenade East -- are scheduled to open this fall. Others -- including Naperville Park District's indoor activity center and the shops, restaurants and hotel at the Water Street District -- will take more time.
Here's a quick look at the key projects.
Knoch Knolls Nature Center
A nature center that has been under construction since July soon will be fully enclosed and ready for indoor work to begin at Naperville Park District's largest and most ecologically diverse park, Director of Planning Eric Shutes said.
The 5,000-square-foot Knoch Knolls Nature Center will be the district's first staffed nature education facility, and it is being built according to the highest green building standards -- LEED platinum.
It will include an exhibit space focusing on "Celebrating Water" as well as two classrooms where people can learn about the plants and animals in the park, where the east and west branches of the DuPage River flow together.
"Right now, the focus is on the building," Shutes said. "The goal is to have it completed this summer and ready for the fall program season."
Also set to be ready by fall are other improvements at 336 Knoch Knolls Road. An extra nine holes for the existing disc golf course, an improved canoe launch, upgraded trails and a new parking lot with permeable pavers complete the $5.5 million project.
Main Street Promenade East
Construction is progressing on schedule for the stores and offices of Main Street Promenade East, which are expected to join the downtown fray by this fall, said Dwight Yackley of developer BBM Inc.
As the $30 million second phase in the Main Street Promenade, the east section will include J. Crew, Anthropologie, Bluemercury, Hot Mama, Michael Graham Salon and Spa, Frost Gelato and DavidsTea in 51,000 square feet on the east side of Main Street between Van Buren and Benton avenues.
The Promenade East is being built immediately west of the Van Buren parking deck and will include second-floor offices to be occupied mainly by a Regus business center.
Water Street District
Along Water Street in downtown Naperville between Main and Webster streets, much of the work to begin the area's transformation into a mixed-use district with a hotel, restaurants, shopping, parking, offices and Riverwalk improvements is going on behind the scenes.
Naperville-based Marquette Companies, which is giving downtown Naperville its first hotel by developing the 2.4-acre site into the Water Street District, is planning a groundbreaking in late spring.
Developers are working on permitting, leasing, space planning and interior design for the Hotel Indigo planned to anchor the site.
Employees of the design firm Gettys have been teaming with curators at nearby Naper Settlement to incorporate the city's history and culture into the vibrant, urban design of the hotel. Designer Chris McDonough said themes of Naperville's relationship with Chicago, the DuPage River, transportation, commerce, leisure and social life will be woven into the public spaces that tie together plazas, bridges and walkways.
The development went through several variations before winning approval from the city council, but it now stands to reshape the south side of the river in the city's downtown. Some elements could be finished by fall 2015.
A 168-room Embassy Suites hotel, a conference center and ballroom to seat at least 1,000 people and a microbrewery called Granite City Food & Brewery already have been announced as part of the Freedom Plaza development coming to north Naperville, and developers say more restaurants are set to join the project soon.
The $50 million to $60 million development west of Freedom Commons is set to include the hotel and large ballroom -- which had been on the city's wish list for years -- along with four free-standing restaurants.
Samir Lakhany, vice president of SuperHost Enterprises, the parent company of Freedom Plaza developer Lakhany Group Investments, said crews have been doing their best to work around winter conditions as they built stormwater detention, a retaining wall, a sewage system and site utilities.
The hotel and restaurants will be accessible from Abriter Court off Diehl Road and from Independence Avenue, and they could begin opening as soon as this summer.
iFly sky diving
Indoor sky-diving company iFly plans to open its second Chicago-area location in Naperville by April, just weeks after daredevils can take to the flight chamber at a similar facility scheduled to open in March in Rosemont.
The Naperville location is under construction at Freedom Drive and Independence Avenue, north of Cooper's Hawk Winery. A 50-foot-tall flight chamber will allow visitors to get the experience of free-falling without jumping from a plane, but by leaning into a plume of air blown by a large fan system, spokesman Stuart Wallock said.
The website chicago.iflyworld.com went live Monday. Prospective fliers can make reservations online beginning Feb. 25 for half-hour flight sessions, which cost $59.99 at other iFly locations.
Environmental Collection Center
Billed as a one-stop recycling facility, the Environmental Collection Center north of the city's public works facility on Fort Hill Drive will be "the first of its kind," Mayor George Pradel said.
When ground was broken in July, city and state officials said the facility will collect electronics, household hazardous waste, prescriptions and the usual recyclables like paper, plastic, glass and light bulbs. It will help Naperville expand its recycling services as the city also moves to collecting curbside recycling in carts instead of smaller bins.
The city plans to seek qualifications from design firms and run a design contest this spring before construction is projected to begin this summer. The $1.18 million facility is funded with a $900,000 state grant.
Naperville Park District has bought the land on which to build an indoor activity center, but designing the facility is in the early stages.
Park officials have said the activity center will include basketball courts, a walking track and a fitness center, but other amenities will be chosen with the input of the community, set to be gathered at three open houses later this month.
The activity center is expected to be an 80,000-square-foot building on 5.2 acres at the southeast corner of Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive, in an industrial area already home to several athletic uses. It will be built under a roughly $20 million budget, which includes $2 million spent on the land.