The Naperville City Council on Tuesday night approved the extension of the city's popular Riverwalk another 1,300 feet south to Martin Avenue -- from a planning standpoint, at least.
Six of eight council members voted in favor of changing Riverwalk planning documents to allow the boundaries to extend another long block south. Boundaries set in 1993 limited the path to its current 1.75-mile length.
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"I'm willing to support the land planning part of this," council member Grant Wehrli said. "This is a natural extension."
But council members said they are not eager to get the project going anytime soon because of concerns about its cost. The extension is estimated to cost roughly $3 million for design and construction.
Lengthening the path had been included in the city's capital improvements plan, where it had been scheduled for potential design beginning in spring 2016 with construction possibly beginning in spring 2018. But council members asked for the project to be deferred far into the future to avoid borrowing funds to support its completion.
"I'm not willing to borrow money to extend the Riverwalk," said council member Steve Chirico, who voted against the extension along with council member Doug Krause.
Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development, said the estimated cost of the extension is high, but it's comparable to the price tags for work on other segments of the Riverwalk. The 900-foot section between Main and Eagle streets was redone for about $2.2 million, he said.
The proposed Riverwalk extension would be built on the west side of the DuPage River and could include a bridge, rain gardens over a drainage area, shoreline restoration, landscaping improvements and new plazas at Hillside Road and Martin Avenue, said Jeff Havel, chairman of the Riverwalk Commission. Bicycles would not be allowed on the extension, continuing a policy in place along the rest of the Riverwalk.
While the pathway will not be extended in the near future, Novack said potential developers of any adjacent sites now will know an extension is in the city's land plans.
The idea of extending the Riverwalk south first came up about a year and a half ago during council discussions of a McDonald's proposed for the southeast corner of Hillside and Washington Street. The McDonald's was rejected, but Novack said there have been some informal proposals for the site from businesses including Dunkin' Donuts.
Plans to extend the Riverwalk behind the corner also could make the site desirable to businesses that cater to recreational uses along the path, Novack said.
Supporters said the Riverwalk extension will help increase pedestrian connectivity between downtown, Knoch Park, Edward Hospital and homes to the south.