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updated: 7/29/2014 3:48 PM

Mystery business proposal heading to Naperville council

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Naperville decision-makers say they don't know which business wants to develop a research and office building on 13 acres at Warrenville Road and Lucent Lane, but they're OK with that -- so far.

The proposal to build a 130,000-square-foot facility is code-named "Project Panda" and is heading to the city council for review.

Without disclosing the name, a business described as a "publicly traded international corporation" headquartered in the U.S. with a presence in Illinois received unanimous planning and zoning commission approval for its request to annex about three acres into the city.

"My understanding is it's confidential only because the state of Illinois is trying to figure out the correct incentives," said Sean Hastings, a plan commission member who voted in favor of the development. "I thought they gave us enough information at this point to approve or provide a positive recommendation."

Officials say this isn't the first time a company has approached the city without providing its name.

A decade ago, Office Max investigated Naperville without initially providing its name and last year an O'Reilly Auto Parts distribution warehouse made its proposal to locate on North Aurora Road under the code name "Project Jewel," City Manager Doug Krieger said.

"It is not as wacky as people seem to think it is. Oftentimes, companies don't like to telegraph their plans because it may tip off their competition," Krieger said. "Maybe half of the large developments just come in with a code name."

Planning staff members don't need to know a name until the business applies for a building permit, said Derek Rockwell of the planning services team.

"It is unusual to not know the user due to confidentiality concerns on their end," Rockwell said. "But from our review, we need to know not necessarily who they are but what they do."

The unnamed company plans to do research and development, attorney Russ Whitaker, who represents the firm, said.

"The components that are produced by this company are in many everyday products that consumers would know," he said.

The possibility of state incentives is the reason the company is keeping its identity secret so far.

"Right now, as I understand it, they are finalizing an incentive agreement with the state," Whitaker said. "We hope that will be done in short order so we can let everybody know who it is."

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provides incentives to recruit and retain companies, said he could not comment on the unnamed Naperville business or if it might receive money from the state.

Whitaker said his client intends to go before the council Aug. 19, but is unsure if the name will be released by then.

Council member Steve Chirico said he was told the company's name when he was early for a meeting at the Naperville Development Partnership, which pursues economic development for the city. He said he can't recall the company's name but it "can bring decent jobs in a good, clean-technology industry."

Christine Jeffries, executive director of the Naperville Development Partnership, did not return calls.

Other council members said they have not been told the name. Robert Fieseler said he doesn't find that unusual, but Doug Krause said he will ask questions if the proposal comes to the council unidentified.

"I don't know what all the secrecy is about," Krause said.

The planning and zoning commission granted the company preliminary approval of an eight-part request that would annex 3 acres of unincorporated land into Naperville, combine it with an adjacent 10-acre property and designate the area as office, research and light industry zoning. The company also received approval of variances to setback, parking and loading berth regulations.

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