Parking in downtown Naperville just got more plentiful.
At noon Friday, the city opened a garage with 520 new parking spaces -- 400 of them for the public -- at the Water Street District south of the DuPage River between Main and Webster streets.
Not all spaces were free for the taking immediately, as work continues on the rooftop level on the sixth floor. But an electronic parking guidance system showed 263 spaces available moments after the first cars pulled in.
The city-owned parking deck is part of an $18 million city investment in the $93 million development, which includes a hotel, banquet center, shops, restaurants, offices, a plaza, Riverwalk improvements and public art. Developer Marquette Companies of Naperville broke ground in April 2015 after plans for the site had been discussed since 2007.
On Friday, the parking garage became the second feature of the 2.4-acre development to open after Southern Tide apparel debuted Oct. 24. Next up is the 153-room Hotel Indigo, which is scheduled to host its first guests Nov. 18. Other shops and restaurants are expected to open later this year or next spring.
People using the public spaces in the new garage can do so for free -- with a three-hour limit. But to use one of the 120 spots designated for hotel guests, people staying at Hotel Indigo will have to display a parking permit.
Jerry and Carol Harris of Naperville and their friends Millie Meister of Naperville and former Naperville resident Terri Hauge of California became the first to pull into a space in the garage Friday at noon. They'd read the garage was opening and wanted to visit Southern Tide, excited about the attire it offers and the new vibrancy to come.
Just east of the municipal center, the Water Street District replaces a string of underused buildings that didn't match the curb appeal of the rest of the city's commercial core.
"What a difference," Jerry Harris said as he waited for Naperville Deputy City Engineer Andy Hynes to remove a barrier and officially open the garage. "Everything (old) is gone. "
But not the charm.
"What I love about Naperville," he said, "is they maintain the old-fashioned atmosphere. It's really a hometown."