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updated: 9/6/2017 7:21 PM

Naperville wants builder's plan for engaging residents on 5th Avenue project

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  • This small business building along 5th Avenue just east of Washington Street in Naperville is one of several city-owned or leased sites totaling 13 acres that could be remade if the city creates a plan and approves a developer to take on the project.

      This small business building along 5th Avenue just east of Washington Street in Naperville is one of several city-owned or leased sites totaling 13 acres that could be remade if the city creates a plan and approves a developer to take on the project.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

Naperville City Council has asked a developer to devise a plan to involve the public in creating a concept for redeveloping the area near the 5th Avenue train station.

But the city has not yet decided whether to hire Ryan Companies to actually lead that civic engagement process.

The decision to give the firm until Oct. 3 to prepare such a plan -- instead of officially beginning to work with it Tuesday night and trusting that the company will adequately involve all stakeholders in the large-scale project -- came after calls from more than a dozen residents to slow down or restart the development process that began in February.

That's when the city began to consider companies that could revitalize roughly 13 acres of city-owned or leased land near the BNSF railroad tracks on both sides of Washington Street.

The city received eight responses to its request this spring. A 14-member committee chose Ryan Companies to do the work because of the firm's proven development team and experience with similar projects, Deputy City Manager Marcie Schatz said.

But residents on Tuesday reiterated concerns that the developer-evaluation process was not transparent and did not give neighbors any input.

"You're jumping ahead by not first forming a vision and scope of the project," resident Daniel Dodge said.

"I have a hard time believing any company is the right fit and uniquely qualified to carry out a vision that has not been defined," resident Daniel Zeman said.

City council member John Krummen said the city must ensure the community is clued in before any company is chosen or any plans are finalized.

After Tuesday's vote to put off a decision until Oct. 3, the city has no financial obligation to the Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies and can stop working with its Naperville representatives at any time.

Krummen said he wants to hear how Ryan Companies will involve users of the train station area such as residents, business owners, commuters, seniors and millennials before allowing the firm to begin that work.

The extra month for Ryan Companies to develop and present its civic engagement plan was approved in an 8-1 vote with council member Becky Anderson in opposition.

"I also have a problem with special interests and a developer leading this community engagement process and not a neutral and unbiased party," Anderson said. "I like idea of resetting this and starting over."

Even if Naperville does choose Ryan Companies to conduct the work of determining what should be built along 5th Avenue, officials have said the city would not owe the firm anything and could choose a different builder to eventually complete any agreed-upon project. Only if Naperville approves a development agreement with Ryan Companies would the city be on the hook to pay for improvements or incentives.

Sites in the 5th Avenue redevelopment zone include a water tower and former public works building, four parking lots, the DuPage Children's Museum's property and a small office building.

Residents' ideas for the sites vary, but several brought up concerns with stormwater runoff, congested parking and poor traffic flow that they hope can be addressed.

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