Developer to unveil Nichols Library replacement plans

A builder eyeing redevelopment of the historic former Nichols Library in downtown Naperville is about to share his plans with the public.

And although those plans involve replacing the 119-year-old building with a modern mix of retail, offices and condos, city leaders say they're excited the project intends to preserve elements of the building's well-known yellow-brick facade.

"I love the architecture of what they're proposing. It's very old-world," Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico said about plans to modernize the site of the city's first library at 110 S. Washington St. "I think they've come up with a couple of plans that respect the history of the building."

Developer Dwight Avram of Avram Builders has scheduled a community open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the conference room at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, 55 S. Main St., to introduce his plans.

Avram is taking over the property from Truth Lutheran Church, which is moving to a new worship center at Mill Street and Bauer Road.

At the open house, Avram will display renderings as well as information about parking, traffic, land use and building height. He's proposing a four-story structure with retail and/or restaurant space on the ground level, second-story offices and two stories of condos.

"We are being sensitive to the significance of the old Nichols Library building," Avram said in a news release. "We hope to honor the heritage of the property and the contributions Mr. Nichols made to the community."

The original Nichols Library opened Sept. 22, 1898, with 500 books. It was made possible by a $10,000 gift from James Lawrence Nichols, a German-born resident who taught at North Central College, launched his own business and wrote books.

Avram's plans include a public gallery highlighting Nichols' role as a businessman and benefactor and the history of the building bearing his name. His firm also plans to save some architectural features of the old building and incorporate them into the new one.

A city ordinance approved in 1995 requires as much, Chirico said, as it aims to protect the historic value of the west-facing facade.

Avram already has showed his plans to city leaders, including those with the Naperville Development Partnership. President Christine Jeffries gives them a rave review.

"It's truly breathtaking what they've been able to accomplish and what they're hoping to build," Jeffries said. "It's got a unique location and could really change the whole streetscape for that stretch of Washington, which I think is needed."

Jeffries and Chirico also welcome that the development includes condos because residential options are limited in the city's downtown.

Jeffries predicted the plans will be "widely accepted" once people see them. But Chirico said a drastic change to a historic site like this is likely to raise some concerns.

"I'm sure there will be opinions on both sides," he said.

After gathering public opinion, Newman said Avram plans to finalize building designs and submit them for review by the city's planning and zoning commission.

If you go

What: Community Open House for Downtown Development

When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce conference room, 55 S. Main St.

Who: Hosted by developer Dwight Avram and Avram Builders

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