Winfield panel delays vote on Town Center redevelopment

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital's proposal to build a new parking deck in downtown Winfield was well-received by the village's plan commission Wednesday night, but the advisory panel stopped short of making a recommendation at the urging of town officials.

Village President Erik Spande said he fears what could happen if the parking deck is approved by the commission and village board before other aspects of CDH's larger plan to transform part of Town Center south of the hospital into a medical and commercial district.

"I am very uncomfortable with the direction this is going," Spande said moments before plan commissioners - at the end of a four-hour meeting - were going to vote on the parking deck and a surface parking lot.

CDH officials say the parking deck - planned for a parking lot west of the hospital along Winfield Road - is needed to "help alleviate the significant parking problem that our patients and staff face every day."

If the requested preliminary and final approvals are granted soon, work on the parking lot could start next month and construction of the parking deck could begin in December.

But Spande said the village negotiated for years with Northwestern Medicine to have the parking deck project and a proposed mixed-use building "joined at the hip."

"Now, at the final hour, they want to break them apart," Spande said. "I find that to be concerning."

As part of its application, CDH is seeking preliminary approval for a "Phase 1B." That phase includes construction of the three-story building - with commercial/retail use on the ground floor and medical/office space on the upper two floors - near the corner of Jewell Road and Church. There are also plans for two stand-alone, single-story buildings for retail, restaurant or commercial use.

However, village officials are highly critical of the latest architectural rendering of the mixed-use building. So the plan commission isn't expected to take a vote on "Phase 1B" until after Northwestern Medicine submits an updated rendering, which could take four to six weeks.

Spande said it's possible the updated rendering could please everyone. If it doesn't, he said, "we're kind of stuck."

Because while the village is working to draft a development agreement with Northwestern Medicine, the pact hasn't been approved.

"We don't have a contract right now," Spande said.

Ultimately, the plan commission followed Village Manager Curt Barrett's suggestion to delay its vote to Tuesday so village staff can put together a list of proposed conditions.

"It certainly can wait until Tuesday to have the largest project in the history of this community get a recommendation vote from the plan commission," Barrett said.

Earlier in the meeting, Northwestern Medicine officials presented what they called "the culmination" of years of discussions with the village.

Charles Cloutier, director of planning and construction for Northwestern Medicine, said the goal was to find "a mutually beneficial solution to Town Center development."

The first phase of the proposed plan - "Phase 1A" - includes construction of the parking deck and a pedestrian bridge over Winfield Road linking the structure to the main campus. In the parking structure, ground floor space would be set aside for an 18,800-square-foot day care facility and a 5,000-square-foot retail/restaurant use.

"Architecturally, we want the structure to look like a building instead of a parking deck," said Cloutier, adding the design takes its cues from a bed pavilion across the street.

The phase also includes construction of "a significant portion" of the village's Riverwalk Park.

In addition, the 180-space parking lot would be built just east of Church Street. Initially, it would be used by CDH staff while the parking deck is being constructed.

Meanwhile, "Phase 1C" calls for a public plaza and two single-story buildings for retail, restaurant or commercial use to be built on the existing village hall site. The village hall, which also houses the police station, would be torn down and relocated.

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