Naperville Riverwalk park plan on hold after grant suspended
Work to build a park along Naperville's Riverwalk on land owned by North Central College has been suspended -- just like the state grant that was to fund the project.
City officials got word late last month that a $1.1 million grant promised last fall for soil cleanup and creation of a park at 430 S. Washington St. would be suspended effective June 30.
"We counted on that grant to fund the vast majority of the work," said Bill Novack, the city's director of transportation, engineering and development.
The city, which is developing the park in partnership with North Central College, had spent between $75,000 and $80,000 on engineering and design, and those costs were reimbursed. Officials were about to seek bids for construction, but then came word of the grant suspension.
"If we had to suspend the project at any point in time, this is probably the best point in time in order to do that," said Jan Erickson, Riverwalk administrator. "We'd like to move forward with the project, but given the circumstances, it's the best we could have hoped for."
Work planned for the nearly one-acre site between the DuPage River and a Burger King includes development of a plaza and a grassy area sloping toward the river. The college also plans to install an electronic sign as well as a sculpture to honor its well-regarded cross-country and track programs, said Jim Godo, assistant vice president for external relations.
Those plans aren't being scrapped, just delayed.
"It remains the college's intention to have a park at 430 South Washington and for it to continue to be a collaborative community effort," Godo said.
During the next city budget process, employees and council members will reprioritize the park as it relates to all other proposed capital improvements.
Remaining work is expected to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million -- most of which the grant was expected to cover.
Suspension of the grant means the city doesn't have the money on hand to continue the project on schedule.
Even before this delay, park plans had been a few years in the making.
A former commercial building that many called an "eyesore" was torn down in January 2013 after North Central College bought the foreclosed property for $450,000. The city received a stormwater permit for the project this spring and construction was to have begun in the fall.
While the city and college re-evaluate plans for the open area, Godo said the college hopes to continue using the site as parking for construction vehicles as work wraps up on a new residence hall and begins on a new science center.