How much will downtown pay for new Naperville streetscapes?
Naperville is working on designs for new downtown streetscapes -- and on how much property owners should pay for them.
In an estimated $15 million project that's expected to take six years once it begins, the city plans to upgrade sidewalks, install new benches and street furniture and enhance street corners throughout its commercial core.
"It's a long-term revitalization of the streetscape," said Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development.
City staff members are proposing the work be paid for over 15 years, with the city contributing half and downtown property owners the other half.
They say it's a fair cost distribution because a strong downtown improves the city as a whole.
"There's shared benefit," said downtown advisory commission member Rick Hitchcock, a landscape architect who has designed many projects in the area. "The city benefits, it's iconic; certainly the downtown benefits."
Problem is, those same downtown property owners who could be asked to foot the bill for sidewalks and benches also are still paying off the Van Buren Avenue parking garage -- and will be until 2021, 20 years after it was constructed. They're also paying for ongoing downtown maintenance and marketing through a separate special tax that's renewed every five years.
Add a new payment for streetscapes and the owners would, in some cases, owe more in special downtown property taxes than $2.50 for every $1,000 of equalized assessed value -- and that's a threshold the city doesn't want to cross, downtown advisory commission members say.
"This is just what you have to pay to have the privilege of being in downtown Naperville and all the amenities that go with it," commission Chairman Steve Rubin, a downtown property owner, said about the special taxes.
The city plans to follow a process of creating a new special tax that involves talking with downtown stakeholders, getting city council input, writing an ordinance to create the tax, hosting a public hearing about the ordinance, finalizing the boundaries of downtown properties to be included on the tax rolls and then approving the tax ordinance.
Before that process begins, Novack said his department will confer with the finance department to see what can be done to lower streetscape costs during the first few years of the project, when downtown property owners still are paying for the Van Buren garage.