Fifth Avenue wish lists growing in Naperville

  • Redeveloping the 5th Avenue corridor near the Metra station in Naperville is one of Mayor Steve Chirico's goals for economic development. The firm chosen to oversee a visioning process, Ryan Cos., is beginning its work with two community meetings Monday and Tuesday.

    Redeveloping the 5th Avenue corridor near the Metra station in Naperville is one of Mayor Steve Chirico's goals for economic development. The firm chosen to oversee a visioning process, Ryan Cos., is beginning its work with two community meetings Monday and Tuesday. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/16/2017 5:30 AM

The debate is over, and a developer has been chosen to create a vision for the Fifth Avenue redevelopment in Naperville, so now it's time for the chosen firm to get to work.

Ryan Cos. is holding community meetings Monday evening and Tuesday morning to begin listening to residents, business owners, commuters and others with a stake in the future of the area, which includes 13 city-owned or leased acres along Fifth Avenue near the downtown Metra station. Monday's meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. at city hall, 400 S. Eagle St., while Tuesday's is from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

 

The gatherings are a first step in a process that's expected to take at least eight months to come up with a concept and key components of what could be built.

Neighbors already are sharing their wish lists for Fifth Avenue -- including a performing arts center, a bike and pedestrian path, more commuter parking and a development that adds to -- but doesn't alter -- the character of an eclectic neighborhood with houses both old and new, large and small.

"I think we're going for not huge, we're going for complementary to the neighborhood," resident Mary Lou Wehrli said. "We're going for something that really brings together that corridor."

Spaces to be re-imagined include four parking lots, a former public works building, a water tower, an office building and the DuPage Children's Museum site.

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Concerns include flooding, parking scarcity and traffic congestion. Jim McDonald, vice president of real estate development for Ryan Cos., already knows the concerns, but figures others will emerge.

He said this week's meetings will not include a formal presentation but will let attendees do three things:

• Sign up to receive future communications by phone, email or text.

• Indicate specific areas of interest to be connected to future working groups that will address land use, parking, traffic, stormwater and commuters.

• View an aerial map and offer comments and ideas.

After the meetings, Ryan Cos. will host at least four group sessions to hear from 20 people at a time. After those, the developer will divide interested participants into working groups of about six to 10 to tackle individual components of the plan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Information also will be posted to the project's webpage at http://www.naperville.il.us/projects-in-naperville/fifth-avenue-redevelopment/. Dan Zeman, who lives a block north of Fifth Avenue, said he and his wife are interested in the working group on land use because they want something "ambitious and creative" that won't take away from the charm of their neighborhood. Zeman said he plans to attend one of the community meetings despite opposing the process used to select Ryan Cos.

"If that's the direction the city's going to go, then we're going to work within the confines," Zeman said. "If Ryan is the one creating that vision, we're going to do our best to influence that."

Residents who are reviving calls for creation of the Omnia Performing Arts Center, an idea discussed in 2009 that never advanced, also are interested. Omnia supporter Nancy Marinello said the idea isn't to push for the entire 2009 plan -- which also included a parking garage, condos, shops and restaurants -- to become the vision for Fifth Avenue but to ask whether a performing arts center can be included.

Residents who are exploring reopening a cow tunnel under the BNSF railroad tracks to become a bike and pedestrian route to downtown wonder if better connectivity can be provided by the Fifth Avenue development instead.

"I think it's great to get the community involved and to hear everyone's ideas of what they want to see in those spaces. I think there's a lot of concerns because it's all new and change is difficult," Susan Ahlfeld said. "But from listening to the city council meeting, I think there will be checks and balances along the way to make sure that it's done right."

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