Developer: New plans 'should fit naturally' with Naperville's old library

  • Owners of the old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville plan to build an L-shaped $21 million building around it with commercial use on the first floor and three levels of condos above. They are seeking review of their plans from the city's historic preservation commission during a meeting that could be scheduled for later this month.

    Owners of the old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville plan to build an L-shaped $21 million building around it with commercial use on the first floor and three levels of condos above. They are seeking review of their plans from the city's historic preservation commission during a meeting that could be scheduled for later this month. Courtesy of Kluber Architects + Engineers

 
 
Updated 5/4/2018 9:58 AM
Editor's note: This article has been updated to explain planned restoration of the old Nichols Library.

The owners of the old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville have submitted plans to the city for what they hope to build along with the historic library on the prized Washington Street site.

The proposal for Central Park Place call for a four-story, 68,000-square-foot building to house commercial and residential uses, built in an "L" shape around the form of the 120-year-old structure that housed Naperville's first public collection of books.

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Spokeswoman Lissa Druss said the owners, Dwight Avram and Jeff Brown, plan to restore the old library and keep its north, west and south facades in place, with a replica front door to meet current codes, handicapped accessibility improvements, like-style windows and repairs to the roof, bricks, stone, tuckpointing, soffits and fascia.

Owners also have designed the proposed building to complement the yellow-brick, Richardsonian Romanesque structure already there.

"People aren't going to see this glass building around the library," Druss said. "It should fit naturally."

Contractors work on demolition of the 1962 south addition to the old Nichols Library in Naperville. Owners of the building have submitted plans for a $21 million commercial and condo development they hope to build on the site.
  Contractors work on demolition of the 1962 south addition to the old Nichols Library in Naperville. Owners of the building have submitted plans for a $21 million commercial and condo development they hope to build on the site. - Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

Architect Mike Elliott with Kluber Architects + Engineers added traditional features such as cornice detailing, corner turrets and dark finished-metal railings to the brick and precast concrete design of the new building. He also included a gap to the south between the old and the new, "to preserve a sense of the scale of the existing structure," according to a description included with the plans submitted to the city.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Central Park Place would include 10,000 square feet of commercial space, up to 21 condos on the second, third and fourth floors, and parking on the basement and ground levels totaling 42 spaces.

A commercial tenant is expected to move into the old library, and Druss said one potential tenant has reached out to the owners. But the use of the library space remains to be determined, she said.

Building owners submitted Central Park Place plans to the city Tuesday, seeking placement on an upcoming agenda of the historic preservation commission.

The view from Central Park in Naperville looking west toward Washington Street is now more open with the demolition of the south addition of the old Nichols Library at 110 S. Washington. Building owners now are seeking city review of plans for a $21 million commercial and condo building in an L shape around the original library.
  The view from Central Park in Naperville looking west toward Washington Street is now more open with the demolition of the south addition of the old Nichols Library at 110 S. Washington. Building owners now are seeking city review of plans for a $21 million commercial and condo building in an L shape around the original library. - Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The commission will need to grant a certificate of appropriateness before any changes can be made because the old library is a local landmark. The library also was recognized by Landmarks Illinois as one of the most endangered places in the state.

Preservationists with the group Save Old Nichols say they are encouraged the owners plan to leave three sides of the building in place -- especially since the local landmark designation only protects the front, or the western facade facing Washington Street.

"The key issue is whether or not the new development blocks the view of the old library," said Joe McElroy, a Save Old Nichols member and former city council member. "We still think something can be done that would make all of us happy."

Central Park Place is a reboot of what originally was called Nichols Place when the owners put fourth plans last year.

In that version, owners planned to take apart, then reassemble, the Washington Street facade, incorporating it into an 80,000-square-foot mixed-use center, but tear down the rest of the old building.

The eastern wall of the old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville remains intact, but building owners plan to connect a new development to this side of the structure, if they get approval of their designs.
  The eastern wall of the old Nichols Library in downtown Naperville remains intact, but building owners plan to connect a new development to this side of the structure, if they get approval of their designs. - Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

That plan drew the ire of residents who remember the building in its role as a library until 1986. Preservationists concerned with what they called a "peel-and-stick" approach to preserving the look of the Washington Street facade, pushed the city to deem the building a landmark, and the status was granted in September.

In January, the city approved partial demolition of the south wing, which was an addition built in 1962, and the eastern wall.

Work to clean up asbestos began in early April, and now the 1962 addition has been razed. Druss said the eastern wall remains intact as the owners await site plan approval and seek tenants for the old library space.

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