Naperville not ready to select developer for 5th Avenue train station area
Naperville will take a few extra weeks to consider approval of a developer to revitalize the 5th Avenue train station area after several city council members raised concerns about a lack of transparency.
The council, during a workshop scheduled for Aug. 28, plans to discuss the process used to consider the qualifications of eight potential developers and recommend one of them, Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies, as the best to revamp several city-owned properties near the train station.
Earlier this year, the city sought qualifications from firms to revitalize about 8 acres of "opportunity sites" surrounding the 5th Avenue Station building north of the tracks including four parking lots, a water tower, a former public works facility, a small business building and the DuPage Children's Museum property.
A group of four area property owners, six leaders of institutions and four city staff members planned to recommend a few companies for further review. But the task force found Ryan Companies was the obvious best choice, said Marcie Schatz, deputy city manager.
"It was great one stood out compared to the others. The bad news is we do realize it doesn't look right because there's no public discussion about that," Mayor Steve Chirico said. "We've made a decision to bring back a workshop to discuss this further so everyone can get a good understanding of why, unanimously, the task force selected Ryan Companies."
Four neighbors and one other resident asked the council for a voice in what will be done with the land. One asked for a stormwater management facility to be part of the project. Another said affordable housing for seniors and a performing arts theater should be included. Two were critical of how the task force discussed the project and came up with a recommendation in private.
Some council members had the same concern, including Paul Hinterlong, John Krummen and Becky Anderson.
"Due diligence and careful consideration has not been involved in this process, because we as a council were not involved in this process," Anderson said.
Chirico said council members intentionally were not included in discussions about the companies who applied to redevelop 5th Avenue to ensure task force members would be free of political influence. City Manager Doug Krieger took responsibility for the lack of communication about how the process was to work and pledged complete transparency moving forward.
The council on Tuesday tabled approval of Ryan Companies as the 5th Avenue redeveloper, but it could take up the matter at its next meeting on Sept. 5.
The council also can choose to put out a new request for qualifications to seek and consider more potential firms.
Once a firm is chosen, the company will work with the community to develop plans for buildings and commuter parking on the sites.
"Although it may appear that we're suddenly going to the point of accepting a plan," said city council member Judith Brodhead, who was a nonvoting member of the task force that reviewed developers, "there is no plan that has been devised that we are trying to push forward."