Public ideas pouring in for Naperville's 5th Avenue
The developer leading plans for a revamped 5th Avenue near downtown Naperville now has 220 opinions to consider as it works to shape the site's future.
At least that many residents, commuters and business owners attended community meetings Monday and Tuesday to share preliminary thoughts about redevelopment and sign up to stay informed about the process.
In four hours, the gatherings collected "a ton of great input and ideas," Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger said.
The meetings are helping launch work to reimagine eight properties totaling 13 acres near the Naperville Metra station, all of which are owned or leased by the city. They include four parking lots, a former public works building, a water tower, an office building and the DuPage Children's Museum.
Given the chance to list ideas for construction, residents showed creativity, an environmental focus and concerns about pedestrian access.
But a board filled with sticky notes from participants demonstrated that not everyone agrees on what's needed or should go on the property.
One note, for example, called for creation of a permanent performing arts center, such as the Omnia theater proposal that was discussed in 2009.
"It's not just Naperville; DuPage County needs something like this," said Nancy Marinello, a resident and theater supporter.
But others opposed the theater idea, with one sticky note saying "entertainment-district noise is not welcome."
Many asked for improved paths and amenities for people on foot or on bike, especially covered and secure bicycle parking and routes that would keep bikers and pedestrians away from vehicles on nearby Washington Street.
One such route could be created by opening the former "cow tunnel" under the BNSF railroad tracks at Webster Street, one note suggested. Another could come from creating a walkway across the tracks at Sleight Street.
Some residents, including Erin Keables, said they want the development to meet trends for the next 20 to 30 years, such as solar panels and electric vehicles.
"Anything they do is going to impact the immediate neighborhood," Keables said. "I think there are great opportunities here. I just hope that they're wisely done."
Ryan Companies, which is based in Minneapolis and has an office in Naperville, will continue planning by inviting the 220 people who attended this week's meetings to a series of group sessions, each accommodating about 20 people. The firm also plans to send out surveys and to launch an information website this week at 5thavedev.com.
Jim McDonald, vice president of real estate development for Ryan, told attendees Tuesday the firm imagines townhouses on some sections of the property, possibly as a buffer between existing houses and new parking structures that could be built to retain or increase the 1,515 commuter spaces in the lots along 5th. He said rivers and railroad lines were the basis of communities in the past, and with Naperville's Riverwalk, the community already has returned to valuing the West branch of the DuPage.
"Is there a way to celebrate this rail line?" McDonald said.
The city has not entered into a contract with Ryan, but has set up check-ins every two months to ensure council members are happy with the planning process. If Ryan creates a concept the council approves, the city could agree on incentives, contributions or other financial terms to allow the developer to build on the land.
The planning process is expected to take at least eight months.