Ideas for 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville far from cohesive

Meeting on Naperville redevelopment shows 'a big disconnect'

  • Members of the pedestrian safety and connectivity working group that is helping consider plans for 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville share their thoughts about how to create new or safer walkways for people near the Metra station.

      Members of the pedestrian safety and connectivity working group that is helping consider plans for 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville share their thoughts about how to create new or safer walkways for people near the Metra station. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • Jim McDonald, vice president of real estate development for Ryan Cos., takes notes Monday during a meeting to convene several working groups that have been studying options and concerns for 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville.

      Jim McDonald, vice president of real estate development for Ryan Cos., takes notes Monday during a meeting to convene several working groups that have been studying options and concerns for 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted6/5/2018 5:35 AM

The soonest any construction on 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville could begin is fall 2019, the prospective developer says, and that's if everything "moves smartly along."

But the thought process behind what eventually could be constructed on 13 city-owned acres near the Naperville Metra station proved Monday it has a long way to go before achieving cohesion.

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That's when groups that have been meeting to discuss various elements of the plan -- such as design, land use, parking, pedestrian safety, stormwater and traffic -- convened to merge ideas.

But that's also when residents voiced concerns about the height of potential buildings, the cost of construction, the affordability of housing and whether their input is being taken into account.

From Monday's discussion came the concept that 5th Avenue development needs to find balance between what a market study indicated could be supported on the land and what a residents survey said would be desired.

"That's where I see a big disconnect, and we have to work it out," said city council member Becky Anderson, who sits on the land use and design working group. "We're going to make this a realistic development that those who live near it can live with and all of us can be proud of."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A market study determined the area could support up to 400 apartments, up to 50 townhouses and up to 50 condos, said Jim McDonald, vice president of real estate development for Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies, which is leading redevelopment conversations.

"That doesn't mean that's what's going to work for the development," he said.

From discussions since last October, McDonald said he's gathered a desire for a "balanced and practical" development "that is bold and dynamic and great and cool and solves problems."

"That's a tall order," he said.

Ryan Cos. is the firm chosen by a selection committee as the most qualified to proceed toward development. Twice since granting original permission in October, the city council has given renewed authority for the firm to conduct a community visioning process to come up with ideas for the sites.

But residents among roughly 100 people at Monday's meeting said their responses to a land use survey indicate a preference for smaller buildings and less density. Residents also quibbled with Ryan Cos. about the fairness, validity and credibility of the survey, while making clear that land use and design are their major sticking points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Members of the working group addressing those issues developed a vision statement about future of the land, which says it should be a transit-oriented area with a showcase character to serve as a gateway to the downtown, have a draw of its own, respect surrounding areas and "be more than a place to park and ride."

"We're excited to see how this can proceed, how it can benefit Naperville," said Lauren Collander, a member of the land use and design working group. "We're a design-forward community."

Residents involved with other planning groups also reported about ideas to add a pedestrian tunnel west of Washington Street, build new parking decks to conserve the 1,681 spots currently on the sites, or realign streets to ease traffic.

Next steps in planning include a June 12 meeting of a steering committee that is guiding the process and a June 19 meeting of the city council. Ryan Cos. must gain renewed permission from the council on the 19th to continue planning work.

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