Naperville set to seek designs for new 5th Avenue uses
Naperville officials appear nearly ready to seek drawings of a proposed redevelopment that could bring transformative new uses to the 5th Avenue corridor near the downtown Metra station.
Drawings by developer Ryan Companies could help visualize concepts created during nine months of discussions about what to build on 13 city-owned acres that mainly contain parking lots, a couple small buildings, a water tower and the DuPage Children's Museum.
City officials say they want the area to be a lot of things: a new northern gateway to downtown; a transportation hub; a new home for a variety of people; an urban business environment in the Western suburbs; and a partial solution to issues with stormwater and traffic.
"At this location, it needs to be unique to Naperville," city council member Patty Gustin said about the potential development. "It needs to speak to Naperville and not just be another train station on the rail line."
Ryan Companies, engaged by the city in October to lead a public input process about 5th Avenue's future, has since been required to seek council permission to continue its work every two months. Another permission date is set for July 17, when the firm plans to ask for the council's endorsement of a set of concept principles that will guide early renderings of designs for the land.
After reviewing the principles during a workshop June 27, Mayor Steve Chirico said council members are on board with the impressions Ryan Companies has gathered. The firm is not yet under contract with the city and has not been paid, but could be hired later if officials like its plans for the area.
"The community is starting to get behind this project and all it can be," Chirico said. "All indications are that we'll be giving them the green light to start drawing."
Highlights from the concept principles include:
• Emphasis on the train station as the focal point.
• Construction of a mix of residences for a variety of ages and incomes.
• Creation of small office spaces with an active and urban feel.
• Inclusion of boutique retail spaces concentrated along Washington Street.
• Consideration of realignment options at North Avenue and Washington Street.
• Exploration of using the DuPage Children's Museum site as a potential commuter parking lot.
• Potential construction of a pedestrian tunnel west of Washington Street.
• Balanced placement of commuter parking spaces for efficient traffic flow.
Many of these points involve details that remain to be worked out, especially when it comes to the children's museum.
Chirico said the museum has a "solid lease" with the city, so the council will not require it to move against the will of its board -- and would not expect it to move unless a better location emerges. If the museum's land at 301 N. Washington St. is selected to become parking, Chirico said Ryan Companies also would need to present options for where the facility can be relocated, as many consider it an asset to the community.
Sarah Orleans, the museum's president and CEO, said she recognizes the city's commitment to ensuring the viability of the museum and she plans to continue a "productive dialogue" between the city and museum board members as the development process moves forward.