Why Naperville is pausing 5th Avenue redevelopment planning process

Naperville is taking a 30-day pause to decide whether planning for 5th Avenue redevelopment near the train station can move to the next phase.

Council members on Tuesday night set a 60-day deadline to choose a course on what they say is one of the most pivotal remaining questions related to the project: Will the DuPage Children's Museum stay at 301 N. Washington St. or move elsewhere?

City council members will begin anew the discussion of whether developer Ryan Companies can start refining a concept for the 13 acres of city-owned sites north of downtown during an Oct. 16 meeting.

Before then, the city intends to assemble a working group of two council members, two members of the DuPage Children's Museum's board of directors and subject-matter experts as needed to decide by mid-November where the museum's future should be.

In the preliminary designs Ryan Companies presented Aug. 20, Concept A leaves the museum where it is, while Concept B moves it to an unspecified off-site location and fills the property with retail and residential space as well as parking. Several on the council say they like the idea of providing parking for Metra commuters south of the station, since they've learned the majority of riders arrive at the station from the south.

But council members Rebecca Boyd-Obarski and John Krummen led the charge to delay a decision on whether Ryan Companies should be allowed to refine concepts A and B into one plan with which to move forward. They said that decision should wait until the city can provide more direction on the museum's future, parking needs and other parameters for the redevelopment zone.

“We are pausing, not stopping, until we get our ducks in a row,” Krummen said. “We have to give you direction.”

Direction so far, given in a statement read by museum board President Mark Trembacki, is that the museum isn't happy with either early concept and very much wants to stay in Naperville.

“The two initial concepts in late August do not address the needs of DuPage Children's Museum,” Trembacki said,

Concept A raises safety, traffic and parking concerns, he said, and Concept B leaves the museum out completely from 5th Avenue plans without giving it other location options.

Mayor Steve Chirico and council member Kevin Coyne said they were prepared to allow Ryan to move ahead with refining a design. But council members Benjamin White, Becky Anderson and Boyd-Obarski said they would like to see more concepts for a wider variety of options at the sites, not fewer.

Options so far each include 2,800 parking spaces for commuters and others, nearly 400 apartments, roughly 40 condos, a dozen or so brownstones, and various amounts of office, retail and flexible space. Several residents said all options are too dense. They, too, welcomed a pause.

“We owe it to ourselves to explore the other end of the spectrum,” resident Scott Zmrhal said. “My request is for concepts that are less focused on density and dollars and more focused on improving the area, not just building it up.”

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