Naperville's next 5th Avenue decision: How to improve commuter parking
Naperville appears ready to move forward with plans to redevelop its 5th Avenue corridor after officials addressed two sticking points that have stalled progress since last fall.
With decisions to keep the DuPage Children's Museum at its Washington Street site and that 20 percent of housing in the project should meet the state definition of "affordable," talks are turning to parking -- and reorganizing an input group called the 5th Avenue steering committee to guide future choices.
City staff members have completed a "State of the System Report" about commuter parking and devised a plan to improve two problems that seem contradictory: There are long waiting lists for quarterly parking permits, yet many spaces reserved for permit-holders often go unused.
The city council is set to discuss the parking and access plan -- as well as a plan to reshape the steering committee -- during its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.
The parking and access plan proposes the elimination of a carpool program and tighter controls on which vehicles permit holders can park in their spots to try to prevent people from holding passes if they don't regularly park at the station.
But making changes becomes almost "philosophical," said city council member Judith Brodhead, who sits on the steering committee.
"Should we really upend the kind of system we've been using for years, which seems to only benefit the people who currently have a parking pass?" Brodhead said. "It seems to me that we are not handling it the best way right now, that there's a lot of inequity."
A previous staff report suggested the city add 250 to 400 parking spaces as part of 5th Avenue redevelopment to help meet demand, and Mayor Steve Chirico said he thinks council members generally support the idea.
But even before redevelopment begins, the city is considering one option that could add roughly 250 new spaces.
Chirico said the city could demolish a former public works building on one of the eight city-owned sites in the 13-acre redevelopment area, then pave the property for daily-fee parking spaces.
"For immediate relief, I think this is going to be a great thing," Chirico said.
Called Water Tower West, the building that could be razed is actually a garage and office space near a water tower that has been little-used since the public works department moved in 2009 to a facility on Fort Hill Drive.
The city is seeking bids to demolish the building, and the work could be brought to the council for discussion during a future meeting.
New council member Patrick Kelly said it might be smart to see how some of the permit-parking enforcement changes work out before adding more spaces.
If the city demolishes the old public works building and adds more spaces now, Kelly said, it would be difficult to build anew along 5th Avenue without continuing to offer that increased number of spots. In redevelopment, parking likely would be built in garages instead of surface lots and could be pricey, he said.
"We need to take a step back and think carefully," said Kelly, who sat on the steering committee as a resident.
Nine months after the committee gave its original recommendations on land use, design, pedestrian connectivity, stormwater management, traffic and parking, its membership needs a few tweaks, Operations Manager Amy Emery said in a memo.
The 15-member advisory group originally had former city council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski in a council seat, Kelly in a resident role from the Pilgrim Addition neighborhood and the late Mayor Emeritus George Pradel in an at-large role.
Proposed changes call for Kelly to slide into Boyd-Obarski's council slot, a new Pilgrim Addition resident to be appointed and a representative of the DuPage Children's Museum to fill Pradel's former at-large role.
Once reorganized with new members, the committee could weigh in on the next decisions the city needs to make before potentially authorizing developer Ryan Cos. to begin a second phase of design refinement.
The company's first phase of designs called for nearly 400 apartments, roughly 40 condos and a dozen or so brownstones along with parking and a mix of office, retail and flexible spaces.
Agenda: Tweaks to 5th Avenue steering committee also proposed