Neighbors fear parking issues, cramped views from downtown Naperville development
When developers Dwight and Ruth Yackley finished the first two phases of the Main Street Promenade shopping and office center in downtown Naperville, they had a plan for the third: a three-story building with one level of parking spaces covered by a green roof, providing an 85-foot buffer between condos to the west and retail to the east.
But the Yackleys sold all three properties within the promenade, and now the new owner wants to make changes to the third phase of the plan.
Real estate trust RPAI wants to construct a five-story building with 72 apartments and a 120-space parking garage above first-floor retail on the 0.83-acre vacant site at the southwest corner of Main Street and Benton Avenue.
But neighbors, including several in the Benton Terrace condos west of the site, said the new proposal varies too much from what the Yackleys planned and could lead to issues with parking and a more cramped living environment.
RPAI received a split vote from the planning and zoning commission when members discussed several variances last week. So the changes the new owner wants to make to parking, building bulk and setback from the western property line will move forward for city council consideration without a recommendation.
Bruce Hanson, chairman of the planning and zoning commission, commended the interior architecture of the proposed retail and apartment building, calling it "beautiful," but said the exterior doesn't measure up.
"When you look at it in the context of the entire neighborhood and what's there, it's not," Hanson said.
Benton Terrace residents, including the Yackleys themselves, said the proposed building would come much closer to their homes than they anticipated when they believed the former plan for the 85-foot separation would be followed. With a proposed 10-foot setback from the western property line, the new building would be 20 feet from the homes in Benton Terrace.
"The petitioner's plan has no view, or no buffer, between the Benton Terrace residents facing east," Dwight Yackley said. "You either get a brick wall or synthetic stucco or somebody else's apartment window."
Benton Terrace residents also said they worry where residents of the new apartments would park if RPAI is allowed to build only 120 spaces -- 42 fewer than the 162 city code requires.
"Making an exception to the parking requirement -- I can't fathom why anyone would entertain that," Benton Terrace resident Greg Lernihan said. "It passes no logical tests for me."
Don Hall, who described his property at Benton Avenue and Webster Street as "the last small house on the corner," said he fears the promenade's new owners are seeking to maximize only corporate profit -- not the living experience of those in the neighborhood.
Mary Lou Wehrli, who lives west of the promenade, said a lot of thought about green space, sight lines, "neighborliness" and business success went into the original plan, for which the Yackleys received approval in 2008. Anything OK'd now should maintain the focus on a "beneficial-to-all-concerned space," she said.
"The plans that are in place support the lifestyle of those who are here now and those who can come in the future and make even more of it," Wehrli said.
Development of the Main Street Promenade began in 2001 at the northwest corner of Main Street and Van Buren Avenue. The Yackleys then bought the property east of Main Street in 2010 after a different developer let it fall into foreclosure, and they completed Main Street Promenade East there in 2014.