Commission: Naperville bell tower worth $1.5 million to save

  • Repairing Moser Tower, home of the Millennium Carillon in Naperville, is worth the $1.5 million it would cost, a commission unanimously recommended. The city council now could consider the recommendation as soon as next month.

      Repairing Moser Tower, home of the Millennium Carillon in Naperville, is worth the $1.5 million it would cost, a commission unanimously recommended. The city council now could consider the recommendation as soon as next month. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer June 2017

  • Cracked concrete and corroded structural steel discovered five years ago at Moser Tower, home of the Millennium Carillon in Naperville, should be repaired for $1.5 million, a city commission has recommended.

    Cracked concrete and corroded structural steel discovered five years ago at Moser Tower, home of the Millennium Carillon in Naperville, should be repaired for $1.5 million, a city commission has recommended. Daily Herald file photo July 2017

 
 
Updated 2/14/2020 10:03 AM
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify the funding of tower construction.

The Naperville icon that is Moser Tower, home of the Millennium Carillon, is worth $1.5 million to save, members of a commission that oversees the structure said in a unanimous recommendation to the city council.

The Riverwalk Commission suggested repairs are the best way to address structural integrity issues discovered in 2015 with the 160-foot-tall spire built to mark the beginning of the 2000s.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A $1.5 million repair plan prepared by consultants is a cheaper option than repairing the tower and enclosing the lower 72 feet in glass to match original designs, which would cost $2.4 million. And commission members decided it's worth the extra money to preserve -- rather than raze -- the tower that has come to visually represent the city. Tearing it down would cost $726,000.

To use a car-crash analogy, the tower "wasn't totaled," said Geoff Roehll, Riverwalk Commission chairman. The total cost for tower construction between 1999 and 2006 was more than $7 million, with roughly $3 million contributed by donors to a foundation and the rest paid through city food and beverage taxes.

"Based on what we've got invested in the structure to date, versus what the repair cost is, it is worth making the investment to preserve the iconic structure that it is," Roehll said, "like it or not."

Not everyone loves the tower, but many younger Naperville residents don't know the city without it. News that the Riverwalk Commission was considering tearing it down caused a stir in 2017 among donors who sponsored some of the 72 bells housed in the tower that make up the carillon instrument.

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The tower's future has been slightly hazy since troubles with cracked concrete and corroded structural steel were discovered five years ago. But city officials have said since 2017 that the tower poses no imminent safety threat and is in no danger of collapse.

So when considering options, Riverwalk Commission members took their time.

They worked with consultants in 2017 and 2018 to perform several rounds of structural testing and to find shop drawings and record drawings that detail the placement of internal materials. They authorized a structural modeling study in 2019 and then began considering cost estimates for 30 years of maintenance in the event of repair, enclosure or demolition.

If the tower were to be torn down after 30 years of basic maintenance, it would cost $1,576,000. The cost to repair the tower, then maintain it in improved condition for 30 years would be $2,299,000 -- a $723,000 difference.

"For that incremental difference, the Moser tower could continue to stand and reflect the dreams and aspirations of those who envisioned the tower as an icon for Naperville," Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development, said in a memo.

Cost estimates for repair and enclosure have decreased since 2017, when they were proposed at between $2.7 million and $3.7 million. Roehll said that is because consultants learned details of the tower's construction during three years of study and used that knowledge to remove unknowns and contingency costs from projected pricing.

The unanimous recommendation to repair the tower will be considered by the city council, which could take up the topic as soon as next month.

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