Naperville moving toward Moser Tower repairs next year

  • Naperville City Council members decided Tuesday night that the city should prepare construction documents toward repairing cracked concrete and corroded structural steel at Moser Tower next year. The city then will seek bids before potentially approving the work.

    Naperville City Council members decided Tuesday night that the city should prepare construction documents toward repairing cracked concrete and corroded structural steel at Moser Tower next year. The city then will seek bids before potentially approving the work. Daily Herald file photo March 2018

 
 
Updated 3/3/2020 10:49 PM

Naperville is moving forward with plans to repair the tower that holds the Millennium Carillon by authorizing the preparation of construction documents to take place this year.

City council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to direct staff members to develop construction plans for work estimated to cost $1.5 million, which would repair problems discovered with the 160-foot-tall tower, including cracked concrete and corroded structural steel.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The vote is a preliminary step toward gathering bids from contractors to do the work and does not yet commit the city to approving any repairs until bids come in.

But it could lead to repairs being conducted next year. Council members say Tuesday's vote counts as a step toward fixing and maintaining a structure that has become iconic in the 20 years it has stood along the Riverwalk.

"This is really what our young people look at and identify with as home," council member Patty Gustin said.

The roughly $7 million tower was built between 1999 and 2007 using donations to a private foundation and revenue from the city's food and beverage tax. Near the top of the structure is the upper belfry of the Millennium Carillon, a 72-bell instrument played during public concerts by musicians called carillonneurs.

The tower represents the "cooperative, can-do spirit that built Naperville," resident Marilyn Schweitzer said, and it deserves to be maintained.

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Council members agreed, with their vote to begin following a repair recommendation from the Riverwalk Commission, which oversees the tower, to fix it in one phase in 2021.

The commission chose the repair option as a cheaper plan than another proposal to repair the tower and enclose the lower 72 feet in glass to match original designs, which would cost an estimated $2.4 million. Commission members also recommended it's worth paying to repair the tower because tearing it down wouldn't be cheap either, at $726,000.

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.

Riverwalk Commission members were relieved to discover through subsequent testing after 2015 that "there was not more wrong" with the tower, said council member Judith Brodhead, the council's liaison to the Riverwalk Commission. She said she looks forward to repairs, which will allow the structure "to be cared for well."

Cost estimates for the options of repair and enclosure have decreased since 2017, when they were proposed at between $2.7 million and $3.7 million.

Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development, said the estimates are the best guess of consultants that have been studying and testing the tower. If bids for the repairs are not in line with estimates, he said, council members reserve the right to reject them or rethink the plan.

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