11 years later, Naperville reconsiders Nichols Library garage construction

  • Officials in Naperville are reconsidering an idea from the 2000s to build a parking garage at the downtown Nichols Library. The garage would take up the site of the library's current parking lot on Jefferson Avenue as well as this grassy lot at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Eagle Street.

      Officials in Naperville are reconsidering an idea from the 2000s to build a parking garage at the downtown Nichols Library. The garage would take up the site of the library's current parking lot on Jefferson Avenue as well as this grassy lot at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Eagle Street. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • A plan to expand parking at Nichols Library in downtown Naperville with construction of a garage instead of a surface lot is under discussion anew after being voted down because of economic concerns in the late 2000s.

      A plan to expand parking at Nichols Library in downtown Naperville with construction of a garage instead of a surface lot is under discussion anew after being voted down because of economic concerns in the late 2000s. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/10/2020 12:58 PM

An idea for a parking garage at Nichols Library in downtown Naperville that fell out of consideration around the time of the Great Recession could be coming back in style.

City officials recently convened a group to discuss the possibility of building a garage at the library at 200 W. Jefferson Ave. following a design approved in the late 2000s.

 

The idea is to use the design for a three-story, 500-space garage to apply for state funding that soon will be available because of the increased motor fuel tax. As a predesigned project, city officials say, the garage could fare well in the grant application process.

"This would be the only shovel-ready public project that Naperville would have," Mayor Stave Chirico said. "That (grant money) really could go a long way to making that affordable for us."

The city plans to schedule an open house in the next several weeks to show the garage design to the public. Early word from the officials, downtown leaders and neighbors who reviewed the plan is that it could work -- even 11 years after the city council decided not to seek bids and to hold off on construction.

"The group as a whole validated that the deck design is still a really, really good design for that site," said Jennifer Louden, deputy director of transportation, engineering and development.

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The design calls for an L-shaped garage wrapped around the library with a brick facade and a plaza at the southeast corner of Jefferson Avenue and Eagle Street, where "The Cat In The Hat" sculpture stands. Louden said the garage would cost roughly $23.5 million and would be built into the hill on the site, so from Jackson Avenue it would be three stories tall, but from Jefferson -- at the library's main entrance -- it would appear two stories tall.

The garage would replace the 130 surface spots in the library lot now. So it would add a total of 370 spaces to the roughly 3,000 public spots available in the entire downtown.

Chris Finck lives right next to where the garage could be built. He said the project was thoroughly vetted in the late 2000s to arrive at a final design city leaders, neighbors and the downtown business community all supported.

"What we ended up with is something that would fit as best as it can in a residential area in kind of an entry point for Naperville," Finck said. "I think when people see the drawing, they're going to say, 'Wow, that actually looks pretty good. It ties in with the library.'"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He said building the garage could help with traffic congestion because it would locate hundreds of new spots on the west side of downtown so people driving in from the west would not have to circle seeking street spaces. A garage at Nichols Library would give the city one parking deck in each direction of the downtown, with public garages already open on Chicago Avenue to the east, Water and Webster streets to the south and Van Buren Avenue to the north.

"You park, then walk, which is what we want people to do -- whether you're going to the library or to the Riverwalk or going shopping or getting something to eat," Finck said.

The idea with reconsidering the garage now is to use the previously approved design -- which cost roughly $1 million to create at the end of a multiyear process -- not to reinvent the garage's size or what it could look like, Louden said.

The city plans to create a webpage soon to display garage drawings and details.

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