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Construction booming in northeast Naperville commercial corridor

Open spaces in the bustling business sector near the east end of Diehl Road are steadily filling in.

Three major projects are on track to join the commercial district that lies around the well-traveled road stretching west from Naper Boulevard. Each will have its own impact on the balance of attractions and amenities available in Naperville’s northeastern most quadrant.

Freedom Plaza

The largest project, the Freedom Plaza development, will bring Naperville’s first full-sized convention venue to a 13.2 acre site flanked by Diehl and Interstate 88 that is one of few large parcels of previously undeveloped land left in the city.

Plans for Freedom Plaza include a 168-room Embassy Suites hotel and a 1,000-seat conference center, along with spaces for four restaurants.

The owner/developer/operator Superhost Enterprise received a foundation building permit from the city in March, city planner Rory Fancler said. According to Samir Lakhany, Superhost vice president, the walls of the inn will be going up soon.

“We actually are under construction for the hotel,” Lakhany said this week.

Granite City Food & Brewery purchased the largest of the quartet of restaurant lots, a two-acre parcel, and have begun construction as well, Lakhany said. Pita Inn has purchased one of the remaining one-acre lots and plans to construct a restaurant there later this year, he said. Fancler said Granite City is the only outlot occupant so far officially cleared by the city to build.

“We have a myriad of people interested in the remaining pads,” Lakhany said.

The plan is to open the hotel and conference center in spring 2015, and the developer doesn’t anticipate another harsh winter would create delays.

“We’re going to be topped off before winter hits anyway,” Lakhany said.

iFly

Under construction to the east of Freedom Plaza, in the Freedom Commons area around Diehl and Freedom Drive, is the city’s first indoor skydiving center.

Bill Adams, one of the owners of iFly, said this week that the oversized wind tunnel’s gravity-defying fun should be under way by Independence Day, although a soft opening could happen sooner.

“That’s our goal: to be flying folks around and doing birthday parties, that kind of thing, by the Fourth of July,” said Adams, who is working on the imminent opening of a virtually identical iFly location in Rosemont.

Indoor skydiving will be a new recreation option for Naperville.

“This is extremely unique. … Everybody I talk to is very excited about it,” Adams said. “It’s one of those things where you go into a restaurant and you’ll talk to people and they’ll say, ‘Oh yes, that’s coming!’”

Videos illustrating how iFly’s facilities work can be found on YouTube and at vimeo.com/68826265.

Sports Yard

Yet to bring heavy machinery to the Diehl Road area is a project given the green light by the Naperville City Council last week.

The Naperville Sports Yard will be a 101,140-square-foot fitness center, about 15 percent of which will be taken up by a daycare center, on 17.5 acres southwest of Freedom Drive and Diehl.

The building will be the largest of several structures comprising the build out of the Regency planned unit development. The site — already home to four occupied office buildings and now slated for three more — was cleared in 2006 for a project that would have placed 13 of them along Legacy Circle. Naperville council members last week approved an overhaul to that plan, clearing a final PUD proposal that swaps out eight of the office buildings for the gym and child care site. Both are permitted uses in the research/development zoning district.

“The 1998 East Sector Update to the Comprehensive Master Plan designates the future land use for the subject property as ‘Office, Research and Development.’ The plan also indicates that commercial uses, which support the underlying land uses of office/research developments, may be permitted provided their presence blends in with the existing development in the area,” city planner Ying Liu wrote in a council memo last week. “Staff finds that the proposed uses are consistent with the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan and would provide fitness and daycare services to support the employment population in the I-88 Corridor.”

In addition to the daycare area, plans for the sports complex call for fitness facilities, including turf fields and concessions, and a reception area, along with workout space.

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