Promenade East project downtown may get started this fall
By Hank Beckman For The Sun September 8, 2012 11:10PM
The Promenade East development (right) would be linked to the current Promenade with an elevated bridge. | Courtesy of the City of Naperville
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:20AM
It looks like construction on a project to transform one of the few unsightly spots in downtown Naperville will begin in the fall.
The Main Street Promenade East project would see the development of a site on the corner of Main Street and Van Buren Avenue. The site is currently vacant except for the empty shell of a parking deck.
The property was originally to be developed by Naper Main LLC as a mixed-use development with a 317-car garage addition to the Van Buren parking garage, with 41 underground parking spots.
But the property went into foreclosure in 2010 and has stood as an empty parking deck shell since.
Developer Dwight Yackley has big plans for the site, including a structure with 31,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 66,000 square feet of office space on floors two through four. The new development would link up with the current Main Street Promenade shopping area to the west with a pedestrian bridge over Main Street.
Yackley hopes to get moving on the project this fall, with the goal of opening for the 2013 shopping season.
The developer got approval Wednesday night from the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission for a series of sign variances for the project, but not before some serious discussion.
“This is going to help,” he said after the votes.
Yackley sought three variances for the project. The first asked for a relaxing of the city sign code regarding office tenant wall space on the upper floors. Current code mandates that signs be on the space the tenant occupies. The developer wants to be able to have some leeway so as not to distract from architectural treatments of the building design.
“All we’re looking for is flexibility,” Vince Rosanova, attorney for the developer, said. “We’re certainly not looking to put it on the other side of the building.”
Rosanova stressed that they weren’t seeking a total eradication of the requirement, only to be able to make slight movements of signs to avoid ruining the look of the building.
After Planning Services Team Leader Allison Laff said that city staff would review signs before installation and an amendment was added to prevent sign clustering, the variance was granted unanimously.
A variance on extending and enlarging retail signs at street level got a little more scrutiny from the commission.
Current code limits them to five square feet and requires them to be at least six inches from the building and extend not more than 36 inches out from the building. The developers want to increase the square footage to eight square feet and let them project as far out as six feet.
The reasoning is that it would be easier for pedestrians to see the retail signs if they project farther out, are larger and not blocked by awnings.
Commission Chairman John Herzog was skeptical.
“I don’t agree you have a problem on the signs,” he said, noting that he recently walked near the Main Street Promenade and was able to clearly see signs in the area.
But Rosanova stressed that potential retail tenants were explicit in their demands when considering investing in downtown Naperville.
“That drives the bus,” he said.
The sign variance passed 7 to 1, with only Commissioner Patricia Meyer dissenting.
The third variance sought to ease restrictions on the monument sign slated for Benton Avenue near the entrance to the parking structure.
Code prohibits signs that direct attention to a business other than one on the location where the sign sits and the developer wants to include signs from businesses from each of the Main Street Promenade developments.
Herzog questioned the need for the variance.
“It’s awfully dangerous to turn your head and look at that wall,” he said regarding the visibility to motorists on Washington Street. “It sets a pretty bad precedent … to other buildings in Naperville.”
“I believe we are opening (ourselves) up, as some of our Council members would say, to a very slippery slope,” she said, agreeing with Herzog that the sign could be a dangerous distraction to motorists on Washington Street.
But Ruth Yackley, her husband’s partner, pointed out that the sign was not designed to distract Washington motorists but “for people who are turning down Benton,” and stressed that the development had to lease the entire block.
An amendment to limit the advertising on the monument sign was defeated and the variance passed by a 5 to 3 vote, with Commissioners Herzog, Meyer and Tim Messer dissenting.
The variances will now go to the full City Council.
for a vote.