Battle lines drawn as Water Street vote nears
By Hank Beckman For The Sun November 28, 2012 3:54PM
Artist rendering of the proposed Water Street project in downtown Naperville. | submitted Nov. 2012
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:17AM
Some say the battle over the proposed Water Street project is really a generational conflict over what development in Naperville should look like in the future.
Naperville City Councilman Bob Fieseler alluded to the concept at a recent meeting.
“Anyone who still opens all their mail is against this project,” he said.
Some are framing the controversy over the development proposed by Marquette Properties on the south side of the DuPage River as a fight between a new generation and those stuck in an “old economy” model.
That doesn’t mean that compromise might not be possible on the project, which is on the City Council’s Dec. 4 agenda.
Late Thursday, the developer said that a team from Marquette would be meeting with City Council members late Friday afternoon to discuss some changes to the plan, likely involving issues concerning parking and the height of the proposed buildings.
Email in spotlight
Bryan Bottarelli is the son of Bruno Bottarelli, partner with Marquette Properties, which is looking to build the development. Bryan recently circulated an email to about 75 supporters that exorted them to “bombard the expletive” out of City Council members’ email boxes with messages of support for the Water Street plan.
Besides portraying opponents as being out of date economically, the email accused the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation of using scare tactics to intimidate City Council members, and said the confederation didn’t truly represent all the homeowners associations in Naperville.
It goes on to say that the group “calls itself the Naperville Homeowners Association” but said they are in reality, “a handful of older residents who are bored — and have nothing better to do to try keeping Naperville the same exact way it’s been since the 1950s.”
Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation officials wasted no time in responding to the email.
“The confederation is disappointed at the tone of the email by Mr. Bottarelli’s son,” NAHC President Bob Buckman said in an email of his own. “This is not in keeping with the tradition of respectful public discourse that we all value.”
The Water Street project was first approved by City Council in 2007 as a smaller development. It was never built. The earlier plan included condominium residences instead of the 62 apartments called for in the current plan.
The current project calls for a 131-room hotel, a 581-space parking structure and more than 65,000 square feet of office and retail space on 2.4 acres bounded by the DuPage River, Aurora Avenue, Main Street and Webster Street.
Bottarelli’s email pointed out the many advantages of the new version of the project, including the additional parking spaces for downtown, a rooftop bar on top of the hotel, three new street-side restaurants and many new stores, as well as some additions to the nearby Riverwalk.
The email made specific references to the members of a younger generation, which it said are the ones that typically patronize the many restaurants and businesses in downtown Naperville.
Those opposed to the development have concerns about the height of the tallest building proposed for the project, as well as the traffic it might generate.
The highest point of the parking deck is planned for 77 feet, significantly higher than the 60 feet allowed by city code, and the height and density of the project has sparked opposition from not only NAHC, but several City Council members and various other members of the community.
Moreover, potential problems with traffic and parking around the development have been raised.
Thom Higgins, also active in NAHC, has concerns about the project, and the email from Bottarelli.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Higgins said.
City Council member Grant Wehrli agreed.
“We can agree to disagree,” Wehrli said, “but at the end of the day, I’ll still judge it on its merits.”
Wehrli, who has been one of the City Council’s most severe critics of the development, left no doubt that the tone of the email bothered him.
“We’ve never resorted to name-calling or low-brow tactics,” he said. “It concerns me.”
Bryan Bottarelli’s father, Marquette partner Bruno Bottarelli, had a different take on the matter.
“One thing about the younger generation in our town, they are not interested in being politically correct when their beloved downtown is threatened by old-economy thinking,” he said. “They are a voice to be reckoned with.”
Bottarelli said that he has presented further project revisions to city staff in advance of next week’s City Council meeting, at which time the Council may vote on the project.
Bottarelli withheld comment on the specific nature of the revisions.
Bryan Bottarelli responded to an email query by saying merely that he had said everything he wanted in the email and stood by what he and his father said.