Revised Water Street plan examined
By Hank Beckman For The Sun January 17, 2013 8:42PM
Naperville resident Sun Rupp looks over the revised drawings for the Water street plaza at the Pre-Emption house on Thursday, January 17, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 3:07PM
Almost 200 area residents crowded into the Pre-Emption House at Naper Settlement Thursday for a look at the latest version of the Water Street development proposal.
The project is planned for a site south of the DuPage River, between Main Street and Webster Street. It would include a hotel, restaurants, a parking deck, office and retail space and more.
Developer Marquette Properties officials greeted the general public and several members of City Council and other Naperville officials at the event Thursday.
“Our team has really listened to the City Council and the community,” Marquette partner Nick Ryan said as he greeted visitors near the renderings of the traffic study done by Marquette’s consultants. “We’ve made changes in the height (of the buildings) and the traffic pattern.”
The new plan calls for moving the entrance to the 524-space parking structure from the east to the west end of the alley behind it, an effort to alleviate the inevitable traffic backups coming off Main Street to access the structure.
That, and additional stop signs for the alley, are proposed to provide more stacking space for cars.
Other changes are responses to criticism from City Council and members of the community about the height and density of the proposal and worries about increased traffic.
The height of the proposed Holiday Inn hotel was particularly troubling to critics of the proposal. The first proposal last year called for a hotel in excess of 80 feet, significantly beyond the 60-foot limit city code allows in the downtown district.
The plan unveiled Thursday calls for reducing the hotel to slightly more than 61 feet, with an architectural element rising to 69 feet.
The hotel would include 101 rooms and retail, restaurant and commercial space.
A pedestrian bridge would connect the hotel with the Loggia Building, which would house an additional 65 hotel rooms and also include restaurant and commercial space.
The Loggia Building would be similar in height to the hotel.
Ryan said he was confident that the changes would increase support for the project that has been stalled in the Council since the fall.
“I have to say the plan is better for the input from Council and the community,” he said.
But potential stumbling blocks remain.
“To their credit, they are absolutely moving in the right direction,” Councilman Grant Wehrli said after viewing the new project.
Wehrli has been a leading critic of the development as proposed, bringing up concerns about the height of the building and the density of hte project, but also traffic and parking issues.
“We still have a lot of details to be reviewed,” he said.
City Council member Doug Krause also said that Marquette was “headed in the right direction,” but was also concerned about the effect the project would have on traffic and parking in the area.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Bob Williams was upbeat about the project and sees it as a development that will usher Naperville into a brighter future.
“On the whole, how can we not support it?” Williams said.
He said that if Naperville turned its back on projects like Water Street, it would “start moving backwards.”
City Council candidate Jo Malik said the developers “did a good job” responding to community concerns about height and density and was adamant that the 2.4-acre property needed to be developed.
But Malik also has reservations about parking and traffic congestion.
Community members at the event seemed cautiously optimistic.
Nin Menis said she was “very excited” about the project and proud of Naperville’s ability to get the entire community involved.
The Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation has consistently opposed the plan as too dense for the area and is on record as being in favor of a project with height limits of five stories for the hotel and three stories for buildings directly along the Riverwalk.
“The confederation’s position hasn’t changed,” Confederation Vice President Bob Fischer said.
But Councilman Bob Fieseler noted that the height limits called for by the confederation had already produced compromise, pointing out that Marquette’s original proposal called for a seven-story hotel.
“It’s scaled down and more in keeping with the scale the community finds acceptable,” he said.
But Fieseler said that he is still has some concerns about the height of the Loggia Building and was, “not willing to say that they got it right.”
On the other hand, he said he was heartened by the progress toward consensus made since the project first came before the City Council.
“Then it was a ‘Field of Dreams’ type proposal, saying, ‘build it and we’ll figure everything out later,’” he said.
The project will be on the City Council’s agenda Feb. 19.