Renderings of the proposed 5th Ave. development at the Naperville Train Station. Click any image to enlarge.
Naperville’s Fifth Avenue redevelopment project is on pause until a working group makes a recommendation on the future of the DuPage Children’s Museum and city council members get an official recommendation on affordable housing from the Housing Advisory Committee, but the Naperville Sun asked mayoral candidates to weigh in on the project.
Naperville City Council members in October 2017 gave permission to Ryan Cos. to work on a community engagement process redeveloping 13 acres of city-owned land. Ryan Cos. also developed land use concepts and a financial plan for Fifth Avenue project with one of the initial proposals calling for moving the DuPage Children’s Museum off its plot of land just south of the train tracks to accommodate commuter parking.
The city does not have any dates or deadlines for resuming work on the project aside from waiting until recommendations on the Children’s Museum and affordable housing are heard by the City Council.
As the winner of the April 2 mayoral election will head the City Council dais when the Fifth Avenue development moves forward this year, the Naperville Sun asked Mayor Steve Chirico and challenger Rocky Caylor their thoughts on the project.
Chirico sees the Fifth Avenue development as a “unique opportunity to solve many existing problems in the surrounding neighborhoods and city.”
The development project can provide relief for issues including storm water, parking and traffic to the neighborhoods surrounding Fifth Avenue, Chirico said. Fifth Avenue development can also offer a better experience for Naperville commuters.
“At the same time, we’ll be creating housing options that provide desirable options for our recent graduates and empty nesters, which, in turn, benefits our school district and local economy,” he said.
Caylor said he thinks the development is a long overdue chance to bring better services to commuters and improve the long-neglected area’s infrastructure.
The city should do it right with the next 50 to 100 years in mind.
“My vision for what this development can be hinges on resolving whether DuPage Children’s Museum moves or stays,” Caylor said. “This parcel has significant potential to solve commuter parking issues if it becomes available.”
The museum parcel along with the Burlington and Parkview lots are prime commuter parking and access areas. Commuter parking and access needs must be resolved first, Caylor said.
“The mix of uses, commercial/residential/office, will come after we determine the location of the transportation needs and will need to be determined on a cost/benefit analysis, including assessing the impact of this development on our downtown and Ogden Avenue businesses,” he said.
Ryan Cos. has recommended a combination of uses for the 13 acres of land that includes residential, retail, institutional, office and entertainment. Chirico said he likes the recommendation and is comfortable with the number of units and proposed area sizes for each use.
While Caylor says he agrees with residents who want to see improvements in the Fifth Avenue area, the focus must be on improving commuter parking, traffic and pedestrian safety.
“Building 400+ apartments and condos, plus offices, stores, and restaurants, especially in areas that are needed to serve commuters, especially without additional commuter parking, is a terrible idea,” Caylor said.
When it comes to whether the city should continue owning the land or sell it, Caylor said it should be decided on a lot-by-lot basis.
“Lots with commuter parking should remain city-owned. Other lots, like the Kroehler Lot, would be best used by private developers to build homes; the city should not be in that business,” Caylor said.
Chirico said the city is waiting to hear what a consultant recommends when it comes to owning or selling the land.
“Regarding the sale or lease of the public property; at this time, we are waiting for a report back from our consultants, but I am inclined to lease the property,” Chirico said. “I believe leasing may provide a better financing model than a sale.”