Naperville again ponders redevelopment of area adjacent to Metra station

By Cathy Jane for Chronicle Media

The popular DuPage Children’s Museum is part of an area near Naperville’s Metra station being considered for redevelopment.

The redevelopment of properties near Naperville’s Metra rail station may still be years away, but a private firm continues to actively seek input from individuals, groups, and stakeholders on key issues to create a vision and concept plan.

The 13-acre site near 5th Ave., north of downtown Naperville,  covers eight parcels including a small office building, a water tower and former public works facility, four commuter parking lots and the DuPage Children’s Museum.

“We are looking at decisions that will impact Naperville for the next hundred years,” said  Jim Ruhl of the Westside Homeowners Association and one of 15 members of the 5th Avenue Steering Committee.  “Things have improved somewhat and now is a good time to move forward.  This also is an opportunity to bring commercial industry to the area.”

Ruhl spoke at a recent City Council workshop where officials backed continued efforts to study the area and come up with a plan.

A top concern among some is the children’s museum, which currently is easily accessible via Metra’s BNSF rail.

“I do have a little concern about the future of the DuPage Children’s’ Museum,” Ruhl said. “Relocating it to an area that is not easy to walk to is of concern.”

Naperville resident Jeff Havel shared concerns at the workshop on how redevelopment would fit in the neighborhood in terms of style, density, and function.

Patrick Kelly, a representative from the Pilgrim’s Addition subdivision,  said his neighbors are also concerned about the future  of Kendall Park, the possibility of reopening a cow tunnel or digging a new tunnel.

Based on a survey of residents, Kelly said the vast majority were interested in a tunnel to connect the north side neighborhood with the south side for “safe pedestrian access.”

He explained both Washington Street and Mill Street have very narrow sidewalks.

This is not the first time that 5th Ave. area redevelopment has been in the spotlight. In 2009, a feasibility study of the area was completed—a move that was greeted with skepticism from area residents.

Over the next decade, redevelopment of this area has been talked about in various ways due to its unique proximity to the train station and downtown.

In   2017, the project was once again a topic during the City Council election cycle, at City Council meetings and at the Mayor’s State of the City address.

One year ago, eight firms submitted their qualifications to the city to begin the community a engagement process, with Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies, which has an office in Naperville, being selected.

This past fall, about 200 people attended several open houses held by Ryan Companies and the City of Naperville to gather information and comments from residents, commuters, business owners and other stakeholders.

Respondents said an improved streetscape, restaurants and coffee shops, and additional commuter parking were the top list of items for the area’s improvement.

Of most concern to respondents were issues surrounding traffic, parking, design  and improved overall commuter experience.

Based on information from the City of Naperville, a minimum requirement of any development concept is that parking be replaced at a one to one ratio. Any decisions about parking can only be made after receiving community input from other bodies such as BNSF, Metra, and PACE and completing detailed traffic and parking studies.

Applications are now available for six 5th Avenue working groups that are being assembled to provide in-depth input and research on topics such as land use, traffic/transportation, storm water, parking, pedestrian safety, and design.  All applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 2 to the City of Naperville.

Jim McDonald, a vice president with Ryan Companies said his organization has met with local businesses, school districts, a senior task force group, and Edward Hospital among other local stakeholders in the community to discuss concerns such as “what is going to happen with traffic and parking, what is the feedback from Metra.”

In May, the six working groups will present their findings to the Naperville City Council.


Naperville again ponders redevelopment of area adjacent to Metra station–