Naperville planning and zoning commission approves “game-changing” Water Street development

Naperville is moving forward with plans for an important downtown development on Water Street:

Commissioners voted 5-2 early Thursday morning to recommend approval of Marquette Companies’ MP Water Street District LLC project, which calls for a 130-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites, a 551-space parking garage, 63 rental apartments and 16,000 square feet of separate office space. The proposal next goes to the city council…

Several residents, however, pleaded for the commission to deny the plan, saying seven-story buildings don’t fit the character of downtown and will add to traffic and parking problems…

“It’s almost like taking a big white elephant and putting it next to our little, historical village commercial center. It doesn’t compute,” O’Hale said. “It’s not in the spirit of our village. It’s a big, white, monolithic, monstrous elephant and it flies in the face of everything we value in our city.”…

But supporters argued a hotel is the only thing missing from downtown and could pump life and dollars back into the central business district.

In the end, a majority of commissioners said the time has come to change the face of downtown.

It is hard to tell at the time but this development has the makings of something big for downtown Naperville. Because it includes moving the downtown south across the DuPage River in a major way plus adding a hotel to the downtown and another parking garage, this suggests Naperville is serious about continuing to expand the downtown as well as make it more dense. It sounds like some spectators also think this is an important moment. The comments by O’Hale are intriguing; I wouldn’t classify Naperville’s downtown as a “little, historical village commercial center.” The downtown has several parking garages, parking and congestion issues, and a number of restaurants and stores. That horse was out of the barn a few decades ago. Yet, the spirit of the downtown could indeed change in the years ahead as Naperville figures out how it wants to mature.

It will be interesting to see how the discussion with the City Council goes.