Joe Salerno’s business Lifestyle Designs is known for his varied collection of large garden ornaments adorning Water Street. But soon they all could be replaced by a 90-foot tall Holiday Inn Express.
“I think expansion and change are great,” Salerno said. “I think as long as it stays with the integrity of what the downtown river walk and city believes in, it’s perfect.”
Still, Salerno’s concerned that it may be too much and that big box companies and a big hotel will take away from the quaint, boutique style of business that he says makes Naperville unique.
“So much time has gone into making Naperville a metropolis, the #1 living space to live, and my concern is that we’re not looking at the bigger picture and following the rent caps that San Francisco has like New York has that says, ;you know what, we wanna keep x amount of space for the little guy that is really a destination point or brings in so much character,’” he said.
The 130 room hotel would join more than 60 apartment units and a 550 space parking deck as part of a new Water Street District. Such developments would force Pam Bowler to move her Pottery Bayou away from the river walk.
“We have fantastic clientele over the last three years [and] they’ve know about this. So we’re going to try to locate to downtown Naperville some place,” said Bowler. “Unfortunately we’re not going to afford the rent that they’ll have here so we’re going to be moving.”
For others, the proposal isn’t such a big deal. Ken Vrtis manages the sales for a logistics company from an office that would be destroyed if the proposed district is approved, and though moving would be an inconvenience, he says he welcomes the idea of a hotel along the river walk.
“I’ve been here a long time, been a great place and I think it’s going to be a great thing for Naperville,” said Vrtis. “As far as my business, it’s not going to affect my business. I’m a VP of Sales, I’ll find office space in a new building or other areas of downtown Naperville. So I’m in support of what they’re doing.”
As for Lisa Weekely, owner of Lisa Rene Salon, her business wouldn’t be displaced by the Water Street development but would back up to it.
“I’m concerned short-term as far as construction goes, people accessing my business,” said Weekely. “Long term – I think it’s a great addition, we’ll have more parking behind us, greater density, more people coming into the downtown.”
But because the district won’t extend all the way to Aurora Avenue, she wonders if the plans do enough to establish the street as a gateway to downtown.
“The problem is when people drive down Aurora Ave, they’re not going to see this beautiful gateway, they’ll only see it when you’re on Water Street,” said Weekely. “I think that’s a shame because it could’ve been built to look so appealing and so inviting to people coming into Naperville.”
No plans are set in stone yet and the Planning and Zoning Commission expect to revisit their discussion of the Water Street District at their August 8th meeting. Following their vote, the proposal will go to city council for a final approval.
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