Streetscape Improvements Coming Downtown

A new look is coming to the downtown streetscape.

At the latest Naperville City Council meeting, council discussed streetscape improvements to the south side of Jefferson Avenue between Webster and Main, both sides of Main Street between Jefferson and Jackson, and parts of Webster and Jackson adjacent to the other development.

“I couldn’t agree more that something needs to be done,” said Councilman John Krummen. “The last thing we want to see is boarded up and closed down stores in downtown Naperville. So we need to refresh.”

When Steve Rubin, a majority property owner on one of the blocks, initially introduced this project, it was intended that the property owners would pay for the improvements. But after discussing with utility companies and other stakeholders, the amount of work continued to grow.

Water mains with pipes over 100 years old need to be replaced, ductwork needs to be extended, angled parking spaces will be converted to parallel and the additional space that provides will be used to widen the sidewalks.

Council decided the scope of the work would put too much of a burden on the property owners and it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep downtown up to date.

“We’ve lost so many of our local independent businesses because they can’t afford the $35, $40, $45 per square foot rents,” said Councilwoman Becky Anderson. “So we need to keep that balance of what we have downtown – not too many restaurants, a great mix of national retail and some great independents. And I think by passing it through and increasing those rents even more could take some tenants over the top. So I believe the larger percentage should fall on the city and not on the property owners.”

While some on the dais felt the city should pay up to 75 percent of the improvements, others felt that number should be closer to a 50-50 split. They eventually found majority support for a 60-40 cost share with the city paying more.

“We have to be careful I think of further subsidizing, picking winners and losers,” said Councilman Kevin Coyne. “The argument that retail is tough applies everywhere, not just in our downtown.”

If less than 50 percent of property owners object to the cost sharing, city staff will return in 60 days with an ordinance to establish the special service area.

Council was also clear that this cost-participation will not set a precedent for improvements in other areas, as the location of these blocks are in the center of downtown.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.

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