Water Street Development

During the summer, Marquette Companies brought a plan before the Planning and Zoning Commission to redevelop the area along Water Street, adding a seven story hotel, parking garage, apartments, and offices, retail, and restaurant space.

“What drives our plan, is the reality of the market and the ability attract economic growth to downtown Naperville,” said Bruno Bottarelli, Managing Director for Marquette Companies.

Since the commission’s approval, the city council, who ultimately has to give the green light, has been trying to wrap their heads around the size and scope of the project, particularly the 90-foot Holiday Inn Express, which far exceeds the five story limit established by the Downtown 2030 plan.

“I think a responsible development can come in there, but as it stands right now, I think we still need to do some more homework on it,” said Councilman Grant Wehrli.

“People are also concerned about the shadow study and throwing shadows across the Riverwalk which would be quite different than what we’re used to,” said Councilwoman Judy Broadhead.

But Bottarelli says if anything, the new Water Street Development would be a huge benefit to the Riverwalk.

“The Riverwalk was originally intended to stimulate commercial growth along the river. I think most of Naperville residents have lost sight of that fact,” he said. “We’ve designed the Water Street Development Plan to maximize that potential commercial activity along the river.”

After Marquette Companies brought the land in 2006, their original proposal was approved in 2007, but on a smaller scale. That project never took off. Now the development company is seeking a larger hotel and tax rebates

“The economic reality is such that in order to develop all of the public infrastructure for this project that supports that side of the river, the taxes generated by the project, which is privately financed, those taxes need to be used to offset the debt from the publical improvement portion of the property,” Bottarelli explained.

Still, that doesn’t sit well with some councilmen.

“I’m not here to provide them with a relief valve with city resources, i.e. tax dollars,” said Wehrli. “They need to make the math work on their own. Their bad purchase on real estate, to be blunt, isn’t my problem. Representing all the tax-payers, I’m not here to bail them out.”

The Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation hasn’t been shy about sharing their concerns regarding traffic and parking.

“It’s so tall. It’s so dense. It’s going to generate so much traffic that we have significant concerns on what the impact would be for all of us who try to get through downtown on a daily basis,” said Thom Higgins, Associate Director for the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation.

“We are absolutely in favor of development but we want our developers to follow the rules and guidelines and ordinances that have been set forth by people who have come before us,” said Bob Buckman, President of the Naperville Area Homeowner’s Confederation.

Bottarelli’s son, Bryan, recently sent an e-mail to roughly 100 residents in which he insulted the confederation for their stance on the project, stating:

“This group claims to represent all the homeowners associations in Naperville. But in reality, it consists of a handful of older residents who are bored and who have nothing better do to than to try keeping Naperville the same exact way it’s been since the 1950’s.”

“I think the letter’s unfortunate,” said Higgins. “It belittles the contribution that the Naperville [Area] Homeowners Confederation and people like myself and Dr. Buckman give to the civic discourse of this community.”

“This is a land of free speech and I think my son as an adult has the right to say whatever he wants to his friends and neighbors. And this has nothing to do with this project,” said Bottarelli.

He’s certain that e-mail won’t impact Tuesday night’s discussion at city council when he will present a revised proposal, which includes lowering the hotel by one story and replacing 62 apartment rooms with additional hotel rooms.

“Our entire design team has worked day and night for the last week to accommodate the three basic needs that we heard from both the city council and the residents and they are height, traffic, and parking,” said Bottarelli.

Council members say if these concerns are addressed, the Water Street Development could bring great opportunities.

“I love the idea of more retail, combined with a residential area, combined with a hotel,” said Broadhead. “I think that’s just great and exactly what we need.”

“I’ve been in support of this from the beginning. This area has been an eye sore for years, since I’ve been living here in the 60’s and it’s just been getting worse and worse,” said Councilman Steve Chirico. “So I want to see something get done but I want to see something that’s widely-accepted by the community.“

The city council is expected to discuss the Water Street Development at their next meeting on December 4th.

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