Downtown Building Blocks

December 2023 View more

How proposed developments could change the look and feel of Naperville


How do you keep a vibrant downtown area, in a city of more than 140,000 residents, from losing its small town appeal, while continuing to move forward with economic development? Brian Hanlon, assistant professor of marketing at DePaul University, holds the Coleman Foundation Professor of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Endowed Chair at North Central College. Hanlon says his advice to city planners is to “keep doing what they’re doing.” Kevin Coyle, a member of the Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission agrees. “Economic development is critical. It creates blue and white collar jobs, provides a good tax base, and amenities for consumers.” Robert Williams, also a planning and zoning commissioner, admits he struggles with striking the right balance. He favors two proposed large-scale downtown developments, because he believes they will help ensure the city’s economic foundation.

Main Street Promenade East

Anastasia Urban, development manager for the city of Naperville, says the city council has approved the Promenade East development. The $30 million, four-story center will occupy a mostly vacant site on the corner of Main Street and Van Buren Avenue. Retail stores and restaurants will be located on the street level and the top three floors will be office space. Developer Dwight Yackley, who built the existing Main Street Promenade, is also behind the Promenade East project. There are plans to link the two buildings with a pedestrian bridge. Williams says from a city planning perspective, the development is “as tasteful and elegant as anything” he’s ever seen on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue.

Water Street Project

The Water Street project is the brainchild of Nick Ryan, CEO and president of Marquette Real Estate Investments and his long-time business partner, Bruno Bottarelli, managing director of Marquette Companies. It will be built on a 2.4-acre site bounded by Aurora Avenue on the south, the DuPage River on the north, Main Street on the east, and Webster Street on the west. The $80 million development will be anchored by a Holiday Inn Express, which will feature a rooftop restaurant and a second floor lobby with windows overlooking the Riverwalk, according to Bottarelli. Apartments, restaurants, retail, and office spaces will complete the development. “The Water Street Project offers a huge opportunity for economic growth to occur in an unprecedented time of economic dysfunction,” said Bottarelli. He estimates growth in sales revenue, between Water Street and the Promenade East, will increase from $70 million to $105 million.

Hanlon agrees the economic benefits are obvious. But he suggests the pros and cons of building a large scale hotel may merit a closer look. “At first glance, I think the hotel is a great idea. But, it can be a little bit risky, not to the developer, but to the city, because it’s a big structure they want to put up. Seven floors is pretty tall. Suburban hotels aren’t necessarily known to be architecturally interesting to look at. Naperville has a quaintness that massive structures tend to impede on. We need to make sure it’s something both the city and its residents can be proud of,” said Hanlon.

North Central College is in talks with the City about developing a third downtown property just north of the Burger King restaurant on Washington Street. The vacant land was once a dry cleaners and a repair shop with gas storage tanks. Environmental test are being conducted on the property. “We are looking at that property. There are some concerns with the environmental condition of the property given its history,” said Paul Loscheider, vice president of business affairs, North Central College. “Options include making it a park, and when you look at the recent Riverwalk Gateway Project, whatever plans the College might have could match that in design and scope.”