New Life in Old Nichols

March 2022 View more

A patio now fills the area in front of Nichols Library, which is surrounded by the retail and residential spaces of Central Park Place.

By Rafael Guerrero

The old Nichols Library on Washington Street will have a new name, look, and use this summer when it opens as Gia Mia, an Italian restaurant and Neopolitan pizzeria.

Once destined for demolition, the historic library (circa 1890s) is now part of the Central Park Place development and the centerpiece around which the retail/residential complex has been built.

Brian Goewey, who owns the Gia Mia chain of restaurants, says he’s been wanting to open a place in Naperville for some time and “jumped on it pretty quickly” when he saw the renovated 121-year-old building at 110 South Washington Street.

Christina Caton Kitchel, whose Caton Commercial Real Estate firm marketed the property, says, “Chef Brian Goewey knew what he was looking for. He gravitated toward the Nichols Library because of the unique architecture, the unique outdoor seating, and the downtown location.”

One of the selling points for the 4,433-square-foot building was its outdoor dining area, which they’ll put to good use when it opens in midsummer, Goewey says. “Definitely the patio is really neat having it there, where we’ll have almost 100 seats for outdoor seating,” he said.

Gia Mia’s menu features a “new way of looking at Italian food,” Goewey says. “Neapolitan brick oven-made pizzas, small plates, salads made fresh, great wine, and, of course, the pasta dishes are really nice.”

Naperville will be the ninth restaurant in Goewey’s BG Hospitality group and the sixth Gia Mia location—the others are in Downers Grove, Elmhurst, Geneva, St. Charles, and Wheaton.

Wood-fired pizzas are made inside Gia Mia’s Neapolitan brick ovens.

The old library was made a city landmark in 2017 after preservationists rallied to stop it from being torn down to make way for the Central Park Place development. It has historic significance because the building was the city’s first library, designed by renowned architect M.E. Bell. Once the library was protected from demolition through its landmark designation, the developer opted to make it part of the new complex.

Residential condominium units in the building are now being sold at prices ranging from $825,000 to $1.7 million, and the first-floor commercial units are occupied by James & Sons Fine Jewelers, the NOW Massage and Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea.

Getting a lease for the library building was the final piece of the puzzle, Caton Kitchel says. “We’re happy to put a bow on this project.” 

This story originally appeared in our sister publication, the Naperville Sun, and is reprinted with permission.

Photo by Lucrative Dynamics and courtesy BG Hospitality Group