During the most recent Naperville city council meeting on November 5, a good portion of the evening involved discussing the Water Street project. I came to the meeting without a horse in the race, so I had the opportunity to listen to the pros and the cons, and those in favor and those against the project.
It’s a huge project covering two and one-half acres of prime property in the downtown Naperville area. The northern boundary is the DuPage River, and the southern boundary is Aurora Avenue, with Main Street on the east, and Webster Street on the west. Included in the development is a 131-room Holiday Inn Select Hotel, almost 44,000 square feet of retail and office space, 62 apartments, and over 22,000 square feet of medical office space. Additionally there will be a 544 parking-space structure. The hotel’s main tower would be nearly 90 feet tall, and two eastern towers 65 feet in height; exceeding the 60-foot height limit for buildings in the down-town area.
On paper the project is beautiful. In practicality the project is dense with regard to activity and traffic. In essence, this is a defining moment for Naperville’s future. Are we looking to get bigger and bigger and follow in the footsteps of Rockford, Peoria and dare we say Chicago. Or would we prefer and benefit from the charm of a smaller town/village environment like that of Hinsdale, Barrington, Lake Forest and Geneva.
As speakers presented their thoughts to the city council I began to see common denominators. Those in favor typically had personal interests to be gained including lawyers representing the developer, some of whom have property within the development area, other speakers who are investors in the development, one who happened to coincidentally or not, have the same last name as one of the developer’s attorneys, and one who may or may not have been a close friend of that same person. Not that there is anything wrong, illegal, or unethical about that because there isn’t. It’s healthy to show support for a cause. However you have to ask yourself what is the motive. Is it personal gain, or is it for the betterment of the city and its future.
Those speaking against the project, including Tom O’Hale appeared more concerned about Naperville’s future rather than any personal gain. Watch and listen as he states his position on the issue.
By the end of the meeting I knew how I would vote if I was a member of the city council and by the end of this weekend I would have known that I made the right decision. I would not vote in favor of the project. And I would have come to this decision based on three factors.
- I like Hinsdale, Barrington, Lake Forest and Geneva more than Rockford, Peoria, and Chicago
- The council appears to be leaning towards approving the project, and as a rule of thumb, what is best for the council is not always what is best for the city or its residents. Furthermore, if city manager Doug Krieger is supporting an issue, it’s a good bet that its not good for the citizens.
- And finally I recently traveled to Door County in Wisconsin, and this last weekend to Galena, Illinois, and I had the chance to learn about the history of each area. Many years ago their leaders had to decide their county and town’s future, and they chose, as did Hinsdale, Barrington, Lake Forest, and Geneva, to keep the charm, appeal, and attractiveness of their life style. In fact, Galena came within one vote of not being the Galena we know today, and more like Peoria.
It worked for them, and it undoubtedly would work for Naperville.
I wonder how much TIF money (our tax dollars) will go into this boondoggle?