Naperville’s Fifth Avenue Development Fiasco

The definition of fiasco is a thing that is a complete failure, especially in a ludicrous or humiliating way. That clearly describes Naperville’s Fifth Avenue Development situation. The development has been on Naperville city officials wish list for years, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the project was kicked into high gear, when Ryan Cos. outlined a baseline starting point and plan. That’s when things began head south and the wheels came off the wagon.

What happened was too many cooks in the kitchen and too many customers in the restaurant yelling for too many different ingredients including building heights, parking, density, etc. resulting in chaos. City officials called for a timeout while everyone went to a neutral safe corner.

Naperville city councilman Kevin Coyne suggested putting the issue up for a simple non-binding referendum, but that logical thought quickly got shot down by a majority of council members, showing that a majority of council members can’t handle too much information, especially if it comes from the public.

Coyne nailed it when he said, “failure in this process has not been the residents or Ryan Cos., it has been us for failing to lead, for failing to give specific direction as to what we are looking for..” Coyne was being humble because he has been attempting to push forward along with Mayor Chirico, however the other seven council members have been stuck in the mud.

Councilwoman Judy Brodhead said it’s unlikely the city needs more parking that it currently has now. She has this brilliant ability to look one week into the future and base her decisions on that.

Mayor Chirico said that considering the referendum didn’t have support, it sounds like a workshop is in order.

That’s the ticket. Let’s get more cooks into the kitchen. That should do it.

Show 6 Comments


  1. Annie

    Mayor and council caring more for the immediate neighborhood than the entire city. Mayor and council afraid to be assertive. Mayor and council afraid to make any decisions at all. All complaints from neighbors exactly the same as for the Omnia proposal. What a joke and residents are footing the bill for such incompetence

  2. Jim Haselhorst

    I agree that this project has become bogged down in a morass of different wants (sometimes conflicting) by the different neighborhood communities bordering this project and other “stakeholders”. It has definitely reached a point of no clear path forward.

    I understand the logic behind the idea of a non-binding referendum to try and get this project moving again but its complexity is not well suited for a referendum. This isn’t a matter of a single issue with a simple yes or no answer, but of a dozen different issues with multiple answers.

    Any referendum on this project would be so complex and involve so many issues that it would most likely never get the support needed to give council a clear mandate to move forward.

    I believe this project has simply fallen victim of over reach. Trying to do to much at once resulting in engaging so many different stakeholders that disagreement and conflict between their interests were destined to be unsolvable.

    This project needs to be broken up into three to five bit sized chunks that can be developed one at a time. And in a orders that allows subsequent developments to built on previous developments in a manner that provides the direction the city wanted from the single project approach.

    The reality is that each of these properties really do have very different best suited uses that is at best difficult if not impossible to achieve under a single development approach.

    This single united project for developing these properties sounds good in theory but what works in theory does not always work in reality and this project is an excellent example of that.

    • Annie

      Disagree Jim. One development that is integrated is the correct approach. Agree Jim. A referendum is a waste of time. Already had plenty of input. Mayor and City Council need to learn to make decisions. I feel sorry for Ryan.

      • Jim Haselhorst

        The different Stakeholders on this project have been unable to reach a consensus which was the whole point of all these meetings and teams, so integrated approach has failed.

        This means anything the city council decides to do on this project will be against the wishes of multiple groups. So what criteria should city council use in setting the directions of this development?

        • Annie

          what is best for the city. New apartments, including affordable. Not lots of retail. Add a new YMCA to replace Kroeler that is leaving downtown. More parking for commuters. Already said to make a parking deck. So do it. Fix drainage problem for the neighbors. All the ideas are there and Ryan has responded well, except for the YMCA. The city council and mayor just need to make a decision – be more assertive. We pay them to make decisions, not vacillate for years. What are they so afraid of? Not everyone will be happy with everything. Too bad. The neighbors must understand the apartments will shelter them from the train noise.

          • Jim Haselhorst

            How about business space? How about green space? How about improved traffic safety? What about building height limits?

            What is the best way to fix drainage problem? What works for some is not the solution others want for various reasons.

            Why a new YMCA? This is a private non-profit. They control were and what facilities they open and operate not the city. They did not just close the one downtown but dozens across the state and nation for financial reasons. Is the city suppose to provide financial backing to make this new YMCA feasible to this non-profit organization?

            Why not a national quality performing arts center? The success of the performing art center in Aurora demonstrates the demand.

            How much more parking? There is enough demand to double the existing parking, which all the neighbors do not want.

            The answers to these questions that work best for you are not necessarily what works best of everyone or even most of Naperville residents.

            Again what is the stand for who wins and who loses on these questions? If it is what is best for the city then 7-10 story building win because they provide the most space for affordable housing, restaurants, shopping (retail tax base), businesses, property taxes, train noise shielding, etc.

            Most important is the financial feasibility of the project. There has to be enough profit in the project for the builder to invest their financial resources into its construction. If you put to many restrictions on profitable aspect of the project (luxury residents, retail space, business offices, etc) you risk the ROI becoming so low that no builder will take on the project because they can get a better return on other projects in other parts of the city or other communities.

            Again this project is currently to large and has to many moving parts to find a workable path forward. This project needs to be reorganized and downsized into multiply developments.

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