It's time to hit the drawing board in Naperville.
The firm that has been leading discussions about 5th Avenue redevelopment for the past nine months earned city council approval Tuesday to begin creating concept drawings of what can be built on 13 acres near the downtown train station.
The first round of drawings, expected to be completed in about a month, will be preliminary, said Jim McDonald, vice president of real estate development for Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies, which has a local office in Naperville.
The plan is to review each round of drawings with residents, members of a steering committee and city council members, making changes as necessary until the idea is perfected, McDonald said.
Council members, with Becky Anderson absent, unanimously supported the decision to allow Ryan Companies to move forward past a community input phase into concept plan creation.
"We've all put a lot of hard work into this," council member Paul Hinterlong said. "Let's see what it brings."
The council's approval came after comments from nine speakers, who largely encouraged the council to authorize the next step toward development. But some also voiced concerns about how the project will be paid for, how tall the buildings will be and how Ryan will put forward the best product without a competitive environment against other companies.
"I struggle to understand why Naperville is effectively giving 13 acres to a single private developer through a noncompetitive process," resident Marshall Dahneke said. "I firmly believe competition drives creativity and excellence."
Others said cohesiveness of control over the properties, which include parking lots, a couple small buildings, a water tower and the DuPage Children's Museum site, is an advantage.
Naperville resident Len Monson said other communities such as Elmhurst, Downers Grove and Wheaton have undergone downtown redevelopments, but on a piece-by-piece basis that didn't maximize planning potential.
"We have a huge opportunity," he said, "to uniformly develop 13 critical acres with a cohesive plan that can best control and direct parking, traffic and stormwater issues all at one time."
As the council gave Ryan Companies permission to start drawings, members also directed the firm to incorporate two documents developed since October, including a set of concept principles, which highlight elements of the vision for the 5th Avenue area:
• Emphasis on the train station as the focal point.
• Construction of a mix of residences for a variety of ages and incomes.
• Creation of small office spaces with an active and urban feel.
• Inclusion of boutique retail spaces concentrated along Washington Street.
• Consideration of realignment options at North Avenue and Washington Street.
• Exploration of using the DuPage Children's Museum site as a potential commuter parking lot.
• Potential construction of a pedestrian tunnel west of Washington Street.
• Balanced placement of commuter parking spaces for efficient traffic flow.
Ryan Companies estimates the concept creation phase will take at least three months. The first step likely will include presentation of preliminary drawings for land use, architecture, green space, parking and infrastructure.
"We have a long way to go from here," council member John Krummen said.