Safety, shadows, density, building height and the challenges of commuting rose to top of mind for the first speakers to question developer Ryan Companies about preliminary plans for 5th Avenue redevelopment in Naperville.
The company convened more than 250 people Wednesday for a presentation about two early concepts for 13 acres near the Metra station north of downtown.
The meeting came two days after the firm released designs that call for 2,800 parking spaces for commuters and others, nearly 400 apartments, roughly 40 condos, a dozen or so brownstones, and various amounts of office, retail and flexible space.
Concept A involves leaving the DuPage Children's Museum at 301 N. Washington St., on the south side of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks. Concept B calls for moving the museum to an unspecified location "off-site."
Early talk from Ryan executives including Jim McDonald, senior vice president of real estate development, explained lofty goals of open space, stormwater solutions, safe and engaging pedestrian experiences, connections to the community and contributions to a vibrant area. Talk of masonry, cast stone and rich materials or stepped-back design to incorporate plazas and decrease bulk described plans created by Ryan Companies and The Lakota Group.
But resident questions identified several points on which the firm had not yet calculated answers.
There was no traffic study on the number of trips that could be generated by new retail, offices and residences proposed. There wasn't a calculation of the floor-area ratio, commonly used to express density. And there wasn't a compilation of proposed parking for each new land use and how it compares to what would be required by zoning.
Worries about the height and density dominated conversation Wednesday, as well as concerns that things could get worse, not better, for time-crunched, Chicago-bound commuters.
"I think commuters are getting screwed by this. There are exactly zero new commuter parking spaces," Naperville resident and Chicago worker Tom Coyne said. "I don't think the commuters, who are the major user of this area of Naperville, are getting the best."
McDonald said his firm, based in Minneapolis with an office in Naperville, is working within the city's framework, which asked for all 1,681 current commuter parking spots to be preserved but did not say any needed to be added. He said both concepts improve parking by more evenly spreading out spaces on the north and south sides of the tracks and by adding dual left-turn lanes off 5th Avenue onto Washington Street to help drivers head south.
Several residents opposed the fact Concept B includes three buildings that are six stories tall, dwarfing houses and everything else nearby and creating lengthy shadows.
Jeff Havel, an architect who joined one of several groups that helped Ryan gather input, said tall buildings don't fit in neighborhoods near 5th Avenue.
"Six stories is still six stories, no matter how you soften it," Havel said. "I can talk about juxtaposition of form, sense of place, all these wonderful words -- but there's still density here."
Resident Sandee Whited said she thinks Ryan Companies is "ignoring what we want" in terms of building height.
McDonald said the company is listening to residents' wishes but balancing them with market demand.
Wednesday's meeting was preliminary, and Ryan officials often promised to bring back more data during further discussions.
Next steps in the process include an Aug. 28 meeting of the 5th Avenue steering committee and a discussion of the concept plans during the Sept. 4 city council meeting.