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posted: 6/24/2019 5:40 AM

‘Manna from heaven’ coming to Naperville commuters, but for how long?

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  • Naperville plans to demolish a former public works building near this water tower and replace it with 263 more daily-fee parking spaces for commuters. But the spots will be temporary.

    Naperville plans to demolish a former public works building near this water tower and replace it with 263 more daily-fee parking spaces for commuters. But the spots will be temporary.
    Daily Herald file photo, 2017

 
 

A former public works building is coming down and 263 more daily-fee commuter parking spaces are going up along 5th Avenue near the Naperville Metra station.

The demolition of a 1981 building referred to as Water Tower West will make room for more parking near the bustling Metra station that attracts roughly 4,100 commuters each day, and the spaces are expected to be ready by the end of October, city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said.

They will add to 115 spots already on the lot for a total of 378. Using a space for the day is slated to cost $2.

The city council approved the $259,200 demolition of the building over the concerns from council member Patrick Kelly, who said he wanted to wait until other parking management changes are implemented to determine how many more spaces are needed.

A work plan the council approved earlier this month calls for staff members to take several actions to prevent improper transfer or misuse of parking permits and to promote use of Pace bus routes or the less-congested Route 59 station as an alternative.

The initiatives are part of an effort to reduce the waiting lists for 918 permit spots near the Naperville station, which can be as long as 14 years, depending on the lot.

If the city truly wants commuters headed to Chicago to first travel farther west to Route 59, Kelly said, making more parking available at the Naperville station might not be a logical move.

"This, to me, feels like we're pulling in the opposite direction," he said.

But others, including council member Kevin Coyne, who commutes to Chicago via Metra for his job, said the city needs to honor its often-stated commitment to improve the commuter experience.

"We can make their lives much easier, and I'm not seeing a solid reason to delay doing that for them," he said.

The new parking spots, however, will be temporary, city officials say.

The Water Tower West site, at 414 E. 5th Ave., is one of eight city-owned properties totaling 13 acres included in a zone slated for redevelopment.

Since early 2017, the city has been progressing toward redevelopment of the sites, and leaders now are working to give direction on issues related to land use, green space, traffic, parking, potential addition of a pedestrian crossing and the future of the Kroehler lot. Once these decisions are made, the city could allow chosen builder Ryan Companies to work on more detailed designs.

Because the Water Tower West property is included in the areas to be redeveloped, City Manager Doug Krieger warned, new parking won't last forever.

"We don't know what it's going to look like in the end," Krieger said. "We don't want to get anybody committed or thinking they're entitled and that's going to be their spot. It is a temporary benefit."

The Water Tower West building has been little used since the city opened its new public works facility on Fort Hill Drive in 2009. Public Works Director Dick Dublinski said the 38-year-old building costs roughly $70,000 a year to maintain, and it soon will need a new roof at an estimated price of $670,000, making it wise to remove the structure before it becomes more costly.

Once the additional parking spaces are in place, the city stands to receive $131,500 a year from commuters who use them, said Bill Novack, director of transportation, engineering and development.

So council members Patty Gustin and John Krummen said the math works out in favor of removing the building to provide parking -- even if only for now.

"To every commuter who has ever not found a parking spot," Krummen said, "that's manna from heaven."