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updated: 11/30/2020 3:56 PM

Former Naperville bank building could be repurposed into Montessori school

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  • Guidepost Montessori has proposed repurposing a former bank building and opening its second Naperville location in the downtown area.

    Guidepost Montessori has proposed repurposing a former bank building and opening its second Naperville location in the downtown area.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

A Montessori school hopes to build on its recent success by opening a second Naperville facility in the downtown area.

Contract purchaser Quattro Twenty Four North Washington, LLC has proposed repurposing a former bank building at the southeast corner of Washington Street and Franklin Avenue to accommodate primary school, preschool and day care operations by Guidepost Montessori.

The project would first require a code amendment allowing the conditional use within the city's secondary downtown zoning district, an area that primarily serves as a transition between the dense nature of the downtown core and the surrounding neighborhoods, community planner Sara Kopinski said.

The planning and zoning commission recently supported the code change and recommended approval of a conditional use for Guidepost. Both measures will go to the city council for final consideration Tuesday.

"I think this continues to show progress of our zoning to be responsive to the types of business needs that we have in our downtown," commission Chairman Bruce Hanson said. "The more traffic we can get downtown, the better it is for the entire city."

A subsidiary of Higher Ground Education, Guidepost has a network of 70 schools nationwide, including one in south Naperville since fall 2019, attorney Patti Bernhard said during a Nov. 18 public hearing. With 126 students enrolled, the school intends to expand its operations in town to "meet the demand it has experienced," she said

The roughly 18,000-square-foot bank building, which has been vacant for about a year, is expected to undergo a "considerable" interior renovation, and some cosmetic exterior improvements, Bernhard said. The drive-through lanes and canopy would be removed, she said, and playground equipment for various age groups would be installed.

Pickup and drop-off times are expected to vary throughout the day, eliminating a "mad rush" and causing minimal impact on traffic in the area, she said. Guidepost parents and guardians have to park and escort their children into the school, prompting an additional request from the development group to waive the city's drop-off lane requirements.

Commissioners and staff members said the Montessori school is compatible with surrounding properties, which include churches, offices and restaurants.

That sentiment was echoed by David Nordsieck, of the nearby First Congregational United Church of Christ, who said the project won't be disruptive to neighbors or alter the character of the block.

"I appreciate that this is a reinvestment and an incremental improvement to the property, rather than a major redevelopment," he said.

The institutional use also fits within the secondary downtown zoning district, city officials said, where commercial services, offices, parks and multifamily residential developers are permitted. Retail, specialty food services, parking lots and hotels are allowed as conditional uses.

"I believe it'll be a good use of the property," Commissioner Krishna Bansal said.