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August 6, 2012
Chairman Herzog and Commissioners
Planning & Zoning Commission
City of Naperville
400 South Eagle Street
Naperville, IL 60540-5381
Re: PZ-Cases: 12-1-39, 12-1-40
Dear Chairman Herzog and Commissioners:
As a matter of policy, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce does not take positions or intercede in individual zoning petitions. The Chamber believes that every business must present its own case in issues before the commission.
Given the community interest, opposition of another community organization, and the enormous economic impact this specific development has, we feel it is important to provide our perspective about the continued growth of downtown Naperville. Please do not interpret this letter as an indication of the Chamber’s analysis or advocacy for elements of the petition or relief requested.
That said, the Chamber fully supports economic development and new investment in our community. The Chamber supports this proposal as we support any new investment in Naperville.
We offer our thoughts on economic development at a critical time in our community. We encourage you to visit with members of the business community; especially those in the downtown, and you’ll discover the widespread support for the project. We will also share this letter with our membership to improve their awareness and encourage additional participation in the process.
From our perspective, economic growth, new investment and new concepts are vital to a community’s future. If we aren’t growing, changing and evolving we are shrinking or losing ground to competition.
A History of Growth – Lessons From the Past
For 99 years the Chamber has championed community progress and new economic opportunity. Our members have pinned their aspirations, dreams and savings into businesses in Naperville. The return on investment for businesses and the community has been significant. We’re now an economic engine, home to thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of employees.
The growth of downtown Naperville over the past 20 years is something remarkable, if not a bit of an economic miracle. The rebirth of downtown finds its roots in decisions made in the 1970s, and we believe you face some of the very same challenges and pressures.
At that time there was widespread concern of the “death” of downtown Naperville. Faced with competition from malls, a softening economic climate and a lack of new businesses, the merchants and property owners faced malaise and stagnation. City leaders, businesses and residents worked together on strategies for a better future.
The Central Area Naperville Development Organization (CAN-DO) was formed and the Brown-Heldt plan for development was created. The fundamental tenets of that plan, now over 30 years old, remain a formula for success. To be successful we need a compact downtown that is pedestrian friendly, with a variety of mixed-uses and shared parking.
In the time since CAN-DO, downtown Naperville has undergone significant transition and growth. Ionic Naperville landmarks, dormitories, retail destinations and Class A office space stand where car dealerships, bakeries, bowling alleys and funeral parlors once stood. None of these previous uses were out of line or inconsistent with Naperville, they simply had outlived their useful life in a changing economic environment.
Along the way there were voices of dissent and those who feared downtown was headed in the wrong direction. The Chamber and our business community challenged the doomsayers and naysayers. Previous commissions and councils rightly placed their faith in the talents and dedication of Naperville’s entrepreneurial class.
The downtown redevelopment experience is a record of success and improvement. Whenever the City has allowed its downtown to grow, facilitated new investment, encouraged new users and attracted new amenities, the community has won.
Implementing Naperville Downtown 2030 and Economic Realities
Water Street is one of the largest tracts of to-be-redeveloped land in the downtown core. Wholesale redevelopment of the block has been a cause and passion of the City for more than a decade. In early 2000, initial plans were created to transform this block and expand the downtown. Since then the development community has been hard at work putting together the plan that’s right for Naperville.
While the national economy is in the doldrums, Naperville is fortunate to have the opportunity to realize numerous long-standing economic development goals. In today’s economy it is a rare opportunity to have the option of approving a comprehensive mixed-use development plan that is viable and consistent with long-term development goals.
The most recent downtown development plan, Naperville Downtown 2030: Planning the Downtown Experience, designates Water Street as part of the downtown core. The block was planned to be an intensive source of commerce and serve as an anchor of our expanding downtown.
No one should be surprised at a redevelopment plan that calls for density and a variety of mixed uses. That’s exactly what collectively we have sought and asked for. The Chamber believes that the City’s staff was correct in designating this area for high-density, intensive economic use. We encourage you to embrace this concept as well.
After taking part in its crafting and educating our members about its goals, the Chamber endorsed the ratification of Downtown 2030. We’ve pledged our support to the City to work with the business community to make its vision and goals a reality. This letter is part of our commitment to champion a brighter future.
We write you today as enthusiastic supporters of economic development and job creation. The business community supports the idea of a growing, vibrant downtown. We all stand to benefit from new investment, opportunity and commerce.
Once-in-a-generation redevelopment opportunities don’t come along often. Getting Water Street right will set the tone for downtown for years to come. The success of Downtown 2030 rests on a successful and vibrant Water Street redevelopment.
As you consider this petition and future development in the downtown, use history as your guide. Naperville has been rewarded for fostering a downtown climate of growth and we shouldn’t stop now.
Thank you for your continued service to our community and the consideration of our opinion.
Interim President & CEO
Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce
Cc: Naperville Development Partnership
Doug Krieger, City Manager