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Naperville group ready to unveil development plan near downtown
By Melissa Jenco | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/21/2009 12:03 AM

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Naperville residents soon will have a chance to see a downtown-area development proposal that has been creating a buzz for several years.

Omnia, a nonprofit group, is holding a public meeting next month to present its proposal for a $200 million performing arts center and commuter parking garage near the Fifth Avenue train station.

The group will unveil its plans, which also include condos, shops and restaurants, at 7 p.m. June 23 at the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.

Omnia President Bev Patterson Frier said the meeting will address traffic, parking and economic impact.

"We want to get the word out there ... that it's not just a performing arts center; there's a lot more to this project ... but a lot of people don't have the big picture," she said.

City planners have been working on their own study of future land uses for the area around the Fifth Avenue station. It formerly housed the city's public works facility but that has since been rebuilt on the west side of town.

Planners have developed five possible land use alternatives. Their study is scheduled to appear before the Transportation Advisory Board and plan commission next month.

Naperville officials have stressed the Omnia proposal is independent of the Fifth Avenue study and they are not endorsing it by assisting with the June 23 meeting.

There has been much speculation about the Omnia plan in recent years. It was unveiled last year to small groups of community leaders, reporters and nearby residents but hasn't been presented at a communitywide meeting.

Patterson Frier said the group has been working for the past year to formalize the information and submitted the concepts to the city in December. It has since been waiting for feedback about how to proceed.

Omnia's proposal calls for a performing arts center with a 2,700-seat performance hall, 950-seat second performance space and 200-seat studio theater. Part of the center would rise as high as 130 feet, which has been a concern for some neighbors.

There also would be restaurants, stores and residential units - roughly 16 houses, 45 to 55 townhouses and 500 to 600 mid-rise condos. In addition to parking for the residential and retail units, there would be about 1,720 commuter parking spaces in an underground garage.

The plans call for developers to pay for the retail and residential components while the $200 million for the performing arts center and garage will come from grants, private donations and sponsorships and the creation of a tax increment financing district.

While Omnia will need the city's cooperation, Patterson Frier stressed the project will not require new or increased taxes and said it will instead bring in millions of dollars for Naperville.

Asked about whether the development is feasible given the state of the economy, she said a developer has told her now is the time to start. While she is unsure how much will be raised in donations, she said the group hopes to receive grant money for the project.

Omnia's plans can be viewed at omniaarts.org. The city is accepting written comments on the proposal through July 10. The city council will likely review the concept later this summer.

Comments may be submitted to Rory Fancler, community planner, 400 S. Eagle St., Naperville, IL 60540 or fanclerr@naperville.il.us.