The Naperville City Council is sending the developer of the controversial Water Street project back to the drawing board and may have effectively sunk the plan in the process.
Following a lengthy discussion Tuesday night, councilmen narrowly agreed to return the proposal to two of its advisory boards to address concerns about height, density, parking and traffic.
But Kathleen West, attorney for developer Marquette Companies, said the combination of the delay and the demands being placed upon the group may be a deal-breaker.
"It does not appear that based on what you'd like to see in this plan it will be economically feasible," West said adding she and the developer would re-evaluate their position Wednesday.
The development proposed by Marquette Companies is targeted for a 2.4-acre site bounded by Aurora Avenue on the south, the DuPage River on the north, Main Street on the east and Webster Street on the west. The proposal calls for the construction of a hotel, parking garage, restaurants, shops and offices. Until recently, it also included apartments.
The City Council gave preliminary approval to a smaller version of the plan in 2007, but the work never got off the ground. Marquette Companies revived the plans this summer, spurring dozens of residents to speak out both for and against the project at public meetings. Councilmen also have remained divided on its merits.
Marquette Companies has continued to tweak its proposal over the past several months and in the last two weeks came up with a revised plan that lowered the height of the hotel to about 74 feet, down from nearly 83 feet, removes the 62 apartments and adds hotel rooms.
But the changes have not satisfied opponents including the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation.
"While we applaud their continued work the fact remains the hotel building is still taller than 2007 plan, the traffic problems are unabated and the Riverwalk remains over commercialized in this plan," Thom Higgins said on behalf of the group.
Councilman Grant Wehrli called the project a "potential game-changer" and said because the plans keep getting revised, the proposal should go back to advisory commissions for the details to be worked out and to give residents more chances to weigh in.
"We can't miss on this one and people can't feel that the developer got everything they wanted nor can the developer think or feel that the public absolutely railroaded us," he said.
But some councilmen said, while the plan still needs work, it should stay at the City Council level, especially since the Planning and Zoning Commission already gave its approval to a larger version.
Councilman Steve Chirico argued the developers have already presented a detailed plan, but the council kept giving them new direction and muddying the waters.
"We are so fortunate to have people willing to invest millions of dollars of their own money into this community and we do want to get it right … but we don't want to chase people away," he said.
West told councilmen delaying the project by sending it to advisory commissions would mean rising construction costs and interest rates. Marquette Companies' franchise agreement with Holiday Inn expires in March, she said, and its loan sets requirements on when it must start construction.
Councilmen ultimately voted 5-4 to return the proposal to the Planning and Zoning Commission and also asked that the Transportation Advisory Board take a look at it. Wehrli, Paul Hinterlong, Doug Krause, Judy Brodhead, and Bob Fieseler voted in favor of doing so while Mayor George Pradel, Chirico, Kenn Miller and Joe McElroy and voted against it.
Bruno Bottarelli, managing director of Marquette Companies, quickly left City Hall after the vote and declined to comment in depth about the future of the proposal.
"I'm speechless," he said.