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Parking a concern for Naperville hotel/Alzheimer’s facility – Chicago Sun

By Dan Cassidy

June 23, 2011 12:28AM

Updated: June 23, 2011 4:47PM

The Naperville Planning and Zoning Commission wants more information before passing judgment on a proposed development near Diehl Road that would include an Embassy Suites hotel, a restaurant and an Alzheimer’s treatment facility.

The commission Wednesday night got its first look at the Freedom Plaza project, which would be built on 12.8 acres on Abriter Court just north of Diehl Road and south of Interstate 88.

According to attorney Kevin Gallaher, who is representing the developer, the project is an important one given the nature of the property.

“It is just sort of a tucked away piece of property that time sort of forgot,” he said.

Hotel plans

On one part of the land, the developer wants to build a seven-story Embassy Suites hotel with an attached one-story conference center and banquet facility. According to Gallaher, the developer is in the “process of discussing with the city” a possible 20-year tax incentive package for the project. It would involve the rebating of a portion of hotel tax and food and beverage tax money.

The hotel would have 165 rooms, a restaurant which would offer room service, a gift shop and an exercise room. The conference center would feature 20,000 square feet of meeting space, enough to handle 1,000 people, Gallaher said.

“Needless to say, a hotel-conference center is something the city of Naperville has been interested in for many years,” he said. “We want to bring some of the (conference) business that’s been going across the border back to the city of Naperville.”

Plan Commission member Patricia Gustin noted that the old Holiday Inn on Naper Boulevard is now being turned into a Marriott which will also feature banquet space. Gallaher said the two projects can easily survive together because of the need for more meeting space in Naperville.

Near the Embassy Suites is planned a 7,000-square-foot Pita Inn restaurant, which would serve Mediterranean-inspired food. It would be the fourth Pita Inn in the Chicago area.

All told, Gallaher said the hotel and restaurant would create 100 permanent jobs, 200 construction jobs and, just as importantly, generate $473,000 in tax money annually.

“We are all aware of the difficulty our governmental units are having these days,” he said.

Also included in the plan is a proposal to renovate a stormwater holding area into a water feature to include a fountain and a gazebo along its shore.

Commission members, however, were worried about parking. The developer is looking for a deviation from city requirements to have 349 spaces at the development, while the city requires 462.

Gallaher said there would be additional parking spaces available at other sites in the development, and also that the conference center would have valet parking which would cut down on the overall spaces needed.

Plan Commission member John Herzog, along with other commission members, still had concerns.

“Parking is a … hurdle (for getting the proposal passed),” he said. “It is 113 spaces short of code.”

Treatment facility

Another part of the development calls for the construction of a 73,393-square-foot four-story Alzheimer’s treatment facility containing 106 beds, It would be built on the opposite side of the water feature from the hotel. It would be run by CRL, which has 16 senior living facilities in Illinois and Wisconsin.

“The demographics in Naperville are very strong for this sort of a facility,” Gallaher said. “We have an aging population … people are living longer, but not necessarily better.”

There would need to be a zoning change to allow the facility to be built. City staff has concerns the facility wouldn’t fit in with the hotels, offices and restaurants in the area. Also, the city has the site zoned for office development.

Gallaher, though, said there is a very good reason to rezone the site.

“Since 1986 (when it was zoned), there has never been one proposal for an office on this site,” he said. “It has never happened … there has been no interest.”

However, Herzog said that perhaps a restaurant or hotel might be a better use for the property.

Some commissioners were also concerned if there would be enough parking for the facility, since some of its spaces would probably be used to help the hotel deal with its own lack of parking.

Information, please

The commission will discuss the plans again at its July 20 meeting. It asked the developer to come back with a comprehensive plan for how all the proposals would work together on the site, including a parcel that is planned for future development, and to answer questions that came up at the meeting about parking, signs for the facilities and more.

Overall, though, Gustin said she was intrigued by the mix of uses in the plan.

“Initially, I thought it was kind of quirky,” she said. “But we are not going to get office buildings built out there, we’re just not. Actually, I think it can work.”

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