Downtown Eyesore to Become College, City Focal Point

North Central College has partnered with the city of Naperville to turn a vacant Washington Street building into a public park.

It's a sight many residents have seen on a daily basis for nearly a decade. Sitting in their cars at a red light on Washington Street and Aurora Avenue, they glance over to a boarded-up, run-down vegetation-engulfed eyesore. 

But what once was a longtime concrete and glass jungle (literally), will soon be a welcoming focal point to both downtown Naperville and North Central College.

During last night's Naperville City Council meeting, North Central College announced plans to purchase a vacant one-story commercial building at 420 S. Washington St. and develop the property into a public park.

The city will demolish the building to make way for an entryway to the college's campus, according to North Central College. 

“For a long time the college has shared a dream with the city to recreate the beauty of Fredenhagen Park and the Riverwalk on this property,” Dr. Harold R. Wilde, North Central College president, said in a release. “This site is the intersection of Naperville’s college, downtown Naperville and the city’s Riverwalk.”

City Manager Doug Krieger awarded a contract to demolish the building, which dates back to the 1930s, as well as release a $235,000 lien the city had placed on the property. A lien was imposed to cover property-maintenance fines that had been levied over the years after the property had been in foreclosure and vacated, according to North Central College.

According to city documents, the cost to demolish the structure in 2009 ranged from $20,000 to $30,000. At that time, the building owners, 420 South, LLC, said the building contained a substantial amount of asbestos, which would need to be remediated before demolition.  

It's not known whether or not the asbestos has been remediated since that time. In 2009, 420 South, LLC said it was not in a financial position to remediate and demolish the property, according to city documents.   

In recent years, city offcials decided to board up the builing for safety reasons after it was broken into numerous times. In 2009, city staff inspected the integrity of the building and found several code violations, but nothing presenting imminent danger, according to the city.

The more than 80-year-old building has seen a number of different businesses come and go through the decades such as a dance studio, bike shop and comic book store, most recently.  

North Central College completed two nearby improvements which connect portions of the downtown area to the campus. The Riverwalk Gateway connects the college and Riverwalk to Naperville’s Fredenhagen Park, located northeast of the Washington Street bridge over the DuPage River. A landscaped pedestrain path, known as the Sesquicentennial Walkway, runs through the heart of campus between Benton and Jefferson avenues, according to North Central College.

The new park at 420 S. Washington St. will be located across the pedestrian Moser Bridge from the Riverwalk Gateway. 

“North Central College is a tremendous partner to the city of Naperville, and we are so pleased to announce the pending demolition of the building on this property,” Mayor A. George Pradel said in a release. “By removing this building and keeping the area as open space, our residents will have another beautiful place to come and relax. The open appearance of this area is also a pleasing gateway to the City’s downtown. I am so proud that the college and city are able to work together on projects such as this to benefit the overall quality of life for our wonderful community.”

Demolition and construction dates have yet to be announced.

Albert Gazalooch December 19, 2012 at 08:35 AM
D.DouglasThomas December 19, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Pam Shields December 19, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Demolition can't happen soon enough!
D Smith December 19, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Can't wait - won't be missed.
Jennie December 19, 2012 at 03:40 PM
This is excellent news. Now maybe we can do something about the parking structure at Benton and Main? It looks like something you'd find in Detroit...
Albert Gazalooch December 19, 2012 at 05:06 PM
The irony is, this is what the city wanted to do with this property 10 - 15 years ago! The owner sued to keep it out of condemnation and won. The city's plan was to add it to the Riverwalk even before Cock Robin closed. It would have been nice to see some revenue producing venue there but, at least the NCC plan removes the distraction of the eyesore! This and the former gas station at Franklin & Washington were long overdue for rehab or demolition. Hopefully the litter from neighboring Burger King won't blow over into this new park.
Albert Gazalooch December 19, 2012 at 05:15 PM
There is a plan! Main Street Promenade East which is supposed to be started soon. It's a $30 Million project expected to take a year of construction. http://napervillesun.suntimes.com/news/14994231-418/promenade-east-project-downtown-may-get-started-this-fall.html
James Watt December 19, 2012 at 07:06 PM
It's a great idea.
James L. Freeland December 20, 2012 at 05:48 AM
The mayor's comments are right on target. Thank you NCC for being progressive in this action.


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