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5th Avenue Development: The cart, the horse, what comes first?

We’ve previously noted the sequence of events regarding the City’s efforts on development of the publicly-owned land in the 5th Avenue area. Closed door meetings regarding public land occured, with a review committee of 15 members hand-picked by Mayor Chirico (“The Committee”), ten of which are not City employees or a City Council member. Of the ten, four were members of either the Board of Directors ("NDP Board") or Executive Committee (“NDP Exec. Committee”) of the Naperville Development Partnership (“NDP”). Mayor Chirico and City Manager Doug Krieger, not on The Committee, are also members of the Exec. Committee of NDP. The Committee’s closed-door efforts resulted in a recommendation of selecting Ryan Companies, Inc. (“Ryan”). Jim McDonald, the local representative of Ryan, is also on the Exec. Committee of NDP.


The previously cancelled workshop was once again scheduled and occurred on August 28th with the purpose of reviewing the recommendation of approving Ryan as developer for 5th Avenue.


The process the City is suggesting is that the developer, Ryan, be approved. Ryan would then, in working with the City and community, develop the concept. After that, contracts would be entered into with Ryan.


A resident asked the question many are wondering. Why is there a presumption that something needs to be built there? Also, why is a developer being picked before the concept has even been developed?





Spot on. Perfect summation of the questions and issues. Of course, he received no answers from anyone on the dais.


Councilwoman Anderson believes the process is backward. Her thought: Agree upon the vision and scope of what the project should be, then pick the developer who seems most suitable, instead of the developer and then the vision.




Another resident, Mr. Hill, spoke in support of some sort of development there. Mr. Hill is retired, but has extensive professional experience in procurement on large, $100 million+ complex outsourcing arrangements not unlike the development proposal. Never once did Mr. Hill "sole source" a project, which is what the City is suggesting.








Councilwoman Obarski and Councilman Krummen in their comments noted below referenced the slides used in the presentation. The blue section was "Community engagement and concept creation" while the purple section was "Development contracts and entitlements (zoning approvals)."


Councilwoman Obarski, referencing the end of the blue section, when the concept has been finalized and time to enter into contracts has arrived, indicated support for introducing another developer as part of a competitive process. Councilwoman Obarski believes that Ryan should have an opportunity to develop the concept, but not be guaranteed being the developer.



Councilman Krummen also expressed his belief that the process should be competitive.





Let's remember what is being discussed: the transfer of a taxpayer-owned asset, 13.3 acres of taxpayer-owned land, to a private developer. Seems as if Councilwoman Obarski and Councilman Krummen want to see the City enter into a competitive process to ensure that the best economic terms for that asset are realized. You know, acting in the best interests of the taxpaying residents they were elected to represent.


The Mayor seems to believe nothing is wrong with the process, and apparently believes a competitive process doesn't make sense.




There's a lot there, including:


Mayor Chirico: "Once the project is defined, and once we have what we want, what are they competing for?"


How about the best economic terms to the City for the taxpayer-owned asset of 13.3 acres which they want to develop?


Mayor Chirico: "It's not like we're going to sell it for a certain price, the low bidder wins."


Correct. How about selling it to the high bidder? That would require bidding, which would require more than one developer competing for and making an offer on the taxpayer-owned land.


Mayor Chirico: "Once we've identified a project that we believe is really great for our community, what would they be competing for?"


The best terms possible for the taxpayers in exchange for the taxpayer-owned land.


Mayor Chirico: "Why would we get another company in at that point?"


Why would you not? How do you know there is not a better set of economic terms to be had without doing so?


Mike DiSanto, City Attorney, clarified the proposed development and the City's role, noting "In exchange for our land, what are we going to get? Are they going to build us a parking solution...an infrastructure solution, those are going to be the incentives for the City to make the decision..."


Councilman Krummen asked, "Then what do we know what we're going to sell the land for?"


Mayor Chirico's reply was "Business terms. What will we get? Infrastructure improvements, parking deck, you know, those are business terms that we will have to make a decision on when we have all the information."




The question remains: How will the City know it is maximizing the return on that taxpayer-owned 13.3 acre asset with only one offer?


Let's remember how this developer was chosen: The Committee chose them behind closed doors. Four members of The Committee are members of the NDP Board or NDP Exec. Committee. The Mayor and City Manager are also NDP Exec. Committee members. The local representative of the developer, Ryan, is also a member of the NDP Exec Committee. Yet when the concept creation would be completed and the time to enter into contracts would arrive, the Mayor asks "why would we get another company in at that point?"


Stepping back from this for a second, the question of the first resident to speak remains unanswered: "We should start by asking if we should be doing something, and why, not selecting who, and then the what"


If the 'if' and 'why' were answered, when was that?


Presuming that question is answered, why would there not be a competitive process to ensure maximum return for taxpayer-owned land?


There might be more than one cart out in front of that horse.


The City Council is scheduled to "move forward" with Ryan Co. as developer for the taxpayer-owned land in the 5th Avenue area on Tuesday, September 5th at 7:00 PM.



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