What are the differences between the Omnia Projects?

There are two facets. First is the entire Fifth Ave. area, which includes the Public Works property, the Kroehler parking lot, and the Burlington commuter parking lot. The proposal that uses this entire region is referred to as The Omnia Project.

Then we have the Omnia Performing Arts Center, which is planned above the underground parking deck on the western half of the Burlington lot. The Omnia performing Arts Center is part of the whole project. It will be built last.


Why is Omnia proposing the use of a TIF?

TIF means Tax Increment Financing. This is a method to pay for improvements to certain areas without raising taxes on existing properties. TIF is a redevelopment tool that builds future value in a community while it pays for civic improvements with lasting value.


The TIF requested is based on an increase in density and the current low tax base for the area. The creation of this newly generated revenue would fund the civic improvements and expand the tax base for the City. If the increase in density is not approved, the future tax base will be much less for the area and, thus, for the City of Naperville. Therefore, the TIF funds will only exist if this tax base is grown in accordance with the density proposed by Omnia. This land currently is underdeveloped and underutilized.


The TIF area being proposed by the Omnia Project is essentially the current parking lots; the Water Tower parcel, the Burlington lot, the Kroehler lot, and the three parks surrounding the Downtown Naperville Train Station. However, the City would define the area.


After the TIF expires, significant revenue streams would begin to go to the taxing bodies and quickly replenish any lost revenue in comparison to the lesser tax base by the current plan of the City.


Used properly, TIF is a very beneficial tool for city planning and funding of infrastructure and amenities that a city otherwise could not afford. The city of Chicago has over 100 current TIF's and the city of Arlington Heights currently has two. Naperville currently has one, at the Water Street development area.


Don't just the businesses in the TIF district benefit from this type of financing?

No. The businesses in the TIF district pay the same amount of taxes as they would without the TIF. If the TIF proposed by Omnia is followed, the city and all the citizens will benefit immediately because of new civic assets and a flow of new money into the region. This new money will first come from the spending of anyone involved in the development and construction. Then the new parking permits for commuters will generate almost $500,000 annually for the City of Naperville. And finally, the new residents and new retail will generate an additional, and ongoing, flow of new money.


No. If the TIF proposed by Omnia is followed, the city and all the citizens will benefit immediately because of new civic assets and a flow of new money into the region. Anyone involved in the development and construction, new residents, and retail will create a flow of more money into Naperville.


Why isn't Omnia located somewhere else?

This is so important. We citizens have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the land WE already own for OUR benefit. The land for the underground parking garage is already owned or leased by the city for the benefit of the citizens and will continue to be owned or leased by the city. Also, we now have the opportunity to create a TIF at that property that is so creative - saving us current taxpayers from having to pay for any improvements proposed by Omnia or by others. The Performing Arts Center will provide a dual use for this piece of land, similar to Grant Park in Chicago. Grant Park has many civic uses on top of the underground parking garage.


To go elsewhere and purchase land would make the entire project more expensive and not an option. The Omnia Project provides more commuter parking that can serve a dual purpose. This is extremely important. When theatre patrons arrive for an 8:15 performance, most commuters have long since gone home.


But isn't that land valuable?

What the City paid for that land is what is recorded on their books. The "final value" of the land is dependent upon what the City allows to be built on the property. For example: if the basis value of the land is $1 and the final density land value is $30, then the created value gain is $29.


The City and its citizens have a potential land value gain that is directly proportional to the density the City approves for the area. This can be referred to as the "created" land value. However, if the City merely chooses to only use the land for parking, there is no value gain in the land at all.


Currently, the City has alternative plans that include building parking decks. This will result in the same zero real estate taxes and, thus, no gain in land value as Omnia proposes. Omnia's goal is to create the highest and best use of the property that results in the greatest value for the city.


Although the City is not in the "profit making business" it should be in the "tax base enhancement business" and "tax reduction business". A healthy tax base allows the City to provide infrastructure, amenities and services for the least cost to individual taxpayers. Careful planning for the future use of the 5th Avenue asset can allow the City to enhance the provision of amenities and infrastructures to its citizens. It can grow tax base and add attractions that gives stability to the City's existing tax base without an increase in taxes.


If the City wants to bring in new businesses and new residents, it must be competitive on infrastructure (METRA parking) and amenities (Omnia Performing Arts Center). Converting the current low value land at the train station to the higher use proposed by Omnia, will provide new civic assets that will not be a burden to any current taxpayers.


Won't this created value be a windfall to Omnia?

No. It is true that the "sale" of the City land to the developers could result in proceeds going to the TIF for a short time instead of to the City coffers. However, it is also true that the City could choose to get this money up front.


If the city allows the money to go into the TIF, then the money will be used to help pay the bonds to be issued for two new civic assets - the underground parking garage and the Performing Arts Center.


If the City chooses to keep the money and put it in the City coffers, then it will take longer to pay off the TIF bonds that will be issued to finance the two structures.


Omnia does not reap anything - the City and the citizens reap the benefits. Nothing is given to Omnia. Omnia will not own the parking garage - the City will own the parking garage. The City also has the choice as to whether or not it wishes to own the Performing Arts Center. Omnia is not a developer. Omnia is a registered, not-for-profit 501(c)) (3) organization.


The City currently uses the land for parking and did use the other property for the Public Works building. As long as the parking is at least replaced (which is what Omnia proposes do with a more valuable type of parking - an underground garage), the City has lost nothing and Omnia has taken nothing.


Why is density so important?

Low density is low real estate taxes, forever.


The City has a choice - either no density gain, or, choose an increase in assessed land value which results in better land use, better land value, and allows the civic assets (garage and the performing arts center) to be built at no cost to the current taxpayers.


The city is not in the profit making business. Rather, its business is to provide services and infrastructure to its citizens as economically as possible. Converting the low value land it owns at the train station to the higher use proposed by Omnia will provide new civic assets while helping to keep taxes low.


Again, Omnia is not a developer. We want to make that clear.


If my home is within the TIF, will my taxes be more?

No. Realtors tell us, however, that because of the Omnia Project, home values in that area will definitely increase. Due to increased density in the area, the valuation of the additional residences will create more real estate taxes. As a result your property taxes could be less. All present home sites will not be disturbed, unlike a former study in which the plan did eliminate some homes. Also, the Omnia Project does not suggest any demolition or acquisition of the wonderful, historic Kroehler factory landmark.


How are the taxes paid into the TIF?

If a homeowner in the TIF district currently pays $10,000 in real estate taxes, that $10,000 is frozen during the term of the TIF. That $10,000 every year will always go to the normal taxing bodies. If the next year your taxes are $10,500, then $500 goes into the TIF pot. The next year if your taxes are $11,000, then $1,000 goes into the TIF pot, etc. These tax increases would not be because of the Omnia project. Rather, they would be the normal increases generally assessed.


Currently the municipal parking lots and former Public Works building pay no taxes. If structures are built upon those vacant parcels, they will become new taxpayers. Their entire taxes will only go for infrastructure within that TIF area. Those real estate taxes will buy the bonds that will pay for both the underground parking and the performance center. When the bonds for the underground parking and performance center have been paid off, the TIF District will expire and the taxes will revert back to the normal taxing bodies.


Can you give me an example of a successful TIF in the area?

Cantera was funded by a TIF approved by the City of Naperville and the City of Warrenville. School District 203 is now receiving additional funding from this successful TIF because it is one of the taxing bodies benefiting from the created land value of the Cantera TIF. Without the TIF, the cost of land improvement and infrastructure would have prevented the development from being as successful and rapidly developed. TIF helped pay for the tollway exchange, the sewers, roads, landscaping, and many other related improvements to transform a vacant abandoned quarry into a major commercial center. The taxing bodies, by delaying their receipt of revenues, have made larger revenues possible today.


Chicago currently has over 100 TIFs and Arlington Heights has two, however TIFs are widely used by many suburbs.


Will the normal taxing bodies not receive any funds because of the TIF?

Well, nitpickers will say the TIF takes money from the schools and the city for various services. Very early on in the project, Omnia spoke with the schools and was told they would not stand in the way of the project. They see the great benefit of the theatres to the school children. The new condos will house mostly seniors, empty nesters, and young singles. There will be minimal children. And as to the city services, there is already police and fire protection there. So perhaps there may be a few extra calls in a year because of the increase in residents, but it would be minimal.


The normal taxing bodies will receive money at the end of the TIF, just as School District 203 is now receiving money from the Cantera TIF.


And also, we checked that the heights of the building would not exceed the height that the fire trucks can service.


How do I know this will not end up a big debt to the city?

This was addressed in our second feasibility study that Omnia commissioned. How does Omnia pay for all of this? How do we know Omnia can sustain itself? Omnia did not want to provide the City with another debt or ask the City to bail Omnia out at any future time. We required the business plan be overly cautious. We were pleased with the study.


Omnia will have no mortgage. (The Children's Museum is able to cover the operating expenses, but the mortgage is what is causing their problem.) The site proposed by Omnia is on land already owned or leased by the City - and We are the City.


We understand our Moser Tower did not have all of their funding in place at the beginning of their project. And they were caught with escalating costs. The Omnia Project will be a phased project and the Performing Arts Center will only be built when the funds are there.


People cite theatres that are struggling. There could be many reasons for that. The Omnia plan expects to have in place a $20 million endowment to cover any operating losses should there be a non-profitable year.


Is Omnia getting the land for free?

Some of that land is not even owned by the city. The city leases it from Burlington Northern for $1 per year. The City, if they so desire, may continue to own the land where Omnia is built above the parking garage. Omnia could pay rent of $1 per year and the trade off would be that the City - us taxpayers - in return would receive a large underground garage plus a civic asset, the Performing Arts Center, at no expense to us. If you want to get real picky, Omnia could pay $52 million for the land, and then the city - us taxpayers - would have to pay the $52 million for the parking garage. Our experts have already done all of this figure work. And the City and the Omnia professionals can work it all out together. Just don't say Omnia is getting the land for free. That is not true. Technically, the underground parking deck uses the land and the Performing Arts Center will be built on the air rights over the parking garage: very similar to Millennium Park.


There is also some privately owned land on the Burlington lot. Omnia feels that land is vital to the future of Naperville, whether the performing arts center gets built or not. It is sad that property was not purchased earlier by the City. But the Omnia Plan includes purchase of this property.


Of course the Kroehler lot, the Water Tower lot, and the eastern half of the Burlington lot will all be paid for by whoever the developer is.


Why should current taxpayer's pay for building the underground parking garage?

You won't. The TIF pays for that. The City staff presently has plans for surface parking decks and they WOULD be built at the taxpayers' expense. The current proposal of the staff minimally increases the parking. The Omnia Project more than doubles the current surface parking.


The trains are already running at capacity. How can they handle more traffic?

This is not true. The City staff reports that the maximum capacity of commuters that Metra can handle without improvements is 5,280 per day. The staff currently projects that only 4,800 passengers are expected to use the station by the year 2028. Thus, there is capacity for any new commuting residents of the condos, town homes and houses proposed by the Omnia Project.


Also, some freight line traffic is expected to allow some southwest trains to be routed from Union station to the LaSalle station. This is expected to allow added trains on Burlington lines, and thus, ease peak ridership demand.


Why start this now when we are in such a tight economy?

One developer we spoke with pounded his fist on the table and said, "This is exactly the time you should start on this project. This is not going to be built overnight. You should definitely be starting your plans now."


Another reason is that the City is now making plans for redevelopment of that area. If they succeed in building less than adequate surface parking decks, there will be no underground garage and no performing arts center.


How much money have you already received toward the endowment?

Some naysayers criticize us stating we have no money. Well, do you have any idea how difficult it was to collect the current over half a million Omnia has already raised to pay for the studies we have commissioned, when the project is only a vision? That many people have put up their money to pay for a project they hope will happen. If the city were planning this, they would hire many of the same experts we did, at our taxpayers expense.


It is impossible to get grants and donations for a concept or to even ask for them at this stage. Instead, Omnia asks that YOU, the citizens, inform the City council and the mayor to study all of our homework because you would like to see this happen. Once the city gives approval, then Omnia can begin to solicit funds for the endowment.


Who will own the theatres?

This is a point for future discussion with the City. The City has a choice to own it if they so wish: otherwise, as a 501(c)(3) organization, it could be owned by Omnia and governed by its board, similar to a trust. This mirrors the manner in which the Martin Ave. Apartments operate. They were incorporated years ago as a tax-exempt property for people of low income, and the board manages the property. This has run very successfully for many years now.


Why is the cost around $200 Million?

Actually, Omnia Performing Arts Centre will cost around $120M. The balance is to pay for the underground City garage for the residents of Naperville, plus all the soft costs. Compare this to the plan of the City staff, which is to build surface decks that WILL cost each and every taxpayer.


Will the traffic be more because of the project?

Yes, traffic will increase. However, this traffic is "manageable", according to KLOA, who was done work for the city. Omnia commissioned KLOA, Inc, to do the traffic and parking analysis. This company is highly regarded. Some of the methods to manage the increase in traffic are described below. Traffic will NOT be a nightmare, as some naysayers would like for you to believe.


Currently, the surface lots on Fifth Ave. are nearly vacant on weekends and evenings. Omnia's plan provides double use of the parking spaces, as those are the times they will use them, thus creating efficient and ecological utilization of public parking.


Findings overall:

Traffic will increase. (Traffic will also increase with the plan of the staff.) However, per the study, this increase in traffic is manageable through the use of removal of all parking along Fifth Ave., adding additional right and left turn lanes, curb cuts, traffic redirection and the addition of a traffic light at Ellsworth.


KLOA conducted traffic counts in September 2006 during the weekday morning (6:30 to 8:30 A.M.) and evening (4:30 to 6:30 P.M.). Summaries of the traffic counts indicated that the morning peak occurs from 7:15 to 8:15 A.M., and the evening peak hour occurs from 4:30 to 5:30 P.M. The morning peak volumes are higher due to students going to school at Naperville North High School.


KLOA determined that new trips generated by the entire Omnia development during the peak times will be:


Time: Morning Peak Morning Peak Evening Peak Evening Peak
Direction: Inbound Outbound Inbound Outbound
Total New Trips: 244 246 354 318



The above estimates include new housing, new retail, and additional commuter trips.


The increase of 950 new parking spaces for commuters proposed by Omnia does not mean that there will be 950 new trips in the morning and in the evening. Per City of Naperville statistics, 18% of commuters are dropped off and picked up in the morning and evening. With approximately 4,000 commuters using the station daily, this means that 720 cars currently come in twice a day.


Performing Arts Center Traffic:

Patrons of the Performing Arts Center will use the vacant spaces that the commuters have used through the day, thus providing the best usage of the parking spaces.


The analysts have communicated that the traffic will not increase any more for performances at the Performing Arts Center than when an express train arrives from Chicago. This is because most commuters travel with one person per car, while most theatre patrons will have two to three persons per car. Theatre traffic will dispense in a very short time frame in the evening when there otherwise is very little traffic.


Theatre-goers will not all arrive and disperse at the same time as many will likely stop at the eateries with friends before and/or after the performances.


Traffic for arrivals for the Performing Arts Center performance will not be generated by cars roaming the streets looking for parking spaces in front of private homes, as is the case at other local theatres. Patrons will thus not have to arrive early to find a parking place close to the theatres for ease of walking.


Access for seniors and handicapped is a top priority. They will be able to arrive in a weather protected underground garage and take an elevator up into the theatre lobby.


Additional Traffic Management Techniques:


The following is recommended:

- Dual left turn lanes at Washington and 5th Ave. to prevent backups in the P.M. peak hours.
- Right turns into underground parking garage off of Washington St. will remove some current traffic from 5th Ave. in the A.M.
- Removal of street parking on 5th Ave. will allow for dedicated left and right hand turns into the new residences.
- Dedicated left and right turns mean fewer backups and a better traffic flow.
- Addition of a traffic light at Ellsworth and 5th Ave. will allow for an efficient flow of pedestrian and automobile traffic.


Have any of the Omnia donors contributed in order to get a piece of the action at a later time?

We can truthfully and unequivocally state not one donor has an interest in the development for a financial gain. The donors, the entire board, and many, many volunteers have all given in good faith because they are visionaries and totally believe in the project. We have used the best experts any one could possibly hire, and all of their costs were paid by donations. Omnia sincerely wants to preserve and honor the integrity of this project.


Will the height be offensive to the eye?

No. It will not be offensive to the eye because the street level view will only be two stories. The design will have the height flow into the back of the property by the train tracks.


The condos on the Water Tower lot will be lower than the Water Tower. The Water Tower is 120 feet tall. The maximum height of the proposed Performing Arts Center of 130 ft. will be located away from the street and next to the tracks, not blocking anyone's view, and again shielded by the two stories along Fifth Ave.


In order to have a true Broadway facility, it is mandatory to have a height of 130 ft. tall to accommodate the required fly-tower. That is where all the scenery changes rise up to above the stage. There is no theatre in the western suburbs that can supply both a big stage and a tall fly tower. We have discussed this more thoroughly on our website under Height. Go there for the details.


Remember when Barnes and Noble was built. It seemed so big at the time. But now that we are used to it, it is OK. Most people are just afraid of change.


Will everything be built at once?

No. Building will be in phases, as the money is available.


The first plan is to move the current surface parking on the Burlington lot to the Public Works Building lot. Then the digging can commence for the underground parking.


When that is completed, the condos can be built, with their own underground parking. They will be a mix of price values and will include some "attainable housing". Although we are currently in a tight real estate market, valid trends suggest a strong future market for housing of this type and location. As each project gets completed, and all the funding is available in the TIF, then the Omnia Center can be built. Thus, the City will have no risk.


First of all, what is economic impact? This is the money that is spent in Naperville because of the project via jobs, residents, and out-of-town consumers. What does it bring to Naperville? Naperville businesses always want to attract people from out of town to come and spend their money here. These figures are all from one of our experts.


The plans the City staff has designed create actually less than 1/4 the density of the Omnia Project. But for the sake of comparison, we used 1/4 density.



The City Options Do Not Even Equal 1/4 Density

  1/4 Density   Omnia
Performing Arts $0 vs. $42 million
Restaurants $3.7 million vs. $14.7 million
Retail $0.7 million vs. $1.4 million
Area Improvements $0.9 million vs. $3.5 million
Residential $22.4 million vs. $89.6 million
Lower Density Annual Total: $19.7 million w/ 1.4 multiplier +/- $27.6 million
Omnia Annual Total: $108 million w/ 1.4 multipller +/- $150 million



How do we know all of the money plans are valid?

We have left that up to the experts to work out with the city. Far be it from us to try to put all of the figures on a blog. We are assured the numbers all work. If they hadn't, we would have dropped this plan a long time ago. We hope everyone appreciates the depth of our homework.


Also, we have a letter from Theatre Dreams that states no operating losses will revert to the city. We proudly state their management of theatres is superb. They have also been hired to come in and manage theatres that are failing. All of their management has been very successful.


TheatreDreams Letter


TheatreDreams Biographies


Are the local groups supporting the Performing Arts Center because they will be able to use it for free?

No, the local groups are supporting the Performing Arts Center because they want to be able to rehearse and perform in Naperville.


Why add more retail space to Naperville when there is already lots of empty stores, as well as many failing stores in the Fifth Avenue Station building?

It is Omnia's understanding that there are retailers waiting in line to come into Naperville, even in these economic times. Additionally, the new residents will provide new customers for any retail establishments, including those in the Fifth Avenue Station building.


Won't the Omnia Performing Arts Center take business from North Central College's new Wentz Concert Hall?

No. The Wentz Concert Hall stage is entirely different than the stages proposed for the Omnia Performing Arts Center. Wentz is a concert stage only, while the Omnia stages will handle larger productions that cannot utilize the Wentz.


We don't need any more concerts and such. We already have plenty available in Naperville.

That is somewhat true. But don't forget, the purpose is not so much for the shows as for a facility for use by the local community. Also, the shows that would be presented are ones that could not possibly play in Naperville due to lack of a proper venue.


This is just too big - too massive!

Well, 100 years from now there will be more buildings bigger and more massive than the Omnia Project. I'm sure when Beidelman's built their furniture store, it was way too massive and big at that point in time.


How will the Omnia Project be for the Neighbors?

First of all, Omnia sincerely wants to preserve the charm of our town. City staff also has that goal. We all know that area is going to be changed. How to please everyone is the question. First of all, we feel the blend of condos, town homes, and private homes is an acceptable mix.


Omnia feels the design of the condos is very attractive and pleasing to the eye, not just run-of-the-mill square, flat-faced boxes. Their design will be more appealing than looking at surface parking decks where you will see cars going in and out, with their noise and pollution. The Omnia Plan is a better alternative.


Safety for our children, walkers and bikers is a concern. We are not experts in this matter, but certainly city staff with neighborhood input will be able to work this out amicably.


Also remember that the neighbors for years have put up with the DuPage Asphalt trucks and the Public Works trucks lumbering noisily down 5th Ave. This has been an industrial region. For years they have looked out on a sea of asphalt and parked cars. Needless to say, the Omnia Project is an improvement and something they can be proud of for years to come.


Our plan is definitely bolder than any other plan. It is truly a look into the future of Naperville. We recall when there was much angst and debate on locating City Hall where it is, as opposed to placing it on the outskirts of town. We have learned to live with it in that location, right by our Riverwalk, and within walking distance of downtown - a perfect location.


Here is a link to something that is very pertinent to the 5th Ave. project.


Peter Calthorpe interview


The goal is to create density and buildings that the neighbors can accept. We are sensitive to their desires. Omnia feels the design of the condos is very attractive and pleasing to the eye, not just run-of-the-mill square, flat-faced boxes. Their design will be more appealing than looking at surface parking decks where you will see cars going in and out, with their noise and pollution. The Omnia Plan is a better alternative.


Safety for our children, walkers, and bicycles is a concern that will be addressed. We are not experts in this matter, but certainly city staff, with neighborhood input will be able to work this out amicably.


We have talked with different developers who are interested in the project. Some have done fabulous redevelopment in other towns. We have seen their moving pictures and they have created not only gorgeous but very professional results. We can have that here too.


We are aware that one developer is actively seeking to develop the Water Tower property. We have no problem with that. The only requirement we ask is that the city requre the development be high enough to generate the tax base needed to pay for the underground parking garage and the performing arts center.


Also, the YMCA is interested in selling their current property and perhaps move to the 5th Ave. area. The developer mentioned above has included them in his proposal for the Water Tower property. Omnia has also had conversations with the Y and have incorporated many drawings for them in the condos next to the performing arts center with the basketball courts, pools, offices, etc. Omnia has no preference where the Y would go. Whatever works out best for the Y is what we desire.


The buildings in the Omnia Project will all follow "green" design. The rooftops will be green.


The Omnia Project is a project FOR the citizens of Naperville. No one is here forever. Omnia feels leaving a legacy of attractive living units, underground parking, and the performing arts center will make one proud a hundred years from now. Vision! Vision! Vision!


It has been said, if you are doing something right, and stop, you will get run over. We feel Naperville has been doing something right. But we must not stop.