A proposal to extend Naperville's Riverwalk will be headed to elected officials for a vote in the coming months.
After conducting a study and gathering public input, the Riverwalk Commission recommends moving forward with lengthening the path from Hillside Road to Martin Avenue.
Chairman Jeff Havel said Wednesday the proposal would link Edward Hospital and Knoch Park to the downtown via the Riverwalk.
"It's an opportunity as that property (at the end of the Riverwalk) redevelops to reconnect other parts of the city to the Riverwalk," he said. "It's kind of a natural evolution."
Residents had a chance to view sketches of the proposed extension during an open house in January at which time attendees in favor said they thought it would enhance the Riverwalk while some questioned whether there would really be a benefit.
Officials said the majority of feedback they received supported the proposal and the commission is backing it as well.
Preliminary sketches of the plan created by landscape architect Gary Weber show features like rain gardens, a pedestrian bridge, seating areas and informational signs.
"I think we're looking at taking an approach where we preserve vegetation, give it more of a natural look, keep that buffer for the residents and … create kind of a gateway for coming in from the south," Weber said.
The buffer for nearby residents, he said, would consist of both new and existing trees. Costs for the Riverwalk extension are still being worked out.
The commission considered allowing bicycles on the Riverwalk extension, but ultimately decided to recommend against doing so. Bill Novack, director of the city's Transportation, Engineering and Development Business Group, said allowing them could cause confusion since they are not allowed on the rest of the Riverwalk. However, there is a sidewalk along Washington bicyclists can use.
The idea for an extension came up last summer when McDonald's was looking to open a restaurant at the southeast corner of Hillside Road and Washington Street near the Riverwalk's current terminus. That plan fell through and the site is still occupied by a Citgo gas station. It is the only piece of land along the proposed extension the city does not currently own.
Novack said the city received a proposal several months ago for a Dunkin' Donuts and Subway at that location, but he has not heard from representatives of the project since that time.
The extension proposal will now go before Naperville Park District commissioners who could vote on it in August followed by the City Council.
Although not part of the proposed extension, another nearby property along the Riverwalk also has been targeted for change. North Central College has purchased a vacant building at Washington Street and Aurora Avenue and with city funding, demolished the structure long considered an eyesore in January. The college plans to turn the property into a park, but spokesman Ted Slowik said a design and a timeline have not yet been determined.