New Naperville STEM school, townhomes proposed on 12.35-acre site

Education Design International rendering of proposed STEM school
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Two seemingly disparate development concepts — a new privately run STEM school and a 76-unit townhome development — have been pitched to Naperville decision-makers for a 12.35-acre site on land just outside the city limits.

A petitioner known as Vrutthi LLC has approached city officials with the package proposal for the Orion STEM School and Prosperita townhome development on land currently in unincorporated DuPage County on the southwest corner of Diehl Road and Mill Street. As part of the proposal, they are requesting the land be annexed into Naperville.

More than half of the site — 6.98 acres — would encompass the Prosperita project, under the proposal, with the balance of the land comprising the Orion school.

Orion would be a privately run STEM school

Selvei Rajkumar, who would head up the Orion STEM School, discussed her vision for the proposal during a recent presentation to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

Locally, Rajkumar has helped start up other education initiatives, launching preschools in 2002 in Naperville and Plainfield.

“As a child, my father taught me that education is the key to making a positive impact on the world,” Rajkumar said of her education philosophy.

The new Orion STEM School, she said, would have a targeted mission around the concepts of entrepreneurialism. The school would have a capacity of up to 360 kindergarten through eighth grade students and employ about 40 teachers, faculty and administrators.

“Our students will learn to empathize with real world problems, innovate ideas, take action, create prototypes and bring products to the market,” Rajkumar said.

Townhouse proposal would be three stories

Under the proposal, The Prosperita would encompass 17 buildings, with three stories. Each of the individual 76 units would have an outward facing entrance, based on the information submitted to city officials.

While they are separate projects, development representative Russell Whitaker said there is some linkage as well, including design elements. Whitaker is serving as the legal counsel for Vrutthi LLC.

“This is an integrated plan,” Whitaker said. “This is a thoughtful, cohesive development.”

Support for a new STEM school offering

The Orion STEM School proposal comes a year after the end of the John C. Dunham STEM School on the Aurora University campus. That particular school was a shared partnership between four local school districts, including Indian Prairie School District 204, before it was shut down.

Ronda Grigalunas, a Naperville resident with a 40-year career in education, is among the supporters of the new Orion school.

“I am extremely excited for the unique opportunity that this school presents for the children and families within our already world-class community,” Grigalunas said in testimony she provided to the Planning and Zoning Commission at its most recent meeting.

Some traffic concerns

During public testimony, commissioners did hear several traffic-related concerns from some residents. A number of people also submitted written comments to city officials.

For its part, Krutthi LLC did commission a traffic study, which has been submitted to city officials.

Bob and Linda Koss said they are concerned with the impacted projections the pair of developments will have on daily traffic volume, particularly at the intersection of West Street and Diehl Road.

“Left turns at this unsignalized intersection are already difficult due to high speed, high traffic volumes on Diehl,” the Kosses wrote in their testimony. “Even with staggered (school) starting times, many residents are concerned about the safety and level of service at this intersection.”

Favorable recommendation

Ultimately, commissioners gave the Orion and Prosperita proposals a favorable recommendation. City council will take the development petition up at an upcoming meeting.

Rendering image: Education Design International

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