Old Nichols Library Officially Recommended for Landmark Status

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In a five-to-one vote, the Historic Preservation Commission officially recommended that old Nichols Library become a landmark.

The application for landmark status came from residents of the Save Old Nichols Library group, after the current owner of the building, Avram Builders, released plans for a four story mixed-use building called Nichols Place.

“If the restrictive covenants were not going to be followed, it was decided that landmark status might be necessary to ensure preservation,” said Charlie Wilkins, who filed the petition requesting landmark status for old Nichols Library.

The covenants placed on the building mandate that the front fascia be maintained – and it is worked into the developer’s plans. But opponents say that disassembling it and reassembling it doesn’t follow the spirit of the requirement.

The developer argued that the spirit and history of the old library lives on in the new one.

“This building itself not the Nichols Library history, the history is the Nichols Library system that has been recreated through a brand new facility that is fabulous just a block away from here,” said Dwight Avram, owner of old Nichols Library.

The developer also said that landmarking the building would ruin the economic feasibility of the property – stating that it would cost over $2 million to restore the building – which suffers from environmental issues like leaks, asbestos, lead paint, and mold. This had a few residents concerned that granting landmark status could actually have a negative impact.

“What I really fear is if you take this action and if city council agrees with you is that the library will sit in its present and worsening state for a long period of time,” said Naperville resident Jim Hill.

But members of the Save Old Nichols group said that a new use could be found for the old building as is, like has been done in other places in Naperville.

“The old city hall on Jefferson, now repurposed as a wonderful restaurant that has brought delight and added quality to our dining opportunities,” said Naperville resident Mary Lou Werhli.

And another recurring comment was the idea that it’s both the new developments and old buildings that give Naperville its unique feel.

“I moved to Naperville with my husband 20 years ago,” said Kamala Martinez, who represents the Planning and Zoning Commission for the Historic Preservation Commission. “And one of the things that drew us here was the eclectic combination of old and new.”

The recommendation now goes to City Council, which will make the final decision.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.