Naperville candidates address south side
Filling vacancies to improve the Naperville Crossings shopping area at 95th Street and Route 59 is a leading concern for south Naperville, many city council candidates say.
But some of the 20 people running for eight council seats April 7 also say traffic, concerns with street racing and the need for a place to bring the city together also are important to residents in the southernmost stretches of Naperville, which extends past 111th Street.
Here are the candidates' thoughts on how to address south Naperville issues.
Kevin Coyne said more economic development would mean residents of south Naperville might not have to travel as much to downtown Naperville.
"I'd like to see it built out totally with commercial and retail development," Coyne said. "The residents themselves have a little bit of a disadvantage when it comes to enjoying amenities because it can be difficult to make that travel to the downtown."
For Naperville Crossings and other south Naperville strip malls with vacancies, Becky Anderson said local businesses could be the answer.
"We need to work with the NDP (Naperville Development Partnership) and get other businesses and more independent, locally owned businesses," Anderson said. "The benefit will be so much greater than any corporate business."
Dick Furstenau said promoting the city's income base could help recruit more businesses.
"95th Street needs to be repopulated with businesses with the help of the NDP and working with the Realtors," Furstenau said. "Naperville is a wonderful place to start a business -- everyone wants to come here because of the ability of the people who live in town to pay for things."
Regarding 95th Street and Route 59, Paul Hinterlong said the city should stick with original plans for Naperville Crossings as much as possible. Plans developed in the early 2000s called for a pedestrian-friendly "second downtown."
"We've been pretty strict on what we want to see there," Hinterlong said, referring to fellow city council members who denied a senior living facility last year because they said it didn't match the vision. "A lot of promises were made when we produced that plan, and we're trying to stick to our guns even though we hit a lull in the economy."
David Wentz said the city is putting "a considerable amount of effort" into filling vacancies at Naperville Crossings, but more could be done. Last year, the AMC movie theater that anchors the development pulled its request for a liquor license because of residents' concerns, but Wentz said he thought a compromise could have been reached.
"I think we need better planning and continued focus on that area," Wentz said.
With a big draw like the movie theater, Judith Brodhead said, development efforts for Naperville Crossings should focus on attracting "uses that would be complementary to a movie theater."
"I support continuing to find commercial and retail uses for that property," Brodhead said.
Simply put, south Naperville needs a gathering place, Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said. Working with the park district or forest preserve district could help create one.
"What's missing for them, I think, is the sense of a place to go and hang out," Boyd-Obarski said.
Improving shopping and gathering options at Naperville Crossings and nearby will help prevent south-side residents, such as Bill Eagan, from shopping in Bolingbrook, Aurora or Plainfield instead.
"How can we get people to try and make a conscious decision to shop within our boundaries?" Eagan said. "We need to advertise that, hey, those sales are important to our city and to reinvest back into us."
One major infrastructure project -- widening Route 59 between Ferry Road and Aurora Avenue/New York Street -- could help fill the vacancies that south-side residents such as Robert Hajek see every day, he said.
"There's a lot of great stuff that they're already addressing," Hajek said about city government. "Naperville is killing it by widening 59. That's a huge piece for us and something that I think is welcomed."
Tom O'Hale said he would fill vacancies by creating an incubation program in which entrepreneurs present ideas to fill storefronts and get support from retired executives.
"Sometimes people start businesses without really devising a specific business plan that should be reviewed by others and then commented on," O'Hale said, but that's where an incubator could help.
Kevin Gallaher said revamping the zoning code so companies can more easily run ideas past council members would attract new businesses. Naperville Crossings shows the need for change because good ideas in 2015 might not fit the plan from the early 2000s.
"I view the zoning process there as exhibit A of why we need to go back in and rework the zoning codes so that we can get the type of commercial amenities that they (residents) were promised," Gallaher said.
John Krummen said his focus would be on leveraging his engineering background to recruit tech firms.
"The same policies I would apply to bringing technical companies, innovation-based technical companies, to the north side of Naperville, I would apply to the south side of Naperville," Krummen said.
Steve Peterson and Patty Gustin said Naperville Crossings already has plenty of destinations -- the movie theater, Houlihan's, Biaggi's and places to get dessert, gifts, jewelry and clothes.
"There's a lot going on down there. Could it be better? Oh, no doubt," Peterson said, but he added that efforts to improve one shopping area need to be balanced with economic development concerns throughout the city.
Gustin said a new apartment complex at Naperville Crossings is bringing residents who will be customers of existing and future shops.
"It really seems like that is really taking off and starting to blossom," Gustin said. "And it's supporting our south Naperville residents without them having to commute all the way to downtown."
Candidates with ideas to improve south Naperville outside of commercial development at 95th Street and Route 59 include Joseph McElroy, who said Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve -- the 1,829-acre open space that some say forms a natural divide between the north and south sides of the city -- should be re-imagined.
"One way to do that might be to try to help make Springbrook something that unifies people instead of separating," McElroy said, suggesting a collaboration with the DuPage Forest Preserve District or other community groups to host environmentally friendly events among the tall grasses.
Nancy Marinello said she's heard of a different environmental concern in south Naperville -- pollution from nearby industrial uses -- and she's also concerned about street racing on the new 95th Street bridge that connects to Kings Road then Boughton Road in Bolingbrook.
"The south side has a couple major issues," Marinello said. "The 95th Street bridge turned into a racecourse."
Traffic concerns are among the topics Wayne Floegel said he has heard about in south Naperville, and he said he would use social media to reach out as other issues arise.
One unique element about the south side of the city, Stephen Purduski said, is the high concentration of houses, some relatively far from grocery stores and places that make people feel connected.
"We certainly need to create a cohesive city," Purduski said.
But when south Naperville residents do want to come downtown, John Colletti said, the city needs to ensure good access, even during upcoming construction on the Water Street District.
"The Washington Street bridge when we have to reconstruct that just south of Chicago Avenue might become a problem for them," Colletti said. "I'm hoping we make sure we do appropriate planning on the front end to make access to the downtown area for people to the south easy."
Candidate Jim Bergeron has suspended his campaign pending review of a regulation that would prevent him from renewing his liquor licenses if he is elected.