Monthly Archives: May 2007

New North Central Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center a Huge Opportunity for Naperville

For the past four years, the one element of Naperville which has puzzled me is the notable lack of a defining and galvanizing community-based center devoted towards innovative arts programs and performance.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of community performance groups, venues, visual arts organizations, festivals, college arts programs, exceptional high school music programs, dance programs and sources for arts instruction; however, there didn’t seem to be a consistent center-point or crossroads to bring it all together.  One of my first postings to the World of Naperville over a year ago dealt with this issue and rather than repeat everything I said here in this posting, I have linked the original posting below:

ORIGIN of my Naperville ArtsVision 

As you can imagine, I have followed the news and construction of the new North Central College Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center with immense interest.  Even more, I am  excited by the fact the facility will be largely available and accessible to our community in addition to use by the college. 

Here is our opportunity… our galvanizing moment to build something innovative and exciting in giving Naperville a true centerpiece for world class arts.  The new facility could not only bring the creative energies of our community arts groups into a centralized space but also foster new and innovative fusion arts programs to strengthen the artistic soul and appeal of our community. 

Additionally, there is plenty of research and statistics which prove the tangible and intangible economic impact of the arts.  Given the existing appeal of Downtown Naperville, the experience of either visiting or residing in Naperville can be greatly enhanced if we can come together as a community and truly create something special.

Though North Central has raised quite a bit of money as construction continues, there is still a need for money to support the new Concert Hall and Fine Arts Center.  If you are interested in donating or simply learning more about the facility, visit the links below:

Fine Arts Center Home: 

To Support :

For large donor or corporate gifts, you can contact:

Barbara Knuckles
Managing Director of Development and Corporate Relations
John Holmberg
Capital Gifts Officer

Remember, money will build this facility, but it is the energy and creative talent of our community that can provide the heart and soul.  Let’s work together to build upon the strong foundation which has already been built to take Naperville to the next level in becoming a world class arts community.

A Rainy Day at Anderson’s Bookshop in Downtown Naperville Provides Unique Ray of Hope

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons you make lemonade.  Likewise, when life gives you rain on the first day of a long holiday weekend, you head to Anderson’s Bookshop in Downtown Naperville. 

As was the case for most Napervillians today, visions of spending a warm and sunny day outdoors with the children turned to cabin spring fever as rain consumed the day.  Being the quick-thinking parent I am in having my 3 year-old all to myself today, our plans were quickly modified to include a trip into Anderson’s for some new children’s books.    

In addition to having one of the best public library systems in the country, one of 101 reasons I’m proud to live in Naperville is the fact we have a thriving independent bookstore in our community which has carved out a strong niche amongst the modern-world of big box coffee cafe bookstores.

Anderson’s Bookshop has been around long enough to see the many changes and transformations Downtown Naperville has gone through over the past 25 years.  Anderson’s is an intimate setting for book lovers of all ages with a strong sense of community TLC.  Whether it be the multitude of staff picks/reviews, the presence of local books/authors, the substantial children’s section, the Thomas the Tank Engine play area, interesting life-like stuffed animals sitting around or the top notch service you receive from experienced staff who are clearly passionate about books, Anderson’s is in a league of their own amidst modern chain bookstores. 

Visits by high profile authors for book signings are quite common at Anderson’s and you can find a list of upcoming events at  Even more, autographed copies of books always seem to be easy to find.  One thing you won’t find at Anderson’s, thankfully, is a coffee cafe; however, never fear as there is a Starbucks just a few doors down on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street.

Each day, our world continues to become more and more homogenized with an array of predictable options and usual suspects when it comes to business-to-consumer commerce.  I recall a college sociology class in which part of the required reading list was a book entitled, “The McDonalidization of America”, which uses the McDonalds model of consistency and predictability to address the growing homogenization of society.  That was years ago and if it was to be re-written today it would likely be entitled, “The Starbucksization of America”. 

To provide additional illustration, the most extreme recent example I experienced was during a trip to see a Broadway show in NYC back in April.  On the way to the show, we encountered the theatre district’s newest restaurant nestled amongst the historic old theaters… Applebees Neighborhood Bar & Grill.  At the time, I couldn’t make up my mind as to what was more sad… the fact that there was an Applebees in the heart of the theater district or the fact the theater district Applebees gets swarmed with enough business to survive amidst Times Square real estate premiums.  Of course, having worked for a short period of time in a very different Times Square over 15 years ago, it is the infusion of corporate America which gave Times Square it’s re-birth.  I do not have a vendetta against Starbucks or Applebees.  As a matter of fact, we find ourselves as periodic patrons of both businesses here in Naperville; however, it’s the potential extinction of independent small businesses that I worry about.  While I think it’s good to have a solid balance between well-known chain businesses and independent small business, I worry about what might happen to Naperville if Downtown becomes nothing but the same predictable collection of chains which can be found in Woodfield, Skokie or even Downtown Chicago for that matter.  Naperville is a treasured niche thriving in an increasingly homogenized world, but we could very well lose it all if we do not support small independent businesses at the same time we are frequenting the chain businesses.  

Added pressure continues to mount as numerous Chicago suburbs strive to reposition their dying downtowns through their own brand of urban re-development renaissance.  These days, it seems as though everyone is trying to replicate the type of experience Naperville has made famous.  As time goes on, Naperville will see more competition from neighboring suburbs for the charming “Main Street” downtown community experience.  This is why we must continue to support our unique “destination” independent small businesses while at the same time enjoying the familiarity of corporate chains. 

Anderson’s Bookshop is located at 123 West Jefferson Avenue.  Their website can be found at .

To my son, I hope he continues to enjoy the three books we purchased today.  To the staff of Anderson’s, I apologize again for the small counter display my son knocked over during checkout… keep up the great work and be encouraged by the mark you continue to make on our community.      


Route 59 Traffic is a Big Naperville Deterrent and Top 5 Ways to “Improve” Traffic Flow

Having listened to the recent surge in debate over Route 59 traffic, I feel compelled to share my own story about a visit to Naperville over seven years ago.  At the time, I was conducting a preliminary suburban house search and came down into Naperville via Route 59 from a visit to St. Charles.  I can recall as I sat in the traffic snarl starting at I-88 moving South that I would never want to live near this mess.  Well, the irony is clear as I was wooed by the overall charm of Naperville and presently do not live that far from Route 59 (use Fort Hill Drive extensively); however, from an economic and residential standpoint the Route 59 traffic not only continues to be a major deterrent for the area but also continues to grow out of control as widespread development occurs between I-88 all the way down into Plainfield.

What’s the impact?  one thing I’ve noticed over the last year is the closure of a number of restaurants and businesses along the Naperville stretch of Route 59, quite possibly because nobody wants to go near the stretch of road if they don’t have to.  Clearly, the situation will only continue to grow worse if nothing is done to alleviate the congestion.

With that said, I’d like to curb the frustration for those of you who may be forced to experience Route 59 on a daily basis by presenting a light-hearted top 5 list of ways to fix Route 59 Traffic:

5)  Develop a network of colorful overhead gondolas to transport people up-and-down Route 59.

4)  Construct an attractive and flowing network of waterways on each side of Route 59 to create “Route59walk” where people can stroll alongside Route 59’s meandering waters in lieu of driving.

3)  Two words for our Boston area natives living in Naperville… “Big Dig”

2)  Kidnap the chief architect of the star line project and send in a double-agent impostor to quietly redraw the lines to run along Route 59 with a number of extra stops.

1)  Rally behind passage of Governor Blagojevich’s gross receipts tax proposal…. as Route 59 merchants are forced out-of-business there would be fewer reasons for people to travel down Route 59.

Old-Fashioned Service and Expertise Shines at Gotskinds Children’s Shoes in Downtown Naperville

Kids these days cherish cheap character themed shoes which flash an array of colors with every step, stomp and kick.  While the Federal Aviation Administration has yet to shut down the production of these shoes for fear they may confuse planes on approach to O’Hare or Midway at night, the reality is these types of shoes often sacrifice proper footwear design for novelty.  As parents, my wife and I always thought the chief difference between service-driven children’s shoe stores and mega value shoe store X was brand labels and price.  However, our opinion recently changed as our youngest son developed a strange form as he ran, throwing his right foot out to side in a skipping-like stride.  At first our concern was some sort of orthopedic issue, but our first stop was to drop into a true children’s shoe store to get a consult from someone who actually knew what they were talking about.

We were spending the afternoon in Downtown Naperville and decided to drop by Gotskinds Children’s Shoes and Apparel on Jefferson Avenue next to Andersons Books.  Almost immediately we were approached by a store associate and were not forced to hunt to see if anyone actually worked there as we have time and time again at mega value shoe store X.  We explained the issue and instead of encountering a wall of super hero characters anxiously awaiting to flash their beacons of light in the night, the associate carefully measured the size and contour of my little guy’s feet and headed into the back to pick an array of lighter shoe types to try on.  No novelty shoes here, these were good shoes for developing little feet.  Not only did the associate explain the design of each shoe and what should be considered in terms of foot development but Pat, the store manager, also came over to evaluate my son’s stride based on years of expertise and helped us pick the right shoe.  We ended up with a pair of New Balance which were not only light and comfortable but also extremely easy to get on and off (parents, you know what I’m talking about).  Best of all, while the price was a bit more expensive than mega value shoe store X, the combination of shoe quality and the incredible service we received was worth the extra dollars.  At the end of the day, do you really want to cut corners when it comes to your children’s ability to walk correctly?  We learned our lesson.  

Over the past two weeks, I’m pleased to report my son’s stride issue has almost copmletely resolved itself and a recent trip to our pediatrician confirmed that there was no abnormality from a growth/development standpoint.   Clearly, it was the cheap shoes that mega brand shoe store X was more than happy to sell us without any consideration for the type of shoe my son actually needed.

As for Gotskinds, I was overwhelmed by the experience, service and care we received and am reminded of why we must be sure that small businesses with these levels of expertise do not become extinct in Naperville.  My thanks to Pat and the associate who helped us that day.  We will definitely be back.  One constructive suggestion though, when you recommend a pair of children’s sandals as being the “Mercedes-Benz” of sandals you might want to go ahead and share the price prior to getting to the cash register.  Nonetheless, the overall service and piece-of-mind is worth the small premium you might pay at Gotskinds.  Just remember, your children need those flippers for a lifetime of walking, running and stomping.  

Gotskinds Children’s Shoes and Apparel is located at 115 West Jefferson Avenue in Downtown Naperville.     

A Special Welcome to Readers of the Naperville Sun Potluck BLOG

First of all, I want to thank the Naperville Sun and Ted Slowik for mentioning the World of Naperville at their own Potluck BLOG yesterday ( 

I monitor the Naperville Sun Potluck BLOG and think it’s a great way for all Napervillians to participate in community discussion.  Even more, I’ve been loyal reader of the Naperville Sun since arriving here four years ago and it is the best local daily newspaper I have ever seen.  As a passionate and loyal resident of Naperville I simply couldn’t imagine how I would keep up with the multitude of developments within our community without the Sun.  Just another reason Naperville is a great place to live.    

For those who are unfamiliar with the Sun’s new Potluck BLOG, you can access it by clicking on the following link:

For those who have discovered World of Naperville via the Potluck link, I welcome you to look around at the array of postings which include thoughts, observations, ideas and reviews pertaining to our wonderful community.  Even more, I encourage you to leave your own comments based upon your own Naperville experiences.  As you will quickly see, in my mind Naperville is all about the “experience”.

If you simply want to drop me a line, you can do so at


Naper Main LLC gets Green Light on the New Downtown Naperville Development Project

Based on recent action in the City Council Chambers, I am very excited to hear that a new mixed residential/commercial use project is in the works for the area around Main St. and Van Buren.  The developer will be Naper Main LLC.  In terms of adding to the downtown “experience”, mixed-use, in my estimation, is the way to go in creating added vibrancy and a more city/urban feel.

At the same time, as we’ve recently learned in Naperville, new development can either enhance or detract from the downtown experience.  Further, a thorough marketplace analysis is truly a must when introducing any new business or development to the thriving downtown area.  To succeed, all businesses must know their audiences and be able to separate emotion from logic when determining the marketplace viability of their idea or concept. 

As for aesthetics, I am always in hopes that new downtown development will encompass a complimentary form of unique character to add to an already unique downtown architectural mix. 

With that said, I wish Naper Main LLC the very best as they embark upon the next phase of Downtown Naperville development.     

Blagojevich Shooting Arrows at the Heart of Naperville Economy, Residents and Visitors Alike with Gross Receipts Tax Plan

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is planning to play hardball unless his gross receipts tax plan passes to help fund universal health-care in Illinois.  While universal health-care is a noble endeavor, our Governor is clearly shooting arrows at the wrong targets in order to achieve his ultimate goal.

Much has been written about this increasingly unpopular crusade by the governor, which has resulted most recently in an overwhelming rejection by legislators on both sides of the partisan aisle.  What I would like to accomplish through his posting is to help everyone understanding what this tax would mean to Naperville as well as finding a way help regular Napervillians understand the impact of such a tax by applying the same principle to their own individual income.

First, Naperville enjoys a thriving economy which provides a balance of both charm and entreprenurial spirit alongside corporate economic development investment.  Though Naperville is an attractive location for corporate and business relocation, the truth is in economic development you can have the best place in the world to locate business and generate prosperity, but if the price of doing business becomes too high, we all lose. 

The governor’s plan does not just stop at business-to-consumer, but also reaches the gross revenue of business-to-business and service providers ranging from accountants to potentially daycare operators.  All businesss and enterprises are not created equal and survival is often weighed on the overhead cost of doing business. 

This proposed tax does not discriminate between those with high overhead expenses/narrower profit margins and those with lower overhead expenses/higher profit margins.  When you consider gross receipts, the $2 million threshold suddenly does not seem that high considering the often considerable cost of doing business.

Who ultimately pays?  We all do.  Whether it be higher prices as the extra tax is passed along to the consumer or the loss of vital business tax revenue in Naperville due to business closure/relocation or missed future economic development opportunities.  At the end of the day, the entire Naperville community as well as all communities benefit greatly from a healthy business environment. 

Now on to a simple comparison which can help us all better understand the sting of such a tax.  If you were to apply the gross receipts principle to indivdual income, then you would face an additional 0.85 – 1.95% tax levied atop your gross income regardless of tax deductions or personal/family overhead expenses such as childcare and home improvements.  This might provide a clearer picture of what all the debate is about.

While I support the principle of universal health-care, I believe the governor, state legislature and business leaders need to head back to the table to determine a more appropriate funding mechanism.  At the end of the day, we all have a responsibility to make a direct contribution at some reasonable level to a universal healthcare program. 

Please feel free to provide your own comments.  



Naperville’s Dandelion Fountain Returns to the Riverwalk

If you haven’t already noticed, yet another sign of Spring has sprung in Naperville as the Dandelion Fountain has been re-installed along the Riverwalk at the corner of Jackson and Webster. 

To me, this fountain is a Naperville icon which symbolizes “community”.  The circular symmetry between the fountain and the fountain’s setting provides an area where people of all ages and from all walks of life can pause to relax and socialize.  In my mind, the symmetry is perhaps a reflection of our own world which bonds us all together utilizing the energy source of water as the focal point.  To my kids, it’s a great place to conduct water splashing experiments.

Regardless of your own perspective, there is certainly a sensory experience elicited by the Dandelion Fountain which reinforces Naperville’s strong commitment to community.


Photo by Stuart Meyer.

To learn more about the Riverwalk, visit   

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano a Hit… and a Miss in South Naperville

During a visit to New York City a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to experience a tiny restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen called Nook.  The name “Nook” was quite appropriate given the fact the space consisted of no more than seven tables and a tiny aisle which leads you form the front door back into the tiny kitchen in about 20 steps making use of every square inch of its NYC real estate market premium.  One lone crazed guy served as host, waiter, bus boy and occasionally chief refresher of table water.  Despite it’s size and frantic solo jack-of-all-trades superhuman waiter, the array of items we ordered from the menu were extraordinarily delicious and clearly made with a great deal of love.  The menu, itself, contained a small yet tactical variety of offerings.  Translation… instead of offering a monster menu, Nook’s philosophy is to master a small number of unbelievably delicous items rather than attempt to offer a larger number of inconsistent dishes. 

Having eaten in all types of restaurants throughout the many great food cities of this country and in some parts of Europe, one thing that always scares me about a restaurant is an ambitiously varied menu with a huge multitude of options.  I’ve found that truly great restaurants tend to focus with great obsession over a smaller menu versuses offering a surplus of options.  The moral is the fact it is truly difficult to master a wide array of menu items with a high degree of consistency in quality and flavor. 

With that said, one of the newest additions to the fast-growing South Naperville restaurant scene is Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano located at Rt. 59 and 95th Street in the partially finished Naperville Crossings retail/entertainment complex.  Having talked for weeks about trying Biaggi’s, my wife and I dined there for the first time tonight.   

Biaggi’s Naperville is one of around 20 other Biaggi locations throughout the country.  My impression is they have created a high-end restaurant feel yet moderately-priced dining experience which doesn’t immediately feel like a chain.  Their most expensive menu item is only $20.99.

I would like to start with a number of positives that I really liked about Biaggi’s.  In addition to moderate prices, the restaurant space is absolutely beautiful with plenty of dark wood in the walls and large light fixtures and ceiling features complimenting an open kitchen which is reminiscent of a higher-end, higher-priced establishment.  The bar area is ample and as inviting as a classic downtown Chicago restaurant bar.  Large wooden booth spaces provides intimacy and solitude in the towering open main dining space. 

The service was gracious and friendly despite some lingering signs of new restaurant opening jitters.  Despite it’s high-end feel, Biaggi’s surprisingly is a family friendly destination complete with the standard issue crayons, coloring paper and kids menu.  This will be good news to all parents of young families who long for something more than redundant casual dining chicken finger-induced hell when it comes to taking the family out for a nice meal.  Biaggi’s seems to have figured out that families can get in an out early in the evening before the dinner crowd crush arrives, thus avoiding the timeless clash between stressed parents and empty-nesters who seem to have forgotten the fact that they, too, were once stressed out parents fearing that embarrassing projectiles might be unexpectedly launched by their own pint-sized researchers who insist on constantly testing the laws of gravity.

Next we turn to the menu, which draws upon the introduction to this review for context.  Biaggi’s presents a tempting yet slightly ambitious menu of offerings which strives to provide at least a couple of options for each and every taste preference (I counted 82 menu items in total).  Upon a first glance, I knew Biaggi’s had it’s work cut out as I pondered my choices.   

One glimpse of their amazing wood-fired brick oven guaranteed our appetizer choice, which was the handmade thin crust Chicken Piccante pizza.  This was our first introduction to what will most likely prove to be a love/hate theme for Biaggi’s menu lineup, which is… spicy.  The pizza consisted of spicy grilled chicken with tiny cubes of smoked bacon, leeks and a generous layer of four cheeses included one of our family favorites, goat cheese.  Despite it’s ultra thin base, the crust was quite flavorful with a nice yeast fermentation presence.  The cheeses where of high quality and the spicy grilled chicken provide an interesting balance to the competing flavors.  Overall, we loved the pizza.

My wife opted for the “small” house salad which turned out to be enough for an entire meal.  Fresh mixed greens accented by carrots and roasted red peppers joined together by a rich and appropriately tangy herb-garlic balsamic dressing.  We both concluded the salad was also a hit.  However, the bread basket, which excited us when our waitress mentioned it included three different types of bread, turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment.  The selection included an oily breadstick-like onion bread, small slices of somewhat stale italian baquette-like bread and what appeared to be a seed rye bread. 

For entrees, after seeking counsel from the waitress, who unfortunately weighed her recommendation heavily on menu best-sellers rather then her own first-hand experience, I selected the Fettuccine with Lobster. Given the fact the dish was $14.99 I should have been a little more skeptical about it’s inclusion of “lobster” in the dish title.  Nonetheless, I was intrigued by the thought of black fettuccine tossed with lobster and wild mushroom in a white wine and scallion cream sauce.  The end product embodies the “hit and miss” reference in the title of this posting.  First of, the black fettuccine pasta seemed to be homemade and was quite delicious.  The sparce wild mushrooms, which I believe were baby portabello wedges and possibly oyster mushrooms, were also tasty.  I found the white wine and scallion cream sauce to be rather thin, watery and overly infused with the flavor of the slightly less-than-fresh taste of the lobster claw meat.  The portion of lobster claw meat itself was generous, but was somewhat rubbery and carried the taste of a crustacean which endured a long journey to the table.  In all fairness, lobster claw meat is cheaper and can often find itself tasting a bit fishy.  The damage to the dish was the fact the cream sauce had been overly influenced by the dicey claw meat flavor.

My wife opted for one of the evening’s specials which was a basic rigatoni in a fresh tomato and basil sauce.  Again the pasta was good but the sauce seemed unnaturally sweet as if extra sweeteners had been added.  As an accompaniment, we shared a side order of meatballs.  Though the meatballs themselves were average, the red sauce was rich and delicious. 

To cap off the dinner, we had Sue’s Chocolate Chip Banana Paradiso, which is a chocolate chip banana cake served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  While I personally believe that tar-like Hershey’s chocolate syrup is perhaps the greatest insult to all that is chocoloate, I was comforted to see this dessert did not come topped with the same Hersheys-tasting chocolate syrup that was on my son’s kids sundae.  The cake was moist with the character of banana bread, yet with a strong chocolate influence.  While it didn’t seem as rich as we thought it might taste, it was pretty good.

Though we did not order a bottle of wine, the wine list carries a strong Italian-focused influence heavy on the reds with Prosecco and other ultra-sweet Italian sparkline wines.

Overall, I think Biaggi’s shows signs of greatness and has terrific potential; however, the occasional “hit and miss” incompleteness leaves me concerned about other dishes on the menu as well as whether or not they might be banking on volume of selection over solid quality.  Nonetheless, we will definitely go back for the pizza and perhaps simpler pasta dishes not to mention the high-end feel yet moderately priced family friendly atmosphere.  I would conclude by saying Baiggi’s should do well in South Naperville as an anchor to the Naperville Crossings development.    

I invite others to share their own comments on Biaggi’s below.                   


My Favorite Place to Relax Along the Riverwalk in Downtown Naperville

As the warm weather moved through Naperville this past weekend, it may come as no surprise to anyone that I headed down to the Riverwalk with the family for a long stroll culminating in a regular visit to the wonderful and relatively new playground just west of the Centennial Beach parking lot.

As we walked, visions raced into my mind of the rare opportunities I get to come down to the Riverwalk for a little solo soltitude all to myself.  For those of you with multiple young children, you know what I’m talking about.  

Along the five mile stretch of the Riverwalk, there are many quiet places to sit, reflect, read or perhaps even doze off for a few minutes with the tranquil rushing waters of the DuPage River serving as a relaxing background.  While you can’t go wrong with any of the peaceful nooks or well-placed benches, my personal favorite is sometimes missed by those who may not frequent the Riverwalk as it is slightly of the beaten path. 

Just as you come across the covered bridge which leads to the paddle-boat quarry and Rotary Hill, turn to your immediate left after walking off the bridge and there is a set of stairs which leads down to an isolated landing which includes a couple of secluded benches close to the water.  The location is ideal as it gives you a terrific view of the covered bridge traversing over the River as well as a small island in the center of the river which serves as a soothingly audible break-point for the rushing waters.  To your right, you can see the bend of the river heading in towards Downtown.  This is one of the few nooks along the Riverwalk which is not connected to riverside path which runs on both sides along the water.  As a result, there is no foot traffic passing by, just the occaisional curiosity seekers who make their way down the steps for a quick inspection before continuing with their exploration of the Riverwalk.   

I can sit there and read or write for hours.  One thing that always strikes my curiosity is a tree stump which appears to have been turned into somewhat of a seat out on the patch of land in the middle of the river.  I’m not sure whether the tree stump seat is natural or man-made, but I’ve often wondered if anyone ever wades across the water to sit for a spell.  Perhaps we might construct a fascinating legend for the old stump. 

Next time you are walking along the Riverwalk, drop by this landing and see how all of life’s worries can disappear for a short period of time.     


(A photo of my favorite Riverwalk relaxation point from the other side of the River)

I welcome you to submit a comment below describing your favorite place to relax along the Riverwalk.