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:  http://noctrl.edu/x21131.xml 

To Support :  https://www.applyweb.com/public/contribute?nccgift

For large donor or corporate gifts, you can contact:

Barbara Knuckles
Managing Director of Development and Corporate Relations
bmknuckles@noctrl.edu
630-637-5210
or
John Holmberg
Capital Gifts Officer
jcholmberg@noctrl.edu
630-637-5218

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 http://www.andersonsbookshop.com/events.php.  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 http://www.andersonsbookshop.com .

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 (http://blogs.suburbanchicagonews.com/newsblog/2007/05/world_of_naperville.html). 

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:  http://blogs.suburbanchicagonews.com/newsblog/

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 worldofnaperville@yahoo.com

   

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.