Comment from Councilman Bob Fieseler Requests Feedback from World of Naperville Readers
Last week, I wrote a post which alluded to my disappointment in learning our beautiful new European-inspired Naper Main project may include yet another predictable national chain steakhouse and a couple of already abundant national chain retailers at the same time small unique niche businesses face the threat of skyrocketing commercial rent and possible closure in downtown Naperville.
Given the interests of commercial property owners and developers in their desire to capitalize upon their investment, is there a way our community can rally together to help influence and shape the balance, mix and types of new businesses and organizations which which will inhabit both new commercial development and existing commercial space in downtown Naperville? Do we risk joining the legions of suburban Chicago lifestyle shopping malls such as Oak Brook Centre, Streets of Woodfield or Old Orchard? How do we preserve and expand the unique Naperville experience amidst the growing imbalance between national chains and unique local small business?
In response to this posting, I was pleased to find a comment offered by Naperville Councilman Bob Fieseler which invites feedback from Naperville residents regarding these issues. Rather than relegate such an important dialogue to a sub-chain of comments, I decided to elevate Councilman Fieseler’s comment to a feature posting in which I strongly encourage each of you to provide your own thoughts by posting your own comment. In addition, you also forward a link to www.naperville.wordpress.com or the direct link to this posting (copy/paste the top headline) to others who you know are interested in this issue.
Below you will find the complete comment and request from Councilman Fieseler:
“Regarding the desire for a balance among restaurant types (Bistros v. Steakhouses v. Juice Bars, etc.), and even between restaurants and service/retail establishments, I’d like to hear from others as to whether city government should have a role in effecting such a balance, such as via ordinance or via the approval process for individual development proposals?? For example, should the City Council’s recent approval of the Naper Main project at Main & Van Buren have included some sort of provision on the type of commercial entities permitted in that space, especially at street level?? Thx for your feedback. ~Bob Fieseler (Naperville City Councilman)”
First, I want to extend my deepest thanks to Councilman Fieseler for his comment. I think he raises an extremely interesting question and possible solution for a concern I’m certain has weighed on most Napervillian’s minds as we continue to monitor the evolution of downtown development.
In the many conversations I have with fellow passionate Napervillians, the consensus tends to rest upon a strong desire to preserve the uniqueness of downtown which includes a stronger focus on the unique one-of-a-kind restaurants/services/retail mix so prevalent throughout the neighborhoods of Chicago versus allowing the scales to be disproportionately tipped toward national retail and restaurant chains which are already abundantly available in nearby suburbs.
In my mind, as with most things in life, balance and moderation is the key. National chains are fine so long as it doesn’t come at the cost of unique small business and other worthy entities or organizations. Commercial property and new development should not be priced so far out of the market that only capital-rich national chains can afford to operate in downtown Naperville.
Small business and other types of organizations deserve the opportunity to captivate consumers and visitors alike in adding unique one-of-a-kind experiences to our community. Its the unique experience of Naperville which has set us apart from other communities as a genuine destination compared to your average cookie-cutter lifestyle shopping mall/entertainment complex.
To achieve such a balance and preservation of our strong appeal as a unique destination, our community is faced with the choice of either placing what I think would be an unrealistic reliance on property owners and developers to voluntarily make certain sacrifices in “doing the right thing” to create/preserve a balanced commercial mix or for our community to proactively influence new development and demonstrate support for balance in setting aside a certain amount of commercial space in new projects for the cultivation of appealing small businesses or other entities such as arts organizations, galleries and venues.
Downtown is the heart and soul of Naperville and we must do everything within our power to keep and expand its originality and vibrance.
With that said, I will open it up to each of you to make your own comments regarding this important issue which will likely impact the downtown Naperville experience just as much as the “look and feel” of architectural design. Also, feel free to forward a link to the World of Naperville or directly to this post to others. To post a comment, simply click on “comments” below.
To Councilman Fieseler, I thank you for your leadership, commitment and willingness to seek the feedback of your passionate Naperville constituency. SM