Monthly Archives: November 2007

A Visionary Idea… The Naperville Boardwalk

As you might imagine or may have noticed if you are a regular visitor to the World of Naperville, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the future of our community, especially downtown Naperville.   I’ve written numerous postings assessing my own thoughts on the keys to Naperville’s allure on both a conscious and subconscious level.  I hope to one day join Naperville’s many visionary leaders in helping shape the next great chapter in the Naperville experience.

For those who may have never glanced “behind the scenes” of a blog, I am able to see all web search terms which result in visits to the World of Naperville.  The other day, I noticed a web search for “Naperville Boardwalk” which generated a hit on my blog.  At first, I smiled and concluded they must have meant “Naperville Riverwalk”.  However, within a couple of seconds I was already thinking to myself…. hmmmm, Naperville Boardwalk.

I have a visionary idea to float.  Given the transformative re-development of the Water Street area bordering the DuPage River, envision for a moment a boardwalk which reaches out slightly over the DuPage river running along the new mixed-use commercial/residential development..  I see railing at the edge of the boardwalk which would allow an overlook upon the flowing DuPage River.  Strung lights could run the full length of the railing in which people could stroll and meander along at night providing an inviting aesthetic.  

This is where my vision mainly begins.  When we think about how the Riverwalk and river almost seem to disappear at night, why not use the area as focal point backdrop bringing the river alive at night as well during the day.  I see rotating artisan kiosks and specialty food vendors drawing people of all ages to mingle along the Boardwalk.  In the evenings, I see families remaining around downtown having dinner and enjoying special performers entertaining as people congregate along the Naperville Boardwalk.  Couples of all ages taking in the warmth and ambiance. 

Magicians, jugglers, musicians, historical actors playing famous Napervillians from the past and other unique performers captivating and engaging the crowd of all ages.  Perhaps a small stage provides a place for special performances with the beauty of the Riverwalk and downtown as the backdrop.  Special events for all seasons to provide special experiences/traditions to draw people into the area throughout the year.  Perhaps free outdoor movies or even dancing from time-to-time.  How about a carousel which not only serves as a magnet for kids but provides a timeless atmosphere adding to the sights and sounds.

The Naperville Boardwalk could join the many other alluring downtown icons and reach new demographics who will now have a new reason to remain downtown well into the evening.  An alternative to the bar scene for families and people of all ages to enjoy.  Even more, a cherished feature which would continue to expand the unique divide between Naperville and neighborhing communities trying to match our own brand of downtown magic.

How would it be paid for?  Multiple sources of funding could factor into the development, maintenance and management of the area.  It could be a truly cooperative effort between the developer, beneficiary businesses in the development, the Riverwalk Commission, the City of Naperville, the Downtown Naperville Alliance, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, SECA funds, corporate sponsorships, patrons, local arts organizations, local civic organizations, revenue-sharing from temporary non-competing artisans/vendors, residential volunteers and more. 

What are the precedents?  In my mind, I think of the ever-popular Boardwalk area of the Walt Disney World Resort… Downtown Disney and the Marketplace…. I think Navy Pier… I think of the famous Boardwalks of the East Coast… places to experience and to escape… a magical place where great “moments” take place and lifelong memories are formed… a gathering point which brings the community and visitors together to slow down for a bit.  A crossroads for our community.  A place where visitors can’t help but tell others about through word-of-mouth marketing.  Who benefits?  In a nutshell, everyone. 

I invite my readers to share your thoughts and/or build upon this idea in the comments section.  Let’s see where this dialouge goes.  SM        

Holiday Illumination and Spirit Takes Hold In Downtown Naperville

I received an excited email from Downtown Naperville Alliance Executive Director Patti Roberts yesterday asking if I had taken in the hometown holidays festivities over the weekend.  Unfortunately, it was our turn to head to my wife’s family in Maryland for the long Thanksgiving holiday.  Though I will confess that while I have been listening to holiday music since the day after Halloween, I always seem to miss the thousands of twinkling lights as the come alive for the first time the weekend after Thanksgiving each year.  The good news is the family Thanksgiving celebration returns to Naperville in 2008.   

Before I go any further, I strongly encourage everyone who reads this post to make plans to spend a day, an evening or multiple days and evenings in Downtown Naperville during the holidays as I can’t think of a better place to experience the spirit of the season come alive, not to mention the many wonderful amenties and festive activities taking place.  And, yes, we are going to make another run at Santa’s house within the next couple of weeks.  I believe Santa drops by his Naperville home along Jackson Ave. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the season.  If you get there at opening time, you will see the Park District police drop off the jolly old fellow.  

Tonight as I was driving home from work, I headed through downtown off of Washington down a darkened Franklin Avenue.  As I turned the corner on Main Street, it’s almost as like a scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as the blackened evening skies come alive with the dense glow of the holiday lights which line just about every tree in the immediate downtown area.  I, of course, had 93.9 the holiday Lite on the radio.

Another family tradition is to drive all over town as the big day approaches in search of what we simply refer to as “jackpots”.  In Meyer family lingo, a “jackpot” is any house that is dwarfed by the overwhelming size, density and variety of holiday lights and decorations filling the front yard and facade.  Another reason we call them “jackpots” is also to characterize what their electrical meters look like as they spin wildly like a slot machine.  Nonetheless, to all Napervillians out there who provide jackpots for the rest of us to view in awe from the warm comfort of our slow moving vehicles, we thank you. 

My first “jackpot” spotting of the season is on Oswego Road a little bit west of River Road.  Get ready everyone! 

Opportunity to See and Support Naperville’s Own Sapphyre Strings

Back in the summer, our family acquired a young violin which is just over a hundred years-old.  Within days of bringing it home, my three year-old to my surprise was bowing like a little master. 

At around the same time, I had the pleasure to meet Steve Jacula, who along with his wife Sue, teach and manage the Sapphyre Strings.  Amazingly, age 3 is around the time kids can start to take violin lessons and we are looking to get our little guy started in the new year. 

For those who may not know, the Sapphyre Strings (www.sapphyrestrings.org) are a Naperville-based not-for-profit arts organization and performance group consisting of young violin students age 5 to 17.  They study locally and perform locally, regionally and even internationally.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sapphyre Strings, visit their website at www.sapphyrestrings.org .  Also, be sure to take note of their upcoming December 2007 events:

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007, 5:30 – 8:30 pm.- Guest Grilling at Mongolian Grill, Bolingbrook – 619 E. Boughton Road, Suite 150, in the new Promenade shopping mall.   Come see Sapphyre Strings parents don an apron and cooking cap and prepare your meal behind a 2,000 pound, 600 degree grill!

All tips go to Sapphyre Strings NFP to help them fund their upcoming Holiday Concert and future activities, feel free to invite anyone you know.

Saturday, December 15th, 2007, 2:00 pm –  Concert in the Chapel at St. Patrick’s Residence, 1400 Brookdale Road, Naperville

SM 

Creative Funding Alternatives for Naperville District 204 Metea Valley High School Which Could Cover Remainder of Brach-Brodie Land Purchase Without Additional Taxpayer Dollars

I’ve followed the ongoing saga of Metea Valley High School and the “Legend of Brach-Brodie” for some time now as both a Naperville insider, a father of two boys and an Indian Prairie District 204 resident. 

First, I believe very strongly that the Brach-Brodie land is the proper location of the new high school.  Yet, as we all know, during condemnation proceedings the court ruled in favor of a per acre price which, in total, is roughly $17,000,000 more than the amount Distict 204 budgeted in the referendum. 

Many concerns and opinions have been raised and I’ve listened closely to the discussion.  The bottom-line is its time to come together as a community to put our heads together, to think outside the box and find a way to make this situation work.

As a marketer who has worked the majority of his career in the not-for-profit world, the first possible alternative comes in the form of corporate sponsorships.  If it be a football stadium, a pool, an auditorium, or all the above the district could work with a professional sponsorship consultant, such as IEG (www.sponsorship.com), to determine not only the short-term and long-term valuation of specific sponsorship properties but also to evaluate potential prospects.  Packages which include everything from naming rights to multi-year strategic partnerships could be developed to offset what, in the grand scheme of things, is not an insumountable sum of money.  Besides, given the high visibility of Naperville and its accompanying demographics, such a sponsorship investment could be fairly attractive.

For anyone concerned about the mixture of corporate interests and education, fear not.  The nature of these “good corporate citizen” relationships are more about brand positioning/co-branding opportunities and less about high-pressure direct sales.  In other words, corporate sponsors want you to develop positive sustainable thoughts about their brand, rather than rush in for a quick sale.  Corporate sponsorships are all about positioning and building long-term relationships. 

Aside from corporate sponsorships, why not consider a large donor fundraising campaign to raise capital funds much in the same way the arts and arts facilities have achieved its mission over the years.  With the passion and financial strength within this community, certainly there are donor prospects out there who might step forward to build their own legacy in a big way.  Academic, arts and sports facilities alike could be offered up as fundraising targets for donors.  Perhaps the campaign consists of a low-dollar and high-dollar component to give any member of the community an opportunity to make a gift.       

Consider the alternatives of an additional tax referendum, redrawing boundaries, abandoning plans or building a high school without comparable amenities and the sponsorship and fundraising angles start to look even better.  I invite your comments.  SM 

   

As Heard on NPR, StoryCorps Coming to Andersons in Downtown Naperville on Monday

StoryCorps book tour, featuring “Listening is an Act of Love” author Dave Isay, will be at Andersons Bookshop in Downtown Naperville on Monday, November 19th at 7:00 PM

GriotBooth4.jpg 

As a filmmaker, composer and songwriter, I’ve learned much about the powerful art of storytelling.  While artists engage in creative expression as a medium to tell stories, ordinary people quite often have the most extraordinary stories to tell.

While the recording of oral history is not necessarily a new practice, those who listen to National Public Radio already know that StoryCorps is taking oral history to a new level in collecting and preserving recordings of ordinary people sharing their extraordinary life stories.         

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit project whose mission is to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening. It is a project of Sound Portraits Productions in partnership with the Library of Congress, NPR, and public radio stations nationwide.  They have traveled across the country, visiting 100 towns and cities in 46 states –  nearly 15,000 interviews in all. It is the largest oral history project of its kind.  Interviews recorded are added to the StoryCorps Archive, housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

In an email conversation with Marisa Karplus, of StoryCorps, she shared with me the words of one StoryCorps listener, who said, “You have to hear these stories for yourself as they will change your life.  They’ll make you a kinder person.  They’ll make you appreciative of the little sweet moments in life in a way that you couldn’t before hearing the stories.”

To learn more about StoryCorps, visit www.storycorps.net

To learn more about the book “Listening is an Act of Love”, visit http://www.storycorps.net/book

To listen to the stories online, visit http://www.storycorps.net/listen/

To everyone at StoryCorps, keep moving forward with this important project and I hope to see you on Monday night.  SM
 

What Naperville Can Learn from the Oklahoma Creativity Project

Over the past weekend, I had a chance to spend some time re-connecting with our family’s rapidly expanding friends from Oklahoma.  As you may have read, my wife just completed a seven-week project for the State of Oklahoma in managing the “Oklahoma Experience” at the 2007 EPCOT Food and Wine Festival.  Needless to say, Oklahoma has truly carved out a special place within our hearts.

On Saturday evening, I had a chance to catch up with Mark Robertson, who I’ve had the distinct pleasure of knowing since my days at the American Bar Association.  Mark is an Oklahoma-based lawyer who, in addition to his own busy law practice and wonderful family, is deeply involved in the exciting renaissance which is occuring within a state which may lack exposure but more than makes up for it in terms of energy, vision, hospitality and spirit.  In many ways, I consider Mark to be a kindred-spirit given our energy, philosophy, vission and ideas for the worlds we live in.

Among his leadership roles within Oklahoma, Mark serves on the Board of Directors of the 2008 Oklahoma Creativity Project (www.stateofcreativity.com).  This innovative project is a collaborative effort of leaders, communities and organizations throughout Oklahoma designed to promote the powerful role of creativity and innovation in the future success and prosperity of the state as a whole.   The following overview of vision, mission and goals for the Oklahoma Creativity Project best illustrates the impetus behind their efforts: 

VISION 

“To flourish in its second century, Oklahoma must promote new opportunities for creativity and innovation at all levels – in education, in government, in the workplace, and in the daily lives of its people. Our vision is to enable all existing and would-be Oklahomans to add value to their lives, for their own well-being and for the economic and cultural prosperity of Oklahoma as a whole.”

MISSION

To establish Oklahoma as a world-renowned center of creativity and innovation in commerce, culture, and education.

GOALS

To empower all Oklahomans to develop their capacities for creativity and innovation.

To facilitate the growth of an entrepreneurial economy that will stimulate new careers, companies and industries.

To facilitate the further development of world-class cultural and educational opportunities.

 .   .   .   .   .

The State of Oklahoma is in the process of showing the world, with their statehood centennial as a backdrop, that a powerful and transformative renaissance can be trigged by a collaborative community of people devoted toward innovation and creativity regardless of size or geographic location.  I have great respect and admiration for Oklahoma’s future roadmap.  As I’ve discussed in past postings, the payoff of such an investment is rooted in social, cultural, educational and economic advancement.  

Let’s all remember, as Mark pointed out this weekend, the Italian Renaissance which kicked off the great Renaissance in Eurpoe began in Florence, Italy, which at the time had a population of only 60,000.  Compare that to Naperville’s modern-day population of roughly 140,000. 

The difference between community success or failure is rooted in how well people come together to work in partnership in battling the complacency that threatens to blind us from our creativity, vision and goals for the future.  There is much for Naperville to gain from the pride, devotion and vision Oklahoma has put forth.    

To our friends in Oklahoma… congratulations on the past 100 years and here’s to the next exciting 100 years… the World is watching.  SM        

     

Napervillians Would Love the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival

This weekend, I find myself back at Walt Disney World for the final weekend of the 2007 EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival.  I’m taking a little break from a late afternoon swim as we prepare to attend the final Party for the Senses this evening.

Though this year’s seven-week festival is wrapping up, I encourage everyone to consider planning a visit for next year’s festival.  As we all know, Naperville is a community which has a deep appreciation the gourmet food and wine experience.  If you fall into this category, the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is a dream come true.

First, you have the opportunity to sample dishes and wine pairings from all over the globe.  There are special wine tasting seminars as well as plenty of demonstrations by well-known chefs.  I happened to be strolling through the festival center today and ran into one of the better known Food Network Chefs.  Within each country, small-scale cooking demonstrations take place as well.  Each week there has been something new to experience. 

On Saturdays, the festival crescendos with a weekly Party for the Senses, which takes place at a special events pavillion between Canada and the United Kingdom in the World Showcase at EPCOT.  The best way I can describe this experience is Iron Chef meets Cirque du Soleil meets Sideways.  The event features accomplished chefs from all over the world as well as Disney’s finest.  They prepare a special dish which is paired with a wine estate or champagne house.  During my previous visit, at one of the parties I attended, we stumbled upon Chicago chef Rick Tramato of Tru fame.  Cirque du Soleil performers take the center stage with emotive performances.  Each week features a different collection of chefs and dishes. 

The State of Oklahoma is being featured at tonight’s Party for the Senses and one of their chefs told me earlier that they are preparing braised short-rib tartlets for 1,600.  In building upon their own special regional feast VIP event which took place earlier this week, this will be a nice finale for the Oklahoma Experience which has been featured at EPCOT in celebration of their centennial. 

Fortunately, for those who acquire Party for the Senses tickets before they sell-out, everything is included for one highly reasonable price when you take into consideration what Napervillians will drop on a typical evening out in downtown.  

I could not recommend more highly this experience.  The good news is the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is in its 12th year and gaining steam toward the future.  SM