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        

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