Category Archives: Naperville Development

Unraveling the Marginalization and Fragmentation of Community Participation and Purpose

Though I will concede the headline sounds a bit deep, the focus of this posting is not all the good things and many good people who advance communities.  This posting is about the loss of participation, the untapped potential and unrealization of human purpose within communities all across this country and throughout the world. 

Simply put, the question is why is it that human intelligence and talent abounds all around us, yet so few actually step forward to either share their gifts or perhaps even realize their potential as they reside within our communities.  John Lennon said that “life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”.  Chances are, when we began building our lives our vision was far grander, more ambitious and passionate than where we find ourselves in present day. 

What happens?  Well, life happens and unfortunately our communities have been traditionally ill-equipped to broadly harvest the unique talents firmly rooted all around us.  Social institutions designed to facilitate the cohesion of poeple often become exclusive, fragmented and small in number compared to the overall population. 

Perhaps more tragic is the reality that, for many, the “dream” grows dim somewhere along the way as demands and responsibilities mount.  However, I believe the greatest harm we can do to ourselves in life is to turn our backs on our passion, our potential and our purpose in life. 

When factoring the constraints of traditional social institutions combined with the draining demands of daily life, it’s no wonder that so many are living a marginalized life, absent the exercise of internal purpose and diminished contribution to community… the true secret to real happiness. 

Despite these realities, I see a very bright future for all of us as we begin to turn the spotlight on the hidden treasures within us all as we find ways to live our purpose, to whatever degree we can, and to donate our time and talents for the benefit of ourselves as well as others.  I challenge each of you to internalize your own sense of purpose and find a way, no matter how great or small, to share your talents with our community.

Wayfarer Candle Company a Downtown Naperville business story and experience we need

Last month, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend from NYC were in town for a quick visit.  Given the fact this was her beloved’s first trip to Naperville, it was no-brainer that we would spend a day strolling through Downtown Naperville.  With the kids in tow, we were walking down Jefferson Avenue and suddenly noticed a fragrant aroma drifting through the air.  We literally stopped in our tracks and looked to our left to find an open door and stairwell leading down to one of the subterranean commercial spaces.

The sign outside read  Wayfarer Candles .  How could I have missed this place I thought?  At this point, let’s examine the facts.  Exhibit A, you have candles.  Exhibit B, you have extremely fragrant candles.  Needless to say, the bait worked and my wife and her sister led the way as we carefully navigated the steps down into the smaller-than-expected space along with the kids.

What we discovered was nothing short of a breath of fresh air amidst the stale debate as of late around skyrocketing commercial rent and new downtown development which will be delivering additional national chains to Naperville. 

Believe or not, this tight space houses both a product showroom and studio space where the candles are actually blended and poured.  We’re talking candles made from soy bean oil and custom blended fragrances.  You can imagine I was a bit nervous with my two little anxious guys in an ultra-small shop filled with candles in glass.  However, all of a sudden the owner, Mike, walked over and the tables turned as he invited my two sons into the next room to see how the candles are actually made.  Mike walked us through the entire process from the melting, to fragrance selection/blending to perhaps the greatest conversational piece which is a depression-era safe complete with a large heavy door (pictured above). 

Believe it or not, the experience of seeing and learning more about this process proved fascinating for all of us, especially the little guys.  I’ve written about the difference between a business and an “experience” and Mike’s passion creates a true experience which is both memorable and worth recommending to others.  In the end, we were all given a traditional gift which the boys picked out.

As my wife concluded some purchases, I spent some time talking to Mike and learned that he and his wife had been living in New Orleans before Hurrican Katrina.  He was working as a chef and they both loved the Big Easy.  However, after becoming displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the couple settled here in Naperville and launched their Wayfarer dream which transcends a mere shop to a large scale market strategy sell their candles through channels in bulk as well as private label deals.  In the end, we were all given a traditional gift which the boys picked out.  For now, the store is a public face for Wayfarer candles and let’s hope we can keep them there.

In a nutshell, this is precisely the type of entreprenuerial vision our community should be supporting wholeheartedly.  A start-up business which is well on its way to possibly becoming a national household name given the scope of their strategy.  I encourage everyone to support this new business which may one day require a local corporate headquarters of its own. 

Wayfarer Candles is located at 34 West Jefferson Avenue.  Be sure to follow the fragrance and look down as the store is located beneath the recently closed Antique Mall.  I’m sure Mike would love to take you on a tour.

Omnia arts project once again proves all Naperville politics are local and that the safety of anonymity brings out the worst in people

First, I want to applaud Bev Frier on what appears to be a big vision for having the arts take a larger center stage here in Naperville.  Like so many, I’ve only heard minor details and innuendo regarding the project, yet at least we are talking about the future potential of the arts within our community.  Time will be the judge as to whether it is the best time, project and location for Naperville.

I’ve been reading with great interest and disgust the Naperville Potluck Blog postings regarding the political maneuvering and, perhaps, naivity swirling around us these days.  It’s at least nice that people are yelling and screaming about something other than land acquisition for new high schools.  At the same time, anonymous behavior on blogs, such as the potluck, tends to bring out the worst in people and ends up making our community look regretably stupid for the most part.  There is a clear difference between a healthy and respectful debate of our collectively shared community interests and divisive inflammation of the keyboard.  The answer is live face-to-face community dialogue and I do hope that it happens soon. 

If Bev Frier had a true political agenda which transcends her stated altruistic intent, then I believe she would have played her cards much differently.  Is it the best location and project?  I guess we’ll know in time.

The one lesson I believe we are reminded of as a community is if you intend for a visionary large-scale project to become a cherished community treasure for present and future generations to enjoy then you should build the vision with the involvement and participation of those you intend to influence in obtaining support from the very beginning.  

Any form of change is, by nature, sticky business and it can only succeed through an evolutionary inclusive process of participation and well-rounded perspective.  We must examine the full picture and people must have an opportunity to invest themselves in making the determination as to what is in the best interest of our community.  SM 

Cape Cod Visit and “Best Place” Ranking Has Me Thinking About Naperville’s Own Future

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about my own personal fears regarding Naperville’s future and whether or not our uniqueness and charm can be maintained.  Given our recent “best place” ranking for 2008 dropping in the near vicinity of a weeklong vacation to Cape Cod, MA, I’ve had allot to think about.

Our journey took us up into the tip of Cape Cod into North Truro, just minutes outside of Provincetown.  Aside from being a wonderfully colorful place, Provincetown is best know historically for being the first landing point for the Pilgrims dating back into the 1600s.  They remained in the area for five weeks prior to moving further inland in search of a more suitable terrain in which to settle. 

Today, Provincetown is a creative and open-minded mecca for artists, accepting of all people and a carefully preserved historic landmark watched over by the highly visible Pilgrim Monument (pictured above).  Aside from a strong art vibe and plenty of interesting people, the biggest aspect I appreciated about Provincetown was the absolute lack of any form of commercialized business or national chains.  Commercial and Bradford Streets, the epicenter of activity, is lined with endless art galleries, local theaters, music venues, bars, independent restaurants, candy shops, indulgent ice cream shops, unique one-of-a-kind shops and more which can all be accessed by foot.  Given the combination of “high brow” and “low brow” experiences, any air of pretension was lost in the coastal night air.

Provincetown is one-of-a-kind and could never be easily duplicated.  Additionally, there is a truly authentic sense of place and history.  Entreprenuership and small business rules local commerce and greenspace, including the national seashore, is abundant. 

Given all the discussion and debate I’ve heard about Naperville’s own future, including concerns from others ranging from local business leaders to residents, our greatest fear is the loss of our own uniqueness to the almighty dollar. 

We must expand our creative and innovative investment in our community and protect our downtown and other areas from becoming overly commercialized. 

We must foster a strong arts collaboration, not competition, through public and private support remembering that any art event promotes the arts community as a whole. 

We must expand public-private partnerships to foster entrepreneurship and originality, not to clear the way for national chain stores and restaurants to saturate the our downtown. 

We must create a multitude of activities downtown to create more options after dark to merge with the current nightlife. 

We must avoid the exploitation of greedy self-interest and keep the skyrocketing prices of housing and commercial space downtown to make room for all who dream of living or building new business concepts in downtown. 

We must continue to preserve and enhance our green space which has made one of the biggest differences in our community. 

We must value the richness of culture which resides in our community and continue cultivating a more metropolitian attitude driven by appreciation, understanding and acceptance for each other.  

We must also continue to give back to our world which has given us all so much in life.   

Finally, we must never forget that “community” should not be the control of the few but rather the resolve and cooperation of the many.  Let’s work together Naperville to build an even stronger future!  SM 

Mixed emotions as CNN/Money Magazine once agains selects Naperville as a best place to live in America for 2008

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see our beloved community once again receive special honors from  CNN/Money Magazine as being a best place to live in America, this time in the #3 slot.  However, given my unique vantage point as publisher of the World of Naperville and the official Naperville Examiner for the millions who visit www.examiner.com monthly, I hear as much from the detractors as the promoters regarding perceptions of our community.

As one might suggest, our latest accolade has already incited a mixed response from around the Chicagoland area, which shaped my Naperville Examiner posting entitled CNN/Money Magazine names Naperville 3rd best place to live in America for 2008.  My point really was that being named a “best place” to live does not mean your community is a “perfect place”.  We know Naperville is far from perfect and has an assortment of shortcomings, yet it is still a badge of honor to those of us who take great pride in our community and want the rest of the world to give us a chance in having the same experience. 

It’s natural to hear the stereotypical bashing we get from proud urban-dwellers in not only being a suburb but also being “Naperville”.   However, I was a bit taken by some of the extremely nasty opinions registered online by those who claim to live in Naperville.  Though it’s never fun to hear criticisms, I believe it is important that we listen closely and count are blessings that our fellow residents care enough to complain.  Most of the complaints center not around what Naperville “is” but rather what residents are afraid Naperville is becoming… an exclusive overly commercialized oasis reserved for the priviledged and wealthy elite.

Yesterday, I walked through the downstairs exhibit at the Naper Settlement with my seven year-old and as I again reflected upon our community’s history, I couldn’t help but think of the pioneering entrpreneurial spirit of Joseph Naper and the other families who built Naperville.  It made me envision the ideal future for Naperville, and instead of over-indulged excess I see the same pioneering entrepreneurial spirit carrying us forward and preserving all that has made Naperville a best place to live.    

Stand proud Naperville and let’s answer the call to keep our community unique in the face of the growing pains which will challenge us in the coming years.  Let’s open up the next chapter in Naperville’s history through reinforcing our commitment to education, our economy, the arts, creativity, entrepreneurial energy, our greenspace, fighting to preserve the uniqueness of downtown and the way in which we treat each other and those who visit our community.  SM     

District 204 Picks Site For Metea Valley High School – New Boundaries On The Way

The good news is Indian Prairie District 204 has announced the selection of a new land site upon which Metea Valley High School will be built by the end of 2009.  The bad news is if the Naperville Sun’s Potluck blog is any indiciation, upcoming discussion regarding new boundaries will be brutal. 

For those who haven’t seen the news, the new high school will be built on an 87 acre piece of land South of I-88 just east of Eola Road between Diehl Rd. and North Aurora Road on the Far Northwest side of Naperville.  The price tag is $16.5 million which is roughly half of what the district was facing with the now infamous Brach-Brodie property. 

metea-valley.jpg

While I’m relieved our community will move beyond the land issue, we now turn to the difficult task of new boundary lines which will likely shift further north than the previous boundaries for the Brach-Brodie property.

I am in hopes that we, as a community, can quickly move beyond the boundary battle and that those who live in particular subdivisions support the decision and that those who don’t live in those particular subdivisions stop taunting those who do. 

The reality is, we need to focus our energies on the equitable quality of all three high schools.  Now is the time to address the host of concerns and perspectives which have been revealed about what some sadly consider to be the lesser of the three high schools and raise the school up now that it will have a bit more room to work with.

This whole process has brought out the worst in social class warfare here in Naperville and I hope everyone pauses, takes a close look at the angry dialogue and realizes how sadly pathetic it all sounds.  The reality is, District 204 has prevailed in making a decision which will be best for the entire district and not one that raises any questions about influence and motive.  At the end of the day, we can all count our multitude of surplus blessings that we are fortunate enough to live in an amazing community which has two incredible public school systems.

To all members of the District 204 School Board (Mark Metzger, John Stephens, Jeannette Clark, Curt Bradshaw, Bruce Glawe, Alka Tyle and Christine Vickers) and Superintendent Stephen Daeschner, congratulations on a difficult job well done.  SM

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