Thriving Downtown Naperville

Downtown Naperville’s constantly evolving landscape has created a vibrant city center.

Mark Fenton knows what makes a city great. As an engineer and public health and transportation consultant, he brings a unique perspective when visiting different areas around the country.

“It was so wonderful being able to visit Naperville after over a decade, that’s the last time I was here. To see all the great stuff you’ve done, including bicycle lanes and parking and benches and trees and wonderful street lighting in downtown, but more importantly you’re directing development into the core of downtown. It’s nice to see Barnes and Noble and Coldwater Creek which are businesses I might have seen in a big box mall somewhere else, right in the core,” said Fenton. “I think that a real sign that this community is dedicated to keeping a healthy robust downtown.”

The host of PBS’ “America’s Walking” was in town for a conference at Hotel Arista on planning sustainable cities. He invited about 20 people to join him on a walking tour to see how Naperville measures up.

Naperville City Councilman, Joe McElroy, joined in for the tour. “It’s always great to have experts come along and show you your own community. There are just some things when you live here day to day you just don’t notice,” he said.

Exercise plays an important role in our lives and building a city that supports a healthy lifestyle should be the cornerstone.

“It could be walking to shop, walking a child to school, or riding your bike to go shopping. What we know is, how we design our communities, has everything to do with whether people actually do that. So I’m delighted to see Naperville making a conscious effort between the trails and the pedestrian facilities, and bikes,” remarked Fenton.

Naperville’s officials are listening and are looking to make improvements to the already thriving downtown area.

“One of the things he really liked and I think we can improve upon is our way finding system. That would be the existing maps and signs with arrows,” said City Manager, Doug Krieger.

Fenton says some Naperville sidewalks are beautiful but they create hazards for people walking in heels, on crutches or in a wheelchair.

“Instead use bricks for edges, but make sure there’s a middle pathway that’s flat,” he said.

Fenton also suggested the city start charging a modest fee for prime parking spots, but Naperville prides itself on free parking so that won’t be happening any time soon.

Fenton says Naperville is doing so many things right, he’s going to use it as an example for other cities who want to build a thriving downtown area.


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