Downtown Naperville, IL- A New Urbanist Downtown with a Triving Retail and Culutural Scene

For this evaluation I considered Downtown Napersville to be between the DuPage River, Aurora St, Ellsworth St. and the railroad tracks.

Naperville was founded in 1831 by Joseph Naper. The settlement was incorporated as the Village of Naperville in 1857, with a population of 2,000. The population slowly grew from there only reaching 5K by WW II. A predominantly rural community for most of its existence,  beginning in the 1960s, Naperville experienced a significant population increase as a result of Chicago’s urban sprawl. The population reached 20K in 1970 and quadrupled in sized by 2000 and by 2020 reached a whopping 150K residents.

Unlikely other Dwtn’s of historic Chicagoland suburbs, Naperville is mostly modern in-fill construction. West of Eagle street is almost exclusively rebuilt homes built in a quasi New Urbanist-Suburban manner. Between Eagle and Ellsworth is the Dwtn commercial district where some historic 2-3 story buildings are mixed in with mostly modern in-fill. Fortunately most of the in-fill is good urban form but a mixed bag aesthetically. The urban form is best along Jefferson and Washington St but gets more auto centric on the side streets. Napersville, however, has used its immense wealth to create an amenity rich Downtown. Their parks along the DuPage River are the envy of any historic exurban community with tons of variety and diversity of amenities. Downtown also has great retail and cultural amenities and a good variety of modern housing options. Dwtn Naperville benefits with the spill over of high quality schools from the Naperville suburb at large.

For Dwtn Naperville to become a top notch urban district it needs more density, mixed-use infill on its existing surface parking lots and auto centric side roads, better bike infrastructure, more rental product and affordable housing, a downtown supermarket and perhaps a small department store like a urban Target format.

Click here to view my Dwnt Naperville Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid public transit access and a Metro stop that goes directly to Dwtn Chicago.
* Excellent sidewalks and ADA curb cuts in the core of Dwtn Naperville where the commercial streets are located. A bit more hit or miss in the residential areas.
* Decent generational diversity due to a decent # of households with kids and all the college age students living here.
* For is certainly on the more expensive side but pretty diversity. 1-beds are extremely limited but good # of 2-beds selling anywhere btwn 175K-700. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 300K-1.5M.
* The parks and recreational space around DuPage River are some of the best designed park space I’ve seen around a small dwtn including a river board walk, skating/volley ball park, amphitheater, playgrounds, gardens, hiking trails, pavilions, greenspace, ballfields, a sled hill, paddleboat facilities, fountains and even a main made beach! Also a great some great hiking in Burlington Park and couple small-medium sized parks in Dwtn.
* Excellent cultural amenities including lots of food & beverage bizs, several breweries, a  handful of art galleries, several theaters (most associated with North Central College), Naper Settlement Historic Village, Children’s Museum & several night clubs and live music venues.
* Excellent retail amenities too including a drug store, several banks, tons of boutiques, clothing stores & gift shops (including many name brand stores), several book & toy stores, lots of home goods/furniture/antiques, plenty of dessert joints & gyms, a post office and library, several churches and doctor office, and a hospital just to the south.
* Extremely safe dwtn.
* Excellent array of well rated public schools elementary- high school. Also a larger Catholic school.
* Good urban form and streetscaping on the main streets (Jefferson & Washington) but a good amount of surface parking and some auto centric uses on the side streets.
* In fill can feel tacky and cheap at times but generally its good urban form and lots of it.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Density is low here for an urban area.
* Bike infrastructure is limited.
* Generally gridded streets but plenty of dead ends especially in the residential western half.
* Poor economic and racial diversity.
* Decent # of rentals but pretty expensive. 1-beds lease around 2K, 2-beds in the 2Ks, and 3-beds around 3K.
* Still missing a supermarket dwtn and target.
* Sadly much of the historic commercial fabric was demolished. Some remains and its very nice. Mostly of the residential historic fabric has been cleared dwtn replaced my new urbanist/suburban hybrid residential homes.

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