Designs for a new park along the Naperville Riverwalk north of the Burger King are taking shape as North Central College and the city work to bring the downtown area's newest green space to life.
The park at 430. S. Washington St. will include an electronic sign for North Central College, a sloped open space leading down to the DuPage River and a plaza to recognize the college's history in Naperville since 1870, said Jim Godo, North Central's assistant vice president for external relations.
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Construction is likely to begin next year to transform the triangle-shaped property -- the former home of a 1930s-era building once used as a dry cleaners and other businesses -- into a new element along the Riverwalk.
"The consensus was we wanted to create open park space on the river," Godo said. "When this property is complete, I think we'll all look back on it as a great community decision."
Bill Novack, the city's director of transportation, engineering and development, said Naperville is seeking up to $1.1 million in state funding for the project as one of its legislative priorities this year. Design and construction of the project is estimated to cost $2.2 million -- not including $450,000 the college invested to buy the foreclosed property from a bank or $50,000 the city spent to demolish the old building last year.
"The college was interested in purchasing the property, removing the downtown eyesore so we would have the opportunity for some brand exposure on Washington Street for some signage," Godo said.
The college plans an electronic message board for the new park's western edge along Washington Street to help passers-by realize the campus is just a block or two to the east. The sign has not yet been designed, but Godo said it will be "classy."
Members of the city's downtown advisory commission said they want the college to adhere to a high visual standard for the electronic sign so it will not be distracting or distasteful.
Steve Rubin, a downtown property owner and chairman of the downtown advisory commission, said he envisions people eating lunch outside on the new park's sloping lawn or listening to musical performances in the plaza to be built near the Moser Bridge.
"I really see this is as being a step forward in line with our efforts to connect the downtown with all the great cultural and educational opportunities around us," Rubin said.
Plans for the site also call for a sculpture to highlight North Central College's tradition of strong cross country teams and a new segment of the Riverwalk path connecting the lower walkway under Washington Street to the Moser Bridge near the college's football stadium.