Background music might be coming to the retail core of downtown Naperville sooner than expected.
Plans had been in place to install a sound system in the city's commercial core next year, but cost estimates came in lower than projected. Now, officials are identifying ways to pay for the sound system and determining if they can get the project started in the coming months.
"The idea is that we have some sort of good, consistent, quality sound system in place," city council member Steve Chirico said. "It's really just for background music to add to the ambience and charm of the downtown business area."
Officials said the Downtown Naperville Alliance has been discussing the idea of a sound system for about five years. A small number of businesses have outdoor speakers now, and Chirico said an easy listening playlist from an iPod plays from speakers outside the Eddie Bauer at Main Street and Jefferson Avenue. However, the music is not consistent, and it can't be controlled from one central location.
A new comprehensive sound system was projected to cost $150,000 in next year's budget, but a study by an engineering firm hired by the Downtown Naperville Alliance determined a first phase of speakers could be installed for $66,015 between Benton Avenue on the north, Washington Street on the east, Jackson Avenue on the south and Webster Street on the west.
"We're pleased to know that our original guesstimate was well over," said Steve Cope, buildings facility manager for the city.
If money can be found in the budget, the city council can choose to start with the first phase this year and possibly move next year on a second phase estimated to cost $33,120, Cope said.
The second phase could include installation of speakers in an area of downtown populated mainly by restaurants. South of the retail core, this area runs along Chicago and Jackson avenues between Ellsworth and Main streets.
Beth Lang, strategic services manager for the city, said a third phase could involve working with the Riverwalk commission to see if leaders want to provide music along the 1.75-mile path. A cost estimate for extending the proposed sound system to the Riverwalk is not yet available.
In the first phase to cover the downtown retail area, Cope said about 18 speakers will be installed on streetlights. Speakers will be wirelessly connected to a control center at the Downtown Naperville Alliance's office inside the Main Street Promenade building.
"We'll be able to control the volume of each speaker individually," Lang said. "We can turn it off during certain hours or lower the volume."
The sound system likely would use a music subscription service to play background music to enhance the shopping atmosphere. Chirico said downtown leaders considered contracting with a radio station or other business that could cover the costs of the new sound systems but didn't like the idea of commercializing the music or having advertising that could be seen as "annoying."
Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, said she is excited about the possibility of a downtown sound system but considers the project to be in its preliminary stages.
The city council is scheduled to discuss funding options that could allow sound system installation to begin this year during a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, in the municipal center.