The East Ogden Avenue corridor soon could become "Uptown Naperville" if the city can find a way to pay for roughly $5 million in streetscape and rebranding improvements.
The city, along with the Naperville Development Partnership and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, sponsored an open house Tuesday to gather opinions on a streetscape renovation plan -- and how to pay for it -- from property owners, business owners and nearby residents.
Those who stopped by Tuesday morning said they liked elements of the proposed facelift for the stretch of Ogden between Washington Street and Naperville's eastern border east of Naper Boulevard, but they worried the cost could prevent it from happening.
"Right now it seems pie-in-the-sky," resident Kelly Reif said.
The idea is to update the look and feel of intersections and parkways along East Ogden Avenue so drivers know they're in Naperville, shoppers find the area more inviting and businesses see it as primed for development, said Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership.
"We're leading by example by the city making a major investment," she said.
Elements of the planned investment include upgrades at seven intersections -- three of them deemed primary gateways and four designated as secondary.
Each could receive some sort of sign for "Uptown Naperville," some with large silver letters spelling out "NAPERVILLE" or referring to the city with a tall "N."
"That'll really let you know you're in Naperville," said Trevor Dick, development operations manager.
The sense of place will be a step up from much of Ogden, where he said "you don't know which town you're in."
Intersections also could receive fresh landscaping, signs that point to downtown or other destinations and "neat ideas to make sure you're in a special place," Dick said.
Some of the project's $5 million cost -- roughly $1.4 million -- could be paid using credits the city has from ComEd, which can pay for burying power lines.
"You don't realize how much it does lighten it up," Jeffries said about removing electric lines from view. "It will be much more inviting to come shop."
But the rest of the money will have to come from the city, Ogden property owners or a combination of the two.
The city is proposing creation of a special service area, which would be a new taxing district that could include roughly 400 properties. By raising taxes on properties in the area, which have a total equalized assessed value of about $3 million, the city could split the cost of the work with the people who will see the most benefit, City Manager Doug Krieger said.
Proposed special service area rates could increase property taxes by 5 percent, 10 percent or 15 percent for 15 years to pay for a potential loan the city could take out to finance the work, Jeffries said. The idea would be to take a year gaining the necessary permits from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Ogden Avenue, then spend the next year doing the work.
"Everything has to be done at one time. It's not going to be phased in," Jeffries said. "The merchants here have enough disruptions."
The funding decision rests not only on property owners and whether they would agree to a special service area, but also on the city council's budget decisions for 2018, Krieger said. The council plans to begin budget workshops Oct. 30 to find ways to close a projected $5 million gap between next year's spending and revenue.