How council candidates would spice up south Naperville
South Naperville is or has been home to many of the eight candidates for four seats on the city council.
Yet some south Naperville residents still feel disconnected from the heart and governance of the city, their needs and desires overlooked.
All of the candidates in the April 4 election say they want to change that left-out sentiment and let south Naperville residents know they're important to the city as a whole. But each council hopeful offers a different way to make positive changes possible for the south side of the sprawling city.
South Naperville residents Judith Brodhead, Michael Strick and Benny White say the city should focus on gathering places, ambience and building the tax base in the area.
Incumbent Brodhead, a 65-year-old associate professor of English at North Central College, says she got her start in city government in the early 1990s when the transportation advisory board and the planning and zoning commission needed a member representing the south side.
Her house backs up to 95th Street, and as a planning and zoning commission member and chairwoman, she said she helped oversee development that brought an "institutional strip" of uses including the Fry Family YMCA, churches, medical offices, park district programs and Neuqua Valley High School to 95th Street between Route 59 and Book Road.
Brodhead said the next step is to convince developers "to build in more types of amenities that are attractive like outdoor plazas and gathering places, more walkable and more sociable."
Strick, a small-business owner who lives near 111th Street, says the city shouldn't continue approving "rows upon rows of houses" near the southern stretches of Route 59. Instead, the city should look to the Danada Square development in Wheaton as a model with "ambience" and build another hub for shopping.
White, a 52-year-old retired Army officer, says the city needs to keep its tax base and its bottom line in mind when developing south Naperville, and officials should look to bring more businesses to generate more sales tax revenue. He says his neighbors near 95th Street often head to Bolingbrook for quick shopping trips, but more businesses in south Naperville would keep that money inside the city's borders.
Incumbent John Krummen and challenger Julie Berkowicz both live near 87th Street.
Berkowicz, a 55-year-old sales professional, says the south side of Naperville "is missing a large retail anchor," especially at Route 59 and 95th street, which houses an empty former Dominick's at the southeast corner. She said rents in the area are too high for small businesses to survive.
"If we had that large anchor, that retail there, that would help bring in a more diverse business base," Berkowicz said.
Incumbent Krummen, a 53-year-old mechanical engineer, said another way the city can make its southern reaches feel more included and more vibrant is to encourage more special events -- races, parades, festivals and the like -- to take place there.
Working with the city's coordinator of special events, Krummen said the city should consider giving some "seed money" to event organizers to encourage them to take their festivities out of downtown and head south.
Former south side resident Michael Isaac says the city shouldn't force its far southern residents to love downtown; instead, the 34-year-old small-business owner said the city should aim to create an environment with entertainment and dining opportunities as an alternative.
"We don't need a second downtown," Isaac said. "But it is OK to have other options."
Incumbent Kevin Coyne, a 41-year-old attorney who lives in Lisle Township toward the north end of the city, said Naperville needs to make its south side "a priority one issue" by listening to residents to determine what they want. He said the city wisely turned town a request to build a senior living facility at Route 59 and 95th Street in 2014, when he was on the planning and zoning commission, and now the area is ripe for development.
Incumbent Kevin Gallaher, a 53-year-old attorney who lives west of downtown, says the right setup is in place for prosperity and time will be good to south Naperville. As subdivisions near completion, roads and utilities will be finished to complement the houses. Then businesses will follow, he said.
"I think you'll see some of the commercial areas become more gathering places," Gallaher said. "I think a lot of that happens naturally."
The top four vote-getters among the eight council candidates will win 4-year terms on the council.