Solar panels to power Naperville's outdoor Smart Park

The outdoor office space Naperville officials have been planning since the mayor announced plans in March is inching closer to reality.

The idea, called the Jaycees Smart Park, gained approval Wednesday morning from the city's Riverwalk Commission - one of three bodies that needs to OK it before construction can begin.

An updated Riverwalk map and agreement that designates the future smart park as the city's responsibility to maintain now heads to the city council and the park board for final approvals.

Riverwalk Commission members said they appreciate that the outdoor office area will be primarily a park, usable not only by business people conducting meetings or freelancers working on laptops, but also by downtown shoppers or students.

The space is designed to occupy a patch of grass north of the Naperville Municipal Center at 400 S. Eagle St., tucked between the building and the West Branch of the DuPage River.

"I think it's a great location," said Geoff Roehll, Riverwalk Commission chairman.

The smart park will be near the new Hotel Indigo at the Water Street District, which may suggest the space as a meeting area if all of its conference rooms are booked, Roehll said.

Plans for the Smart Park call for seating, shade, Wi-Fi, tables, plants, electricity and maybe even space heaters with timers to meet the workplace needs of on-the-go employees. Accent lighting will illuminate the tables at night to provide safety and help prevent vandalism.

Electricity for power plugs will be provided by solar panels the city plans to install atop the municipal center's roof. Aside from powering the smart park, the panels are expected to generate enough extra energy to bring in $4,000 a year, which can be put toward maintenance or Riverwalk enhancements.

Since introducing the technology-focused idea during his State of the City address in March, Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico has been securing funding from groups including the Naperville Jaycees, which claimed naming rights by promising $200,000 during the next five to 10 years. The project is expected to cost roughly $400,000.

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New benches, tables, shade covers and landscaping will be part of the Jaycees Smart Park, a roughly $400,000 outdoor office plaza the city of Naperville is planning for the grassy area between the municipal center and the Riverwalk. Courtesy of Hitchcock Design Group
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