How Naperville streetscapes could foster remote work culture
Plans for one outdoor Wi-Fi workspace are generating interest in Naperville, so the city might try to create more.
The first planned outdoor work area, called the Naperville Jaycees Smart Park, is designed to include tables, seating, shade and power plugs for phones and computers. It's expected to be built between the Riverwalk and the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.
Mayor Steve Chirico has touted the $400,000 communal workspace as part of an effort to adjust to employment trends, provide on-the-go workplaces and entice millennials to live in the suburbs.
Enthused by the idea, council member Paul Hinterlong said he wants to "see if we can't come up with some more opportunities for our millennials."
Hinterlong asked whether "mini smart parks" can be created throughout the downtown, where people might want to get some work done after grabbing a sandwich.
"I don't think everyone will just come here to use the park," Hinterlong said.
The best way to incorporate internet-based amenities could be through a downtown streetscape plan that's likely to come up for council approval this March or April, members of the city's planning staff said.
The plan includes upgrades to sidewalks, installation of benches and furniture, and enhancements to sidewalk corners throughout the downtown, where work would be phased in over several years. Allison Laff, deputy director of transportation, engineering and development, said the plan does not yet include electric upgrades to install power plugs or Wi-Fi hot spots.
But it could.
The aesthetics of the streetscape plan, which features concrete instead of brick for easier walkability and replacement of some parkway trees with potted shrubs, already have been approved by the city's downtown advisory commission. So Laff said planning staff members can review whether and how to add internet infrastructure where people might want to use it.
While the Jaycees Smart Park is a defined area, to be furnished and landscaped using donations, council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski cautioned against trying to make every downtown corner a spot like that.
She said the idea should not be to "get caught up in creating perfect workstations," but to provide the service of easy connectivity and allow people to use it how they choose.
"I hope we wouldn't get up in form over function," Boyd-Obarski said.