Construction to begin on Naperville Jaycees outdoor workspace
An idea two years in the making will take a step toward completion Tuesday when Naperville breaks ground on a new outdoor workspace called Naperville Jaycees Park.
During a 5 p.m. ceremony outside the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St., the city will begin transforming a patch of land near the Riverwalk into an outdoor office for an on-the-go workforce.
The prospect excites the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Jaycees, which earned naming rights through a $200,000 donation that will be made over 10 years.
Nicki Anderson, president and CEO of the chamber, said she brought up the idea of turning parks into mobile workspaces two years ago to Mayor Steve Chirico.
"I had a vision of many parks doing this," Anderson said. "The mayor took it and ran with it, and said, 'Let's start locally.'"
Chirico first mentioned the idea during his second State of the City address in March 2017, also citing its backing by local entrepreneur Scott Palmer of the game company Spikeball. Chirico originally said he hoped the park could be built within the year.
He now admits the process has taken longer than he hoped, but says $582,874 of funding -- roughly $475,000 from community donations and nearly $108,000 in solar energy credits from a state power agency -- is now in hand.
With the funding set, including more than $100,000 to be saved for future maintenance, Chirico said construction can progress smoothly. Work is expected to be finished by the end of this year or early next.
The park will include three shade structures, several tables for groups of various sizes, Wi-Fi, power plugs and device charging stations, along with shade trees and ornamental trees.
Jim Groat, past president of the Naperville Jaycees, said the $200,000 is the biggest donation the service organization has made to the city. He said he's excited that such a substantial sum can go toward a park that will be a first for the region and a destination for remote workers.
"It's a place for the community to get together in an outdoor office-type setting," Groat said. "You have a place where you can concentrate in the shade and be outside in the better parts of the year."
Park plans faced a few skeptics and a few hurdles, including a difference of opinion on whether Jaycees member names should be listed on a plaque identifying supporters of the park. But officials ironed out those details, deciding to list donors by organization name when applicable and by individual names only when they're not part of an organization.
Now Groat and Anderson say they're excited for the park to impress naysayers who have doubted its necessity in a world where every coffee shop offers Wi-Fi and many devices create their own hot spots.
"Some people might be skeptical, but at the end of the day, we're going to find this is a draw," Anderson said, "for many people who are staying inside their homes and now may be coming out because we're offering an environment that makes remote working a much better experience."