Should DuPage Children's Museum move? Naperville mayoral candidates weigh in

  • The DuPage Children's Museum property in Naperville is included in a redevelopment zone along 5th Avenue near the Naperville Metra station, but its future is unlikely to be decided before the April 2 election.

    The DuPage Children's Museum property in Naperville is included in a redevelopment zone along 5th Avenue near the Naperville Metra station, but its future is unlikely to be decided before the April 2 election. Daily Herald file photo October 2017

  • The winner in a Naperville mayoral race between challenger Richard "Rocky" Caylor and incumbent Mayor Steve Chirico likely will be leading the city before a decision is made about the future of the DuPage Children's Museum.

      The winner in a Naperville mayoral race between challenger Richard "Rocky" Caylor and incumbent Mayor Steve Chirico likely will be leading the city before a decision is made about the future of the DuPage Children's Museum. Jeff Knox | Staff Photographer

 
 

Whether the DuPage Children's Museum stays or moves to make way for redevelopment near the Naperville train station is a decision unlikely to be made before the city's April 2 mayoral election.

So the two candidates seeking the mayor's office, incumbent Steve Chirico and challenger Richard "Rocky" Caylor, are sharing their ideas for what should happen to the cultural staple at 301 N. Washington St.

Caylor, a 62-year-old logistics executive, said he wants museum leaders to be open to possibilities other than the city-owned site where the facility has welcomed young visitors since 2001.

"If there's other opportunities that present something that's good for them and good for the kids," Caylor said, "I would want them to be open."

But Caylor also said he will remain a museum supporter no matter the eventual decision. He said the familiar Washington Street building is in a convenient, centralized location, but it comes with the drawback of traffic backups during certain times of day.

"There is a lot of controversy there and decisions that have to be made," Caylor said. "I'll stand behind them whether they want to stay or they do see somewhere they'd want to move."

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City officials have said they are working with museum leaders to evaluate the financial feasibility of four alternate sites in Naperville. The sites never have been publicly named. DuPage Children's Museum leaders did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Chirico said the review process is ongoing, complicated by the fact the museum has a lease with the city until 2031 and never sought to move. Discussions of a new home were prompted by the city's efforts to redevelop the 5th Avenue area near the Naperville Metra station, which have been underway in some form for the past two years.

"The board and the executive director are very happy where they're at," said Chirico, 58, who is wrapping up his first term as mayor after four years as a city council member. "They don't have to move. They will only move if it's going to provide them with a brighter future."

Chirico said the location evaluation process is about finding a "sweet spot," where the museum can affordably build a better home, increase programs and expand its visitor base -- potentially while revitalizing business in a new area of the city. The museum could benefit from increased parking, taller ceilings and outdoor space that could be designed into exhibits for kids to explore, Chirico said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Depending upon where the children's museum is located, that could be a tremendous economic engine for that area, and there are several areas that could use it within our city," Chirico said. "It really, truly could be a win-win-win situation if we can find that sweet spot."

Details for the city council to use in making a decision about the museum's future already have been delayed twice from missed deadlines in November and January.

If the museum does move, Chirico said its site could become a new parking lot that could help ease the daily commute for Metra riders, most of whom head into Chicago by coming to the Naperville station from the south.

In that case, Chirico said the key would be to work with 5th Avenue developer Ryan Companies to "integrate the children's museum into the project so that it looks like it was planned."

"In either scenario," he said, "it's a very exciting opportunity."

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