Naperville mayor candidates offer different approaches to economic development
Both candidates for Naperville mayor see economic development as one of their strong suits.
Incumbent Steve Chirico points to the city's success during his tenure in filling "the poster child of empty buildings," a former Menard's on Ogden Avenue, with the Indian grocery business Patel Brothers.
Challenger Richard "Rocky" Caylor emphasizes his background in the logistics industry, bringing to fruition large infrastructure and building projects by working with officials at all levels.
But the candidates offer different ideas for how they would continue to bring development to Naperville, especially on the south side, which has fewer commercial options and some of the city's only remaining open land.
Chirico said the city's development strategy should be to find solutions for long-vacant properties, as he did with Patel Brothers; to add to the commercial base for residents of south Naperville; and to trust the city's time-tested entitlement process to result in quality projects.
Finding solutions for difficult properties occurs when elected leaders and city staff members follow a "path to yes" mindset Chirico said he has instituted.
Adding commercial options to south Naperville could follow, in part, from allowing more residential development.
As plans for a subdivision called Polo Club at 119th Street and Route 59 work through reviews by staff members and the planning and zoning commission, Chirico said it's important to allow "a variety of housing" to provide more customers for shops along Route 59.
Although neighbor opposition continues to surface about traffic, road work, density and compatibility of the D.R. Horton plan, Chirico said he's encouraged to see the developer work with nearby homeowners. The collaboration follows what he calls a "great system" for involving residents and the community.
"You listen to the people; you take their input; you allow that to influence the project and keep making it better and better ... We've done it time after time for decades in Naperville," he said. "That's largely why Naperville has turned out so great. It's just well-planned and the process works."
Caylor said the city can chart its best path toward development by improving infrastructure to allow for more homes, businesses and traffic; by forming advisory groups to focus on south Naperville and the East Ogden Avenue corridor; and by remembering "it's not any one person, it's a group of people" that made the city great.
In the case of the Polo Club proposal, which has residents concerned about insufficient capacity at the corner of 119th Street and Route 59, Caylor said the city needs to work with nearby road jurisdictions to pursue improvements and seek grants to fund them.
"The infrastructure really has to be thought through from the very beginning and solutions need to be put in place," Caylor said. "That's what I bring to the table. I've operated at a national level with development, on a state level and municipal level."
Caylor also suggested new advisory groups for south Naperville and the East Ogden corridor could help the city recreate some of the success it has seen with its downtown, which Caylor calls "a beautiful place that has charm."
Similar to the city's downtown advisory commission, the new groups could include residents, business owners and property owners to advise about what they'd like to see in their parts of town. And the new panels could meet with the leadership of the established downtown group to build on its experience.
The idea of forming new development advisory groups follows Caylor's plan to govern Naperville as a "community of purpose" by listening to the people.
Voters can choose between Chirico, a 58-year-old businessman who became the city's full-time mayor four years ago, and Caylor, a 62-year-old logistics executive seeking elected office for the first time, in the April 2 election.