'Smart park' outdoor workspace opens along Naperville Riverwalk
A man opened a laptop and sat down under a trellis Tuesday afternoon as Naperville officials celebrated the official opening of an space meant for exactly what he was doing.
Naperville Jaycees Park is an outdoor workspace with its own Wi-Fi network, seating for 71 people, 26 power outlets and two smartphone charging stations.
It's a sunken garden along the Naperville Riverwalk powered by solar panels and built with permeable pavers. It's a sign of the changing times of employment and of an established suburb's efforts to attract and retain the next generation of young families.
Funded with $200,000 pledged during the next 10 years from the Naperville Jaycees and other donations secured by Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico and city council member Kevin Coyne, the new park creates a pleasant environment for workers to telecommute or meet outside the Naperville Municipal Center.
"I know this is going to quickly become a popular gathering space," Chirico said.
The idea for what officials also are calling a "smart park" came from local entrepreneur Scott Palmer, who shared it with Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Nicki Anderson, who brought it up to Chirico. The mayor, who recently began his second term, announced the idea in 2017 as he encouraged people to dream big during his State of the City address.
In the Naperville tradition, the park came together with the support of many people, businesses and organizations including the Riverwalk Foundation, Downtown Naperville Alliance, Naperville Development Partnership and Naperville Exchange Club, among others. Chirico recognized BBM Incorporated as the first organization to pledge a donation and the Jaycees for making the namesake contribution.
Jaycees Immediate Past President Matt Dingledein said his first visit to the park last weekend made him proud he helped contribute the landscaped workspace to the community.
"This is something that does nothing but benefit the people that live here ..." Dingledein said, "to invest in something that makes us all feel good, to make Naperville approachable and aspirational."
The Jaycees in the past have donated for a marina and an accessible playground, among other projects. Jaycees President Miranda Barfuss called the club's latest contribution to the new park "pure unencumbered philanthropy."
With such generosity backing the park, Chirico said it was built without taxpayer dollars. In the past, he said he secured roughly $475,000 from community donations and nearly $108,000 in solar energy credits from a state power agency to fund construction and establish a reserve for park maintenance.