'A vision for the future': Naperville commission adopts Riverwalk master plan

  • Improved pedestrian access, beautification efforts, new parks and enhanced overlooks are among the improvements included in a Riverwalk 2031 Master Plan adopted this week by the Naperville Riverwalk Commission. The document serves as a wish list of potential projects ahead of the city's bicentennial.

    Improved pedestrian access, beautification efforts, new parks and enhanced overlooks are among the improvements included in a Riverwalk 2031 Master Plan adopted this week by the Naperville Riverwalk Commission. The document serves as a wish list of potential projects ahead of the city's bicentennial. Courtesy of the Riverwalk Commission

  • An "East Bank Riverwalk" and adjacent bike path are among the potential projects outlined in a master plan adopted this week by the Naperville Riverwalk Commission.

    An "East Bank Riverwalk" and adjacent bike path are among the potential projects outlined in a master plan adopted this week by the Naperville Riverwalk Commission. Courtesy of the Riverwalk Commission

  • A Riverwalk 2031 Master Plan adopted this week by a Naperville commission calls for improving the Grand Pavilion parking area and plaza -- a project that could cost $1.8 to $2.6 million, according to estimates.

    A Riverwalk 2031 Master Plan adopted this week by a Naperville commission calls for improving the Grand Pavilion parking area and plaza -- a project that could cost $1.8 to $2.6 million, according to estimates. Courtesy of the Riverwalk Commission

 
 
Updated 9/11/2020 5:18 PM

Stretching along 1.75 miles of the DuPage River, the Naperville Riverwalk has been acclaimed as the city's crown jewel, a picturesque path linking amenities and landscapes that have drawn visitors to the downtown area for decades.

A master plan formally adopted this week by the Riverwalk Commission aims to build upon that success, offering a long-range framework for desired projects and enhancements along the linear park ahead of the city's bicentennial in 2031.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But commission Chairman Geoff Roehll says the beauty of the 23-page document is its intended fluidity. Rather than spell out priorities or a specific timeline, he said, the master plan serves as a wish list of improvements at various scales that could be implemented as financing becomes available.

"We wanted to lay out a vision for the future of the Riverwalk and have that as an engagement tool for all kinds of various partners and funding sources," commission member Pat Kennedy said. "I think we've accomplished that."

Constructed by volunteers in 1981 to commemorate Naperville's 150th anniversary, the Riverwalk has been expanded and updated over the years through various community partnerships. While an asset management plan focuses on the condition and maintenance of the existing features, the Riverwalk 2031 Master Plan offers a glimpse into future opportunities to "make those experiences better for the users of the park," Roehll said.

The projects range from "high in the sky" concepts to smaller, less expensive enhancements, Roehll said. Although many are merely ideas put to paper, some already have gained traction or even have funding in place.

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A new park and plaza at 430 S. Washington St., for example, is ready to move forward once construction on the Washington Street bridge wraps up, Roehll said. State funding has been awarded for the roughly $1.4 million project, which is being completed through a partnership with the city and North Central College, according to the master plan.

Financing has not been secured yet for an extension of the Riverwalk south to Martin Avenue, Roehll said, but leaders at the nearby Edward Hospital are pleased by the project's momentum. North Central College representatives have expressed excitement for the improvements planned near their campus, too, including the potential creation of a new pedestrian bridge and a 1,400-square-foot path along the east side of the river, he said.

The master plan also includes improvements to the Grand Pavilion parking lot and plaza and a block-long transformation of the area between Main and Washington streets. Enhancements to gateway areas, ecological restoration efforts, improved overlook points and accessibility upgrades also are addressed in the document.

After a weekslong engagement process, the master plan was updated to reflect community suggestions and cost estimates before being adopted Wednesday by the Riverwalk Commission. Members will now review the document one last time before presenting it to the park district board and the city council for consideration in October, Roehll said.

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