Naperville has rebounded well from the Great Recession, according to Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership (NDP). “The city is on a sure footing again in terms of retail, office and industrial development.”
The NDP is a public/private economic development organization, founded in 1997, that fosters economic growth in the City of Naperville. It has been responsible for millions of square feet of new construction, large-scale absorption of existing commercial space and has participated in the crafting of planning and redevelopment guides for retail corridors and the downtown area of the city. The work of the NDP has resulted in thousands of new jobs and an exceptional vibrancy in the business districts throughout the city. It also worked closely with the City of Naperville to create the award-winning Transportation, Engineering and Development (TED) business unit.
Naperville’s downtown, for instance, is booming. Its retail space is almost full thanks, in part, to the recent entrance of Two Brothers’ Brewing Company’s The Craftsman restaurant, which took over the three-story building of the former Wise Boxer Pour House at 16 W. Jefferson Ave. in January.
“It presented a great opportunity for us,” said Jim Ebel who owns Two Brothers’ Brewing with his brother, Jason. “We got a three-story building in downtown Naperville where we could showcase all three facets of our business – a coffee shop and bakery on the ground floor, a modern tavern restaurant serving modern comfort food on the second floor and a bar on the third floor which serves craft cocktails and craft beer. We could bring it all together here in one unique space.”
Two Brothers opened a distillery in their Aurora Roundhouse location in late fall, so they will soon be serving their own spirits in The Craftsman’s third floor bar.
“Naperville is a great city and a great place for us to be. They have been wonderful to work with,” Ebel added. “When other places falter, Naperville keeps plugging along.”
Jeffries is pleased by the seemingly magic mix of retail, restaurants and community amenities in the downtown area. The new Water Street District with its Hotel Indigo, restaurants, retail and banquet space will open gradually through mid-2017, for instance. North Central College, which is located in the downtown area, continues to grow and offer opportunities for entertainment to the general public in both Wentz Concert Hall and Pfeiffer Hall.
“In our performing arts/theater district, as I call it, the public can see great live performances and enjoy dinner, too – Naperville-style – at great surrounding restaurants,” Jeffries said.
Freedom Commons, an intimate lifestyle center on Freedom Drive between the Naperville exit of the I-88 Tollway and Diehl Road, is another hotspot. It features high-end salons, retailers and restaurants like Morton’s Steakhouse, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, Maggiano’s Little Italy and others including the new Old Town Pour House that opened in July.
“This is our fourth location and we chose Naperville because we loved the demographics and the density in this hotel corridor along I-88,” said Chris Bisaillon, co-owner and CEO. “Freedom Commons was a great match for us.”
Old Town Pour House showcases the beers of Chicago metropolitan area microbreweries, featuring 96 taps, as well as eight draft wines and a wide variety of craft cocktails.
“We also offer a contemporary American menu featuring everything from wraps to salmon to pork chops, great sports viewing opportunities, a private dining room for up to 30 people and an outdoor fireplace,” he said.
“The parking lot at Freedom Commons is always full. We are overwhelmingly impressed. It is a strong sign of a healthy community,” Bisaillon added.
“We have seen a tremendous amount of growth in the entire retail sector over the last year, including new and expanding auto dealerships. Naperville has over 20 auto dealerships so they bring in a lot of revenue. In fact, we get a third of our retail sales tax revenue from auto dealerships,” Jeffries said.
“Naperville actually has a very car-centric economy,” she noted. “For instance, this year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of our Naperville Test Track. The city owned a 50-acre site on Jefferson between Fort Hill and Ogden where the railroad used to unload autos from rail cars and then send them out to the various dealerships. When they moved that facility down to Joliet, we figured out a unique way to allow prospective car buyers to test drive their cars that kept that traffic out of our neighborhoods. We built a test track that the dealerships buy a membership to and they love it because it helps to sell cars.”
“We also used some of those 50 acres to attract six new dealerships and to allow six others to expand,” Jeffries added. “And we built an internal road through the facility to allow the big car carriers to unload at the adjacent dealerships. We wanted to get those deliveries off of busy Ogden Avenue.”
Then there is the thriving Iron Gate Motor Condos facility on the western edge of Naperville, north of I-88. It offers auto storage in private auto “condos” and has become a popular gathering place for car lovers. Iron Gate is now set to add a commercial area that will provide auto detailing and specialty car sales.
Jeffries is also pleased about the large banquet facility that has been opened at the Embassy Suites at 1813 Abriter Ct., the new corporate headquarters for Perma-Seal Basement Systems, Inc. that is being constructed on Quincy Avenue and the new 105,000 square foot production facility and showroom for Bluco Industries that is being built-out in an existing building on Frontenac. Bluco specializes in precision modular fixtures for welding, machining, assembly and inspection.
“We will be announcing soon a company coming to the 130,000 square foot building at 1203 Warrenville Road. It’s a perfect fit for the building and a perfect fit for Naperville,” she said.
“Naperville has positioned itself as a great satellite office location for that ‘urban connection’. Live, work and play in Naperville and link to your Loop office via the Metra rail line. Experience the best of both worlds,” Jeffries added.