South Naperville Candidate Forum

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Development was the topic of the night at the South Homeowners of Wheatland’s recent Naperville City Council and mayoral candidate forum.

When asked about what new ideas candidates had for further developing south Naperville, many said it starts with putting a plan in place.

“To bring residents to the table, to hear what people want to have done down here. To have those discussions both with residents and developers and business owners,” said candidate Patrick Kelly.

“We need to continue to have a good mix of both residential and economic development. We need to work with Naperville Development Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce to continue to attract business to attain and retain businesses that are currently here,” explained candidate Michelle Hilger Clemen.

“Working with the city, the NDP and the city can help work the private and public sector work together to identify the future of economic growth opportunities,” added candidate Greg McElroy.

Others felt addressing what millennials are looking for is the key to improving development.

“They want to work for web-based companies [and] online companies. Let’s do business incubation to get them out here and bring their families out here so they develop those businesses here in Naperville,” said candidate Barbara O’Meara.

“Life is changing, the world is changing, and we’re going to have to utilize space in a different way,” said candidate Whitney Robbins. “So whether that is bringing in new concepts, recruiting in new businesses. We’ve got to start to look at it and embrace what a millennial is looking for.”

And that thought led many to discuss how online shopping is changing the market too.

“We have to start taking a look at our codes and ordinances and become more flexible to the times because retail is very difficult right now that’s why no one is going in. The 800-pound gorilla is Amazon,” explained candidate Paul Hinterlong.

“I believe that the home rules sales tax portion that is charged for purchases here in Naperville is currently not collected for online purchases. So I would encourage legislative action to try to capture that revenue,” added candidate Nancy Turner.

Some candidates had specific project ideas as well.

“Some ideas that might work well here in the entertainment area such as an indoor water park hotel. We obviously have a lot of kids here, [and] the nearest one is at least 45 minutes away,” said candidate Bradford Miller.

“More service-providing type of businesses,” said candidate Patty Gustin. “More restaurants and things like that where people would go. Because there really aren’t that many restaurants down here. There are not as many services like nail salons and things like that.”

And other candidates felt focusing on current tenants would help attract business in the future.

“The thing I think we need to look at as a city council is to be flexible filling the spaces that have already been built that are sitting vacant. I don’t see any reason we have to rush to develop everything commercially or otherwise in south Naperville,” said candidate Theresa Sullivan.

“One of the ways that we can support the local businesses and keep that local district is through rooftops. And so we don’t have a lot of options on that. So we need to at least try to retain the businesses that we do attract to that area,” said mayoral candidate Steve Chirico.

“Dominick’s has been leased out by its competitor. My understanding is that it’s under lease and there’s something that’s going to be happening there. But listen, if we don’t develop the right properties and the right uses, then there won’t be people going to these stores and using them,” explained candidate Bruce Hanson.

Due to a family emergency, mayoral candidate Rocky Caylor was the only absentee from this forum.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.