The Little Town That Could

Written by: Hilary Decent

Once upon a time there was a sleepy little town called Naperville. Its people were always bright and smiley, and there was nothing they couldn’t do. Naperville was a lovely place to live, but there was one problem. The river that ran through its downtown area was ugly.

“Naperville is such a pretty place, it’s a shame that we have such an ugly river,” they said. So they banded together and came up with an idea. They decided to change the ugly area into a beautiful one. Planners designed a wonderful river walk and the people of Naperville joined forces to make sure it was the most beautiful place you ever did see. They laid tiny bricks one by one to make a path. They put in twinkling fountains and covered bridges. People came to admire the Riverwalk from as far away as London, England, and exotic Dubai (largely due to my own personal efforts, I may add).
Thirty years went by. Naperville was no longer a sleepy little town. It was a city. Its people were still bright and smiley (even with a heat index today of 105 degrees). Naperville was an even lovelier place to live, but there was one new problem.

The Fifth Avenue car park by Naperville Station was ugly.
“Naperville is such a pretty place, it’s a shame that we have such an ugly station car lot,” they said. “It’s also a shame that the land contains a preserved building which makes any new construction around it difficult. It’s even more of a shame we don’t have enough parking for all our commuters.”

So they decided to change the ugly area into a beautiful one. A group of Napervillians (including many who built the Riverwalk) came together and thought up a wonderful idea.

“We can turn the area into a new jewel in Naperville’s crown,” said the head of the cliche committee. “We’ll have mixed housing, shops, restaurants, parking garages and best of all a 2,700 seat theater where Broadway shows will be mounted. We’ll call the project Omnia – for all.”

Now not everyone in Naperville was pleased about this. They worried about increased traffic, possible taxes on residents and how higher building structures would spoil the view of the railroad tracks. The City of Naperville was worried too. They had their own plan, but that was just for improved parking.
But the people of Omnia were not deterred.

“Naperville is a visionary place,” they said. “We have to look to the future. This theater is exactly what we need. Plus all the new housing will pay for it with a TIF.” (No, I can’t begin to explain what a TIF is, you’ll have to Google it I’m afraid).
So the battle of Omnia continues. If you’d like to find out more about it and lodge comments, visit www.omniaarts.org.
I for one hope it has a fairy tale ending. It’s only what I would expect in magical town like Naperville. A town where a few old timers can come together to not only put on a show in a barn, but who can build a state of the art ‘barn’ and solve half the city’s problems at the same time.

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