During Homecoming festivities in October to dedicate the Riverwalk Gateway to North Central College, President Harold R. Wilde made a promise. He said one of his last official duties before he retires on Dec. 31, 2012, would be to get rid of the eyesore next to Burger King along Washington Street at the entrance to downtown Naperville.
To a rousing round of applause during the City Council meeting on Dec. 18, the community learned Wilde had kept his promise. The good news was announced that North Central College and the City of Naperville indeed were partnering to convert the property into a public park and an additional entryway to campus, the Riverwalk and downtown Naperville.
Many residents remember the dilapidated building had been used as a seasonal location for the sale of golf clubs, income tax services and Halloween costumes, falling more and more into disrepair as the years passed. The Riverwalk Commission had been advocating the demolition and redevelopment of the property since the mid-1990s.
North Central is purchasing the property at 420-444 S. Washington, a vacant one-story commercial building adjacent to the Naperville Riverwalk, and it’s anticipated that the building will be razed by the city in January 2013.
“For a long time the College has shared a dream with the city to recreate the beauty of Fredenhagen Park and the Riverwalk on this property,” noted Dr. Wilde.
The new park will complement two other recent public improvements on the North Central College campus: the Riverwalk Gateway and Sesquicentennial Walkway. The Riverwalk Gateway connects the College and Riverwalk to Naperville’s Fredenhagen Park, located northeast of the Washington Street bridge over the DuPage River. The Sesquicentennial Walkway is a landscaped pedestrian path that runs through the heart of campus between Benton and Jefferson avenues. The new park will be located just across the pedestrian Moser Bridge from the Riverwalk Gateway.
“North Central College is a tremendous partner to the City of Naperville, and we are so pleased to announce the pending demolition of the building on this property,” Mayor A. George Pradel said. “By removing this building and keeping the area as open space, our residents will have another beautiful place to come and relax. The open appearance of this area is also a pleasing gateway to the City’s downtown. I am so proud that the College and City are able to work together on projects such as this to benefit the overall quality of life for our wonderful community.”
The Naperville City Council also authorized City Manager Doug Krieger to award a contract to demolish the structure located on the property commonly known as 420-440 S. Washington St. and release a $235,000 lien the city had placed on the property. The city imposed the lien to cover property-maintenance fines that had been levied over the years after the property had been in foreclosure and vacated.
Buildings on the property date back to 1930 and through the years housed various commercial enterprises. The current building has been vacant for about a decade, its condition has deteriorated and the site has become overgrown with vegetation. Tall evergreens are growing in the cracks in the concrete around the structure on the property that has caused much deliberation over the years.
In fact, from a distance, the evergreens situated around the structure might be mistaken for ready-to-go Christmas trees, such as the ones that crop up for sale in empty lots during the holiday season.
The artist’s rendering of the new park was provided by North Central College.
Also of note, the Naperville City Council unanimously approved a resolution honoring Wilde for his nearly 22 years of service as president of North Central College. Wilde retires on Dec. 31 and will be succeeded by Dr. Troy D. Hammond, who becomes the 10th president in North Central’s 151-year history on Jan. 1.
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