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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Carillon Conundrum


Good old summertime…

The Riverwalk provides places to reflect every day.

Call me old-fashioned. Every day I yearn to learn, driven to find balance in this new-fangled ever-changing world. My favorite summer place continues to be outside and unplugged, listening to nature and wondering what the birds think when they hear me sing as I walk alone.

Indoors, I find myself glued to the technology that has created ways to communicate instantly. Keystroking on a keyboard is more efficient than pecking on my 1980s Selectric typewriter back when Wite-Out, colored to match stationery, was a great solution for typos. Now I appreciate “copy and paste,” an impalpable invention that’s credited to computer scientist Larry Tesler. In fact, I used copy and paste during a Wikipedia visit to insert “Larry Tesler” here.

Another of my favorite things simply is breaking bread with friends, one on one, trying to find reasonable solutions, especially to local issues. While I was thinking about complicated artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations such as social media, credited for improving our quality of life, my unoriginal thought turned to the next best invention since sliced bread.

Then I wondered, just when was sliced bread invented? Another handy internet search led to Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa, a jeweler who invented the bread-slicing machine in 1912, first used in 1928 in Chillicothe, Missouri.

As I move along, it’s occurred to me that before this month’s commentary is finished, it’ll likely be rambling all over the place with lots of landscape to cover.

And those small, yellow, melodious goggle-clad Minions in overalls with one or two eyes and three fingers have returned to the big screen. Like most of us, no matter what the challenge, they appreciate positive attention. That’s why one is on the front page.

Give your positive attention, please!

Well, ya got challenges, my friend, right here,

I say, challenges right here in River City.

It starts with spirit…

Some folks cheer it…

But can you hear it?

Case in point, what’s the best plan for Moser Tower with its 72-bell carillon, a large musical instrument located at the base of Rotary Hill along the Riverwalk? And what’s the best way to save the Old Nichols Library located at 110 S. Washington Street?

With progress comes delay

If you’ve already hit the highway during this summer construction season, roadside reminders say “Alert!”

Alternate traffic patterns may seem like obstacles that try your patience when you’re trying to get to your vacation destination. It’s no secret, as the saying goes, “with progress comes delay.” And the best progress, in our opinion, comes when folks pay attention to the process.

In many ways, with all the construction and ideas right now, Naperville feels like 1999 all over again.

Preparing for PN throughout 1999-2000

This publication was inspired in the late 1990s when this community was challenged with more wants than unmet needs. Organized groups of initiatives looked toward a bright future in the new millennium. Fundraising knew few limits— or so it seemed.

Known as a city that has marked its milestones in significant ways since the days of planning Centennial Beach and the “nifty one-fifty” Riverwalk, Celebration 2000 emerged with fundraising for big parties at North Central College’s Merner Fieldhouse and the Naperville Municipal Center as well as the commemorative Millennium Wall and a labyrinth the length of a football field to enhance the Riverwalk Amphitheater.

Other projects included plans for a 72-bell Millennium Carillon housed in what came to be Moser Tower.

The Community Concert Center was being planned to replace the band shell in Central Park where performances of the Naperville Municipal Band date back to 1859. Some residents floated ideas for a natatorium, a bigger A.D.O.P.T. facility, Fredenhagen Park, Century Walk projects…the list seemed never-ending.

And PN launched its website in July 2001 to help promote the good things.

On the same page

Back then, residents also were known to subscribe to at least one daily newspaper, sometimes two, where the front page presentation of stories and photos as well as editorial pages brought to light the issues of the challenges that unite us.

Times were changing. The dot.com era was emerging. Some studies suggested the printed page would need to be “free” to readers in order to compete with the information highway. We thought we’d give a try.

At issue today with the way news spreads is so few individuals are on the same page at the same time. Opinions get in the way of facts. Soundbites have replaced deeper investigation. Snarky comments from internet trolls invade online conversation.

This monthly publication celebrates independent enterprise, the kind with free markets that lead to prosperity and peace. We like to think we have empathy and help when we can, mindful that “charity begins at home” with an aim to spread what’s important here around the world.

To that end, the internet drives us all over the world. Further, trying to stay focused where it matters most for local residents, right here in Naperville, often is not considered “real” unless it appears on the good old-fashioned printed page.

We cannot begin to tell you the number of times folks send us stories with a request to be in the print edition, as though it matters more.

Are you still reading this editorial and paying attention?

We think the unintended consequences of not paying attention are hazardous to the well-being of every community. Leaving policy decisions to the other guy without providing input can lead down the dangerous road to serfdom.

As the great Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Attracting new ideas and risk-takers

This community has attracted risk-takers since the days of Captain Joe Naper, always keeping up with the latest technology as is evidenced by corporate business throughout this city. Communication is changing faster than at any other time in history. Yet, with all the human intelligence in the world, even the latest app likely will not solve our biggest challenges. Connecting face-to-face with real people just might.

With the wave of a wand, don’t you wish private dollars could transmogrify the old Nichols Library into a profitable business model to be viewed in this Tree City USA from the observation deck of Moser Tower?

In PN’s perfect world, we imagine an investor (or the current developer) would purchase the old Nichols Library at a fair market price to keep it on the City’s tax roll.

The building’s roof and other unmet maintenance needs would be assessed and private funds would begin to restore it for a soon-to-be determined use.

A Town Hall Meeting would welcome ideas to repurpose the historic site into an attractive business venture that produces revenue for the City.

Pride of preservation with a purpose

In our view, if the Old Nichols Library and/or Moser Tower were to be deemed ready for the wrecking ball and this publication failed to alert you about changing the landscape, we wouldn’t be much of a community news source, would we?

That’s why we put this topic on the front page. We aim to reach the majority of households.

More than ever, PN appreciates its advertising sponsors, members of the independent small business community who help pay for buckets of ink, rolls of newsprint, distribution costs, internet platforms and the widgets that make websites reactive.

Mindful to look at the bright side, focused on the plethora of fundraising events that keep this city thriving and connected, we encourage folks to pay attention to new developments for the Old Nichols Library, Moser Tower with the Millennium Carillon, Naper Settlement, Ogden Avenue, 248th Street, Fifth Avenue, the Riverwalk and Naperville Park District.

If we’re not careful, this city will no longer distinguish itself with its unique character.

Talk to your friends, neighbors and longtime residents. Naperville didn’t just happen overnight. But it could change that fast.

We’ll repeat the words of British architect Graeme Shankland, “A country without a past has the emptiness of a barren continent; and a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory.”

Surprise proposal for Old Nichols Library

On April 7 business leaders gathered with the media when the City of Naperville announced that Patel Brothers, a nationally-known Indian grocery chain, will be re-developing the 15-years-vacant property at 1568 Ogden Ave. and Jefferson Ave. In addition to a 39,000-square foot grocery store specializing in ingredients and cuisine of India and southeast Asia, the remainder of the total 88,000 square foot property will be converted into a new shopping plaza with multiple retailers, including numerous dining and shopping options. Applause. Applause.

That afternoon, we also learned the old Nichols Library property had been purchased with a proposal to be redeveloped into a multi-use 4-story building.

We couldn’t believe that during the plan and zoning commission and city council process to approve the Truth Lutheran Church building at Bauer and Mill streets that we’d failed to connect the dots. A developer had negotiated a land swap for a piece of property we’d thought was protected by historic covenants.

Quite frankly, I’m happy to see the property on the City’s tax rolls. What’s disappointing is the proposed project that will demolish the existing historic structure.

Here’s hoping our City can host a town hall meeting to discuss property rights and ways a developer could save and restore old Nichols Library for a commercial use that would be a solution to everyone who values the building built in 1898 with $10,000 bequeathed to Naperville citizens in 1895 for a library by businessman James L. Nichols.

After attending the open house on May 16, the night of a City Council Meeting, I contacted the developer, Developer Dwight Avram. After introducing myself to the gentleman who answered the phone, I explained I’d like to talk to Avram one on one, and offered to take him to lunch. I wanted to learn more about the process and his plans, and provide possibilities other than the architect’s renderings that had been presented at the open house.

Unfortunately his busy travel schedule has prevented such a meeting.

Here’s hoping before too much time passes, his good neighbor instincts will allow our exchange of thoughtful ideas about private enterprise and free market economies while adapting to a changing world and seeking solutions right here in Naperville.

Now consider the brief  history of Moser Tower

Moser Tower with the 72-bell carillon

Moser Tower was constructed in 1999 and 2000 by the Millennium Carillon Foundation, according to documents provided to the media during a press conference on June 1, 2017.

The Tower was originally intended to be an enclosed building to a height of 72′ 9″ above ground level. Construction was terminated due to a lack of adequate funds. At that time, the main structure had been erected. Site grading, electrical service, lighting, fire alarm system, and carillon cabin access were incomplete. Over the next four years, several concrete pieces broke loose and fell from the structure. Several repair attempts were made with epoxies, sealants and other materials with little success.

In 2005, the City retained a consultant to investigate the cause of the spalling concrete. The report identified that grout expansion within pockets of the precast concrete elements of the structure was the primary contributing factor leading to freeze-thaw damage and further spalling. The full report outlining the details of this investigation may be found in Appendix E. The last documented occurrence of concrete pieces falling from the structure was in 2005.

In 2005, the City of Naperville assumed responsibility for construction of the project bringing the structure to completion. In doing so, the portion of the Tower below the 72′ 9″ level was converted to an exposed structure, associated mechanical systems were deleted, and site work was simplified. A significant consequence of that decision was that completed structural steel to precast concrete connections, which were originally intended to be protected from the weather, were now exposed. All of the steel connections now exposed to weather are, therefore, more susceptible to corrosion. This corrosion is particularly serious where moisture trapped between steel and concrete leads to plating of the steel, associated volume expansion of the embedded steel, and cracking of the concrete where the connection is responsible for structural lateral stability. Another consequence of converting the lower portion of the Tower to an exposed structure was that the elevator was no longer protected by an enclosure which may shorten the length of its useful service life.

It is now evident that weather intrusion has caused premature corrosion and deterioration of the structure. Improper storage and handling of many of the precast concrete panels between the first and second phases of construction caused extensive cracking and chipping. These deficiencies were repaired with mortar and patches which are now showing signs of deterioration and failure. Further, the current degree of surface erosion in some of the precast concrete panels appears to be an indicator of poor quality concrete.

Professional Opinion

In its professional opinion, Engineering Resource Associates, Inc. (ERA) and its sub-consultant Collins Engineers, Inc., noted primary structural risks are:

1. Deteriorated concrete patches and cracked concrete failures leading to falling concrete without notice.

2. Reduction in lateral structural stability due to structural steel connection corrosion between the precast pillars, fins, and the seven structural steel rings.

3. Structural damage due to steel stair, steel platform, steel railing, and reinforcing bar corrosion from weather intrusion and leakage.

Based upon our investigations and observations of the structure, in order to repair deficiencies and to prevent further deterioration which threatens the structural integrity of the Moser Tower, we recommend continued close monitoring and addressing of the following primary issues.

o Structural steel corrosion

o Post-tensioning anchorage exposure

o Precast concrete cracking

o Precast concrete surface delamination

o Precast concrete mortar joint deterioration

o Sealant deterioration

o Plaza leakage

It is anticipated that addressing these issues will require a combination of maintenance, rehabilitation and replacement of certain elements.

Alternatives with Advantages & Disadvantages

Several alternatives to repair and rehabilitate the structure were evaluated. The following is a summary of each alternative and their estimated costs. Costs outlined in these estimates are conceptual in nature, provided in present worth dollars and shall be refined during the design phase.

Alternative 1A–Repair Existing Structure (Single Phase) $2,785,000

Alternative 1B–Repair Existing Structure (Multiple Phases) $3,058,000

Alternative 1 includes repair of identified defects as described in the report to address structural steel and concrete issues as either a single phase or multiple phase project. The primary advantage of this alternative is that it addresses issues that have led to continued, accelerated deterioration of the structure. The primary disadvantage is that it is significantly more expensive than continued maintenance and parts of the structure that were intended to be enclosed will continue to be exposed to the elements.

Alternative 2A–Enclose & Repair Structure (Single Phase) $3,547,000

Alternative 2B–Enclose & Repair Structure (Multiple Phases) $3,750,000

Alternative 2 includes repairs described in Alternative 1 plus enclosure of the lower portion of the structure as it was originally designed as either a single phase or multiple phase project. The primary advantage of this alternative is that it addresses identified structural issues and protects the lower portion of the structure from continued exposure to the elements. The primary disadvantage is that it is the most expensive alternative.

Alternative 3–Structure Maintenance & Decommission $1,576,000

This alternative involves simple maintenance measures to keep the structure in operation including plaza membrane repairs; concrete panel surface and crack repairs; mortar joint repairs; structural steel cleaning, reinforcing and painting; anchorage flashing repairs and replacements; and sealant replacements. The primary advantage of structure maintenance only is that it delays much more significant expenditures to repair identified defects or to enclose the structure as originally designed. The primary disadvantage is that the structure will continue to deteriorate at defect and exposed locations and it does not address potentially imminent concrete spalling issues.

At some point, maintenance may become too expensive and the structure may need to be decommissioned; therefore, this alternative also includes the dismantling and removal of the entire structure and restoration of the site to a grassed condition. This would involve a one­ time expenditure to decommission the structure and would end the use of the Moser Tower and the Millennium Carillon.

The information provided here is only an excerpt of the report by Engineering Resource Associates, Inc. (ERA) and its sub-consultant Collins Engineers, Inc.

The press conference led by Director of TED Bill Novack and Riverwalk Commission Chairman Geoff Roehll and subsequent public meetings of the Riverwalk Commission bring to the forefront the difficult decisions facing the future of this amenity along the Naperville Riverwalk.

The complete assessment with photos is available at www.napervilleriverwalk.com.

Every week that the observation deck of Moser Tower has been open, this publication highly has recommended for visitors to climb the tower to observe the magnificent view of this Tree City USA and way beyond Naperville in the distance.

Now for some Tweetibles…

You’ve got to be taught the importance of the printed page. Thank you, Johannes Gutenberg!

The way that social media controls your messages, you might never see an important message at the same time as your friend.

For some more seasoned residents with experiences along rocky roads and the ups and downs of life, change for the sake of change can seem impractical.

Editorial boards keep communities on the straight and narrow.

More and more, it’s tough to distinguish opinion from facts, distractions from focus and addiction from freedom.

As this city celebrates this nation’s 241st birth of independence, be grateful for all the sacrifices that have provided liberty.

Empathy mixes with free enterprise. Let freedom ring!


PN Ombudsman
PN Ombudsman
An ombudsman is Scandinavian in origin dating back to Viking times; and refers to a community representative; usually acting independently on behalf of an organization, body of elected officials, or civic group. Thanks Scandinavia for inventing ombudsman.