Above / Since all the Naperville signs at its borders likely will be updated soon with its new population number, perhaps it’s time to figure costs for some new signs, too. Perhaps its high time for some attractive monument signs that depict the city’s thriving roots. (PN Photo, Book Road north of 111th Street, August 3, 2018)

With news from the recently conducted Special Census that the City of Naperville houses an additional 5,988 individuals within its borders, we’re remembering when we moved here in 1993. Back then local street signs at the City’s borders posted information that said, ”Naperville, Settled in 1831. Population 89,000.” Only we were told the population was closer to 100,000.

Though the city was adding new subdivisions every year – and special censuses were common – those population signs were not changed every time the population changed because the city was growing so quickly.

In a related note, 1993 also was the first time directional signs were permitted and placed near the intersection of 1-88 and Naperville-Wheaton Road to attract visitors to Naper Settlement. It’s a vivid memory because I was working in the public relations department at Naper Settlement at the time. The informational sign about the 19th century village was a big deal because some of us felt the State finally had sanctioned our local tourist attraction that had been telling this community’s story since 1969.

Soon after, folks began thinking of this city with the small town feeling as a lifestyle destination. Plans for redevelopment in downtown Naperville were approved. The Riverwalk began to extend its original boundaries. Hotels began to take up residency along Diehl Road. All of a sudden 200 restaurants served the city. And ideas for a Century Walk tour of public art began to dot the downtown landscape.

Naperville came a long way in the 1990s before the turn of the new millennium. But signs at our borders have stayed the same.

Signs of the times

Throughout the 1990s, we also recall discussions of new “Welcome to Naperville” signs. Back then talks were bantered about during meetings, public and private, to create simple and handsome welcoming signs to stand at our borders similar to signs that greet folks in other communities, many smaller and less thriving than Naperville.

Back in 2004 when the population was reported to be 137,400, residents talked of welcome signs and caricaturist Jim Weren had some fun for our printed pages.

In 2004, some residents got carried away and tried to come up with a slogan to put on the sign. PN even printed one of Jim Weren’s cartoons that depicted attempts to find just the right message.

Many ideas and too many unsuitable images got in the way of moving the project forward to beautify the entry to Naperville.

Over and over and over, topics of discussion got stuck on where any sign would be placed. The priority for some proposals never rose to the top for the ultimate decision makers.

Delay. Delay. Delay.

When news began to circulate about the recently conducted census, we again recalled those futile attempts through the years to establish welcoming signs, initiatives that failed to make it into the city’s plans and budget time and time again.

While riding around Naperville as we often do to see what’s new from one neighborhood to the next, we observed several place markers that easily could be adapted to welcome visitors to Naperville.

The Conservation Foundation is located at 10 S 404 Knoch Knolls Road in Will County.

They’re tastefully designed and practical, somewhat reminiscent of this city’s rural beginnings.

Riverview Farmstead is located on Book Road, south of Hassert Boulevard/111th Street.

Perhaps the signs simply would say,

Welcome to Naperville, Illinois

Settled along the DuPage River in 1831

Population: 147, 841

The population would be listed on a replaceable plaque that could change as the city’s population grows.

Drive around. All the new construction in progress and recent proposals indicate Naperville is primed to attract new residents.

Imagine a simple sign at every entrance to Naperville. No glitz. No flashing lights. Nothing fancy. Just a nice, neat sign that represents pragmatic Naperville; one that could last at least until the 2030 Census.

And where would the signs go? One of the obstacles always has been location, location, location.

What about starting with 12 locations? Signs could be placed at either end of major thoroughfares including Ogden Avenue, 111th Street, Route 59 (if the state allows), Washington Street, 75th Street (if the county allows) and Diehl Road.  Other locations could be identified as well.

By the dozen, we think the City could negotiate a pretty acceptable price with an annual maintenance agreement. The rationale for acting now could be the anticipation of receiving more tax revenues from local use tax, gas tax and income tax, three state-shared taxes that are based on population.

For instance, by 2021, the new population number suggests the City will receive an additional $2.38 million from state-shared revenues. For this year, the city estimates it will gain $120,603.

A quick check online for “monument signs” provided a rough idea of costs. According to the internet, free-standing signs can range in price from $150 to $400 per square foot depending on design. The entry signs don’t need to be big. They don’t need to be expensive. They just need to make a good first impression of this city with a rich history.

If procurement prepares a good Request for Proposal (RFP), attracts local sign builders that sharpen their pencils and welcome some good publicity that we could offer, and acts soon; we think attractive welcoming signs could be on time and under budget before the end of the year.

What do you think?


Editor’s Update, 12:20PM, Aug. 4, 2018 / We didn’t imagine this post would attract so much attention early on a Saturday morning in August. Please note that PN does not publish comments without first and last names and contact info. 

Yes. We know 12 “welcome” signs were not budgeted for this fiscal year that now is aligned with the calendar year. You just never know when there might be a windfall of revenue or a private benefactor, especially with the new business and residential growth.

Regardless, the population of this attractive city is now touted to be 147,841. It’s time to update the signs.

Thanks for reading and for all the feedback. —PN

Update, Aug. 5, 2018 / Whether campaign signs, garage sale signs or yards signs promoting commercial enterprise that are too often placed improperly at intersections and in parkways (the grassy area between the street and the sidewalk), we are not fans of excessive signs that dot the landscape. Sign management falls under the City’s Department of Transportation, Engineering and Development or what’s known as the “TED.”

Longtime readers know we prefer to identify unmet needs that will make a difference to our City rather than waste taxpayer money on frills.

Yesterday’s messaging from residents was enlightening. To paraphrase some feedback, beautifying signs at the entrances to Naperville could be considered a cultural amenity for the City. Perhaps the Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA) Fund would be a good source of funding for simple welcome signs and their annual maintenance.

Update, Aug. 6, 2018 / Folks continue to suggest entry population signs would be a good “hardscape” cultural amenity for the SECA Fund.

In a “small world” connection, Naperville resident Geoff Roehll, Chairman of the Riverwalk Commission, emailed that Hitchcock Design Group designed The Conservation Foundation sign as a donation. The lighting is solar powered, too. Geoff added, “The sign was about $30K, but add the stone base, lighting and landscape it was all in about $50K. The majority was built with donated funds. Advanced Data Technologies did the solar lighting at cost.”

At any rate, folks are thinking!

And perhaps signs are cheaper by the dozen.

World travelers likely are well aware that some welcome signs are sponsored, in part, by service organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, etc.