Pradel paints optimistic picture in State of the City address
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org January 28, 2013 3:42PM
Mayor George Pradel welcomes people the his annual State of the City address at the Marriott hotel in Naperville on Monday, January 28, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:47AM
It’s been a good year for Naperville, according to its mayor — and he’s confident there is plenty more good yet to come.
Sporting his traditional tuxedo and top hat, Mayor A. George Pradel spent his lunch hour Monday encapsulating 2012 before a crowd of about 500 at the Chicago Naperville Marriott Hotel. Stretching just beyond a half-hour long, Pradel’s 18th State of the City address was long on the successes of a busy year and shone an optimistic light on the 12 months ahead.
The speech was peppered with appreciation for the officials, employees, business people, educators and nonprofits that help make the city hum and keep it a place where “community is king,” the mayor noted.
Much of what Pradel had to say also reflected the local impact of a gradually recovering economy, which he credited in part to the productive working relationships among public and private entities that help foster a thriving commercial community.
“Thanks to those partnerships, we are writing the new post-recession story of Naperville,” he said.
Home sales in the city between May and August increased 40 percent over the same period in the previous year. Retail sales tax receipts, at $28.5 million, outpaced the “pre-recession high” by 5 percent, Pradel said.
Auto sales, which represent one-third of the city’s retail income, were up as well, as were new business launches.
“Sixty-six ribbon cuttings let the world know that Naperville is open for business,” Pradel said.
People shifted somewhat in Naperville last year, the mayor noted, with the retirements of longtime North Central College President Harold “Hal” Wilde and Peggy Frank, president and CEO of Naper Settlement and the Naperville Heritage Society. He also made note of new the hiring of Naperville resident Troy Hammond, the new president at North Central, and the promotion of Dan Bridges to the superintendency for Naperville School District 203.
The night life in the downtown area, which had seen an uptick in arrests, has experienced a decrease in “serious incidents” since the Police Department beefed up its late-night patrols in that part of the city last fall, Pradel said.
Casting an eye ahead, the mayor gave a brief overview of expected changes coming through the remainder of 2013.
Among the highest-profile of those will be the launch of the Route 59 overhaul by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“We know this project will be inconvenient, but years from now, everyone will have an easier time getting to all the places along Route 59,” he said. “Please ask everyone you know to visit these businesses during the construction.”
Businesses don’t show any sign of losing interest in Naperville. Construction of the long-planned Promenade East retail development northeast of Main Street and Van Buren Avenue is set to begin later this year, Pradel said, along with a new medical building at Benton Avenue and Washington Street. Walmart plans to start building a new Supercenter on 18.5 acres at 75th Street and Beebe Drive, across from the Springbrook Prairie Pavilion retail center, and the Standard Market shop/dine concept is set to come to the former Frank’s Nursery site at Aurora and Ogden avenues.
Some of the luncheon’s warmest bursts of applause were for something that no longer exists. When the video screen flashed the image of a long-neglected downtown building that finally was razed on Jan. 22, with the words “420 S. Washington EYESORE” next to the photo, the group clapped in hearty appreciation. The site is being redeveloped by North Central College as part of its southern gateway.