Once upon a time there was a produce store on Ogden Avenue. It was, I thought, the best produce store we had ever had. Every morning they would send people to the Water Street Market to buy whatever was the freshest and finest, and they had excellent produce shipped from all over.
Then Ogden had to be resurfaced. Not to worry, said officials, although your customers will have to negotiate unpaved driveways for a while, they will still have as much access as they had before. Surely they would not mind a few traffic cones, some gravel, and a few minor detours.
They shouldn’t have, and it certainly wasn’t in their best interest to do so, but they did mind. People would apparently rather eat inferior produce than deal with even a minor inconvenience. Yes, there once was a wonderful produce store on Ogden, but it quickly went out of business.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about what I feared would happen should the city of Naperville tear down and rebuild the Central Parking facility once the Water Street lot was completed. In theory, that lot wouldn’t be required for the Hotel Indigo and the Water Street development until they were completed, so those spaces would make up for the ones temporarily lost.
Surely, said the staff, customers would deal with what would be a very minor inconvenience. I, on the other hand, suspected they wouldn’t, so I talked with and emailed a few people. They admitted they generally wouldn’t use the Water Street lot while the Central Parking facility was rebuilt.
Since cities are usually staffed by theorists who tend to dismiss such cautions, I would like to share with you, and with the City Council, some of the responses I received to that column from regular citizens, downtown business owners, and some very prominent Napervillians. Their names are not available.
The regular citizens were very frank and forthcoming. They all have a lot on their minds, and have to do what makes sense for them. They would rarely use the Water Street lot, and only if it were absolutely necessary, especially since it will be in a construction zone. There are equivalent, or almost equivalent, stores and restaurants to which they can easily drive.
The prominent citizens all believe that the need for a rebuilt Central Parking garage has been exaggerated, that the problems it would cause have been understated, and that the existing deck, while it has a few problems, functions quite well and should continue to do so for some time. They, along with others, expressed serious concern about the impact on Wentz Hall.
Obviously, the downtown business owners are the most upset, depressed, and frightened. Their customers already complain if they cannot find a place on the street. Losing the Central deck for any time, they say, would destroy downtown businesses. Two of them used the word totally. Costs don’t go down when business does.
They have repeatedly been assured that the garage would always be there, and count on that, so this proposal feels like a betrayal that makes them question their future in Naperville. They’re also extremely apprehensive about the loss of handicapped parking, the expense of a new SSA, and the immediate fate of the smallest stores and restaurants.
Even in the best of times, any business seems fragile, and these aren’t the best of times. Though it would be difficult for me to overstate their concerns, I doubt that any business owner will express them in public, any more than they would say how they really feel about the Last Fling.
They just hope and pray that the City Council respects and protects their investment in our town and the contribution they make to our continuing prosperity. So do I.