A hangout just for teens, with adults keeping an eye on them, will soon be tucked into vacant space in the heart of downtown Naperville.
City Council members gave unanimous thumbs-up Tuesday night to the request for a conditional use permit for the facility, to be known as NaperBridge. The teen center is planned for 231 S. Washington St., which fills two off-street floor levels accessed down an alleyway between BK Jewelers and Fitness Experts.
The center’s organizers needed the council blessing because their plan involves both public assembly and use of the street level for the center, features that call for an extra layer of approval in a B4 downtown core zoning district. The proposal drew unanimous support from the advisory Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month.
When finished, NaperBridge will offer events and activities for teens beginning mid-afternoon, with at least two adults supervising at all times.
Executive Director Andy Jack said the center will be situated in a familiar place.
“First and foremost, we will be in the heart of downtown Naperville, giving teens a place to call their own in the place they already know,” said Jack, who has spent the past 15 years working with young people in area churches.
The teens’ voices, support and participation are integral elements in the new center, being established with help from a 10-member teen board enlisted by the organizers as a “sounding board,” said Jack, who lives in Wheaton.
“We like to say NaperBridge will be for teens, by teens. ... They get to shape and form the center to their vision,” Jack said.
And whether they’d like to launch comedy improv night, monthly jam sessions, poetry slams, writing groups or something else entirely, all will have an equal say.
“It won’t be only the elected board members making the decision,” he said. “It will be any teen who tells us, ‘Hey, I have an idea and a vision and I’d like to see this come to fruition.’”
Planning for NaperBridge began three years ago, but it began to gain momentum with Jack’s hiring a year ago. He said communication with the community so far has been extremely productive and positive.
“Since day one, we’ve been very intentional about our collaboration with local nonprofits and very open with everyone we’ve met with in terms of our vision and plans,” Jack said.
There is work yet to do on updating the building, one of the older structures in the downtown, but the goal is for NaperBridge to be open later this fall, he said.