Naperville’s teenagers may soon get a downtown home of their own.
The Naperville Plan Commission recently gave a unanimous positive recommendation to a petition by the NaperBridge group for its proposed teen center at 231 S. Washington St.
The plan will now go to the full City Council for a vote.
“We want to provide a welcoming place for Naperville teens,” NaperBridge Executive Director Andy Jack told the commission.
He stressed that teens needed “a place of their own, that belongs to them.”
The conditional use permit the group is seeking is necessary for operation in the downtown district, which is zoned B-4 and puts an emphasis on retail tenants. But because of the lack of a street-side entrance, the parcel slated for the teen center has limited appeal for retail businesses, backers of the plan said.
The center would occupy 700 square feet on the first floor and another 700 square feet on the second at the building.
City staff supported the conditional use and agreed that the property had limited retail appeal, concluding that the presence of the teen center would not have an adverse impact on the retail nature of the surrounding area.
Planning Operations Manager Allison Laff also pointed out that the Naperville Downtown2030 Plan was open to more amenities for teens.
Laff indicated that the Naperville Police Department had reviewed the plan and not put forth any objections.
As for the actual activities envisioned at the center, Jack said that the staff would rely heavily on its 10-person student board for suggestions. He stressed flexibility in programing, suggesting that activities could include acoustic bands, DJs, student-oriented yoga, or study sessions for college entrance exams.
“We’re looking at how we can serve them best without reinventing the wheel,” Jack said.
Commissioners had questions about the plan, though.
Commission member Kevin Coyne wanted to know about staffing for the center and how access would be controlled. Jack told him that the staff would always have at least one volunteer and that the access would be strictly controlled from a kiosk, with teens having to register for admittance to events.
Jack said that NaperBridge was committed to maintaining a 10 to one ratio of teens to staff members at all times.
With a parking lot directly in back of the location, there was some concern about teens hanging out in the back when the center is closed. But Jack stressed that security cameras would be operational and that the center had already put together a plan for security.
Jack said that if the City Council OKs the plan this month, work on the teen center could begin soon.
The preliminary cost for renovating the space is estimated to be $50,000, although additional costs could emerge.
“We’re still putting together a quote,” Jack said.