Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

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Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

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Opinion: A (Barnes and) Noble solution for downtown

Opinion%3A+A+%28Barnes+and%29+Noble+solution+for+downtown
Adeline Tse

The corner of Washington Street and Chicago Avenue used to be anchored by the massive Barnes and Noble storefront. The store, which was a staple of Downtown Naperville for 25 years, closed in late January. No plans have been announced for filling the space. 

When I think of Downtown Naperville, I think of an energetic, diverse space. There’s such a wide variety of restaurants and stores. However, there is a key area that is lacking: the arts. I love walking around downtown areas in other nearby suburbs that are anchored by an old-timey theater or venue, places like the Paramount Theater in Downtown Aurora, an iconic fixture in the community. We are so fortunate to have Wentz Concert Hall, a venue that I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to perform in. However, Wentz is built for classical and jazz music. There’s no place in Naperville good for more contemporary acts in pop, rock, R&B, rap, etc. 

This is where the vacated Barnes and Noble comes in. The limited space in Downtown Naperville makes it hard to build a new venue, but Barnes and Noble’s shell provides ample space for this. This venue could easily hold a couple thousand people, becoming a great venue for so many acts. Picture a crowd of concertgoers lined up on a beautiful June evening underneath a lit-up marquee. A concert venue in the middle of downtown Naperville can transform our city’s energy for the better. It can become a cultural center for the Naperville community, providing common communal experiences for this city.

Let’s think about Naperville’s demographics, because there’s a pretty clear audience that would buy into this kind of development. Obviously, we’ve got five big high schools in the area, which brings a massive audience. Additionally, we’ve got a decent college community in our town (from North Central College, Waubonsee Community College, Benedictine University, etc.)  and a growing number of young people moving here to start families. 

Having a concert venue downtown for non-classical music can really appeal to these younger audiences. This venue could also serve more than just music fans by bringing in comedy acts or other speakers. It would also provide a venue for events like town halls with local politicians that can increase civil discourse. There shouldn’t be any question regarding demand for a development like this- we can virtually guarantee that there’s plenty.

Now, let’s think about the economics of it all. With guests getting a $20 Five Guys meal or Chipotle bowl before the show, there’s a clear boost to the surrounding Downtown Naperville economy. I’m sure that some people are going to be worried about the economic side of this proposal, so let me ask you this? What will people spend more on: books or concerts? It’s clear that books weren’t flying off the shelves, or else we’d still have Barnes and Noble. 

Naperville is a picture-perfect place for a shiny new venue, something that can become a staple in Downtown Naperville for decades to come. It can become a part of our city’s life, culture, and history. 

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About the Contributors
Nolan Shen
Nolan Shen, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Nolan is a senior, entering his third year on staff. He is excited to be heading the Arts and Entertainment section this year. When not writing for CT, he can be found playing with the Marching Redhawks Drumline, performing in the Naperville Youth Symphony, eating too much McDonald’s, and watching bad sci-fi movies. Next year, he plans on going to college to study political science and hopefully not flunk out.
Adeline Tse
Adeline Tse, Staff Artist
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    AlFeb 28, 2024 at 6:16 am

    Great idea! I’d go and I’d spend!

    Reply