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Opinion: They shut down Barnes & Noble so let’s shut down Jefferson Ave.

Photographed+above+is+the+intersection+between+Jefferson+Avenue+and+Main+Street+where+Shen+proposes+Jefferson+should+be+closed+to+cars.
Jay Deegan
Photographed above is the intersection between Jefferson Avenue and Main Street where Shen proposes Jefferson should be closed to cars.

Last month, I dove into Downtown Naperville’s need for a new concert venue to fill the void left by Barnes and Noble earlier this year. Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the myriad of additional improvements we could make to Downtown Naperville. We could do so many things that would truly transform this city for the better, and it all starts on Jefferson Avenue.

Every Sunday, I’m forced to suffer through Jefferson Avenue traffic on my way back from orchestra rehearsal at the Community Concert Center downtown. It’s one of my least favorite parts of any weekend. There’s massive congestion at the intersection with Washington Street. There are pedestrians trying to walk and cross every which way. Worst of all, there are the drivers who think they’re so special and use their “I can park anywhere” hazards. This area doesn’t work for drivers or pedestrians. 

So what can we do? A picture-perfect solution is to convert the main Downtown stretch of Jefferson into a pedestrian mall between Webster Street and Washington Street. 

Now, what does this entail? 

This would mean closing off Jefferson for a two-block stretch in the heart of Downtown Naperville and turning the space into a pedestrian mall. Open to pedestrian traffic, but closed to any and all cars.

When looking to implement this, there are some key examples that could serve as models. Times Square is the most prominent example of this in the U.S., but that’s obviously not a good example for Naperville. Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market are stellar examples of this. They are much more established parts of a much older city, so they were built for a time before cars. One perfect example that we could look at is Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. This is an area of Downtown Boulder that was turned into a pedestrian mall in the 1960s in an effort to revitalize the area. Since then, it’s become an icon for the town. So many tourists coming to Denver will take the time to drive to Boulder and walk down the Pearl Street Mall. I could easily see a pedestrian mall becoming a popular spot for tourists coming out from Chicago. Who knows, maybe it could help our city’s reputation?

Right now, this part of Downtown Naperville doesn’t work for anyone. It’s a nightmare to drive through. It can take me almost five minutes to get down this two-block stretch during weekend rush hour. People trying to fit their F-150s into tiny parallel parking spots, people double-parking while they run in to grab takeout, all while intersecting with the always-busy Washington. It’s a pain to drive through. That’s why we should simply block it off to cars. You’ll still be able to get up and down Washington, access parking at the garage east of Washington, and get around Downtown. I don’t see this change being a massive issue for drivers. Yes, it may cut down on parking, but I don’t think it’s enough of a difference to cause an issue. A very small percentage of Downtown Naperville’s parking is located on this stretch, and it’s not too inconvenient to drive around this area to find parking elsewhere.

Most importantly of all, pedestrians will benefit greatly from this change. It’s a nightmare to walk down Jefferson as a customer, consumer, pedestrian, etc., and have to deal with the traffic. There are stop signs and crosswalks that are completely ignored by drivers, posing hazards to anyone trying to cross a street. Converting Jefferson into a pedestrian mall would make the consumer/pedestrian experience infinitely more enjoyable. It eliminates hassle and worry about cars, and allows you to simply enjoy what Downtown Naperville has to offer. 

Besides the pedestrian benefits, this project would also have a great impact on local Downtown businesses. We could easily predict that increased foot traffic could bring in more money to the various shops and restaurants along Jefferson. Additionally, opening up more space for pedestrians also allows for a perfect space to host some outdoor events. Currently, most events in Downtown Naperville are held on this part of Jefferson, forcing a myriad of confusing temporary traffic changes. If this is permanently blocked off to cars, then we can have a dedicated event space in Downtown Naperville. Imagine a sunny June afternoon, Jefferson lined with artisans, art vendors, and food stands. Investing in this development could help foster traditions in Naperville to last for years to come.

Right now, Downtown Naperville is a mess. Jefferson is a dumpster fire. It doesn’t work for drivers. It doesn’t work for pedestrians. Rather than have two unhappy groups, let’s find a solution that can make pedestrians truly happy. Closing off a couple of blocks won’t inconvenience drivers that much, and it can probably reduce some road rage. It’s time to put pedestrians first and transform Downtown Naperville.

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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.
Jay Deegan
Jay Deegan, Print Managing Editor
Jay Deegan is a Junior at Central and happy to start his third year of journalistic adventures at the Central Times. Jay loves writing features and diving in-depth into issues that plague our community. In his free time Jay runs a freelance videography and photography business and loves to creatively express his interests in sports and filmmaking. If you’d like to join CT or have a tip, reach out!
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