Walking the cobblestones of the Naperville Riverwalk, winding through bustling restaurants and boutiques, few look beyond Naperville’s pleasing physical aesthetic to the foundation of its beauty. The beauty of a city is subject to its residents' wealth and how much of that wealth they are willing to invest in their city's physical appeal. Naperville has long valued its physical appearance, yet the affluence and resulting beautification has come at a price: an economically and racially exclusive community.
When contemplating the perfectly manicured city, many members of Naperville’s younger generation see not only beauty, but also privilege -- a privilege that makes them uncomfortable. They argue a city’s true beauty is not only measured by the physical appeal of its architecture, but is also the diversity of its citizenry.
With all the discussion over creating housing to accommodate low to middle income needs, the question must be raised: How will Naperville maintain its beautiful physical appearance while also providing affordable housing? Naperville’s beauty has largely been tied to the ability of its citizens to invest in aesthetically pleasing houses that showcase their wealth. Buildings that accommodate lower to middle income residents who do not have the same surplus of funds as upper class residents typically lack the aesthetic beauty that Naperville has become accustomed to. Assistant Professor of Art History at North Central College, Lindsay Shannon, attests to how the physical beauty of a city relies on the wealth of its residents.
“In terms of fitting into the neighborhood overall and the aesthetic of Naperville, it would be unnoticable, and that’s really what the goal is. We don’t want anybody who is living in an ‘affordable unit’ to be ostracized. We want to make sure it's of a quality and character that integrates into Naperville,” Emery said.
“I feel like Naperville prides itself a lot on its money and income. At Naperville North High School, we pride ourselves at being able to show off a little… I feel like there’s so many things that aren’t necessary. That doesn’t mean that they are bad, Naperville just really prides itself in using the wealth that it has and being able to make a nice town where people come from other towns to visit,” Naperville North senior Jenna Schmitt said.
“The Naperville that students know today was developed based upon plans that were adopted 18, 22, and 24 years ago… That is what has supported all the growth and development that is the Naperville you know. Our update is designed to accommodate essentially the next generation of Naperville. Typically, a Comprehensive Master Plan has a 10 to 20 year legacy. If this amendment has the same legacy, how will Naperville be different in 20 years from now?” said Emery.