Add swings, gain residents is one suggestion for updated downtown master plan
Bringing more residents to downtown is a multi-tiered issue, but I have one tip: add more play.
My kids are 11 and seven, and I hope that someday they will be able to swing, slide, or climb in a public space in downtown Aurora. I would love to see a variety of free play opportunities for children in addition to the few that already exist in downtown Aurora.
The Swimming Stones, and the outdoor features at SciTech Hands On Museum and Santori Public Library add some nice play options to downtown Aurora. But there are zero playgrounds in downtown.
Downtown has doggie poop stations and a decent amount of green space, yet the city center is lacking structures that welcome kids to be active and have fun.
In cities with abundant residential numbers in their downtowns, public places invite all ages to relax, congregate, and play. We have Millennium Plaza on Stolp Avenue that makes a wonderful and quaint concert venue during the summer months. It also comes in handy for nearby dog owners with a patch of grass and the new path that wraps around it.
RiverEdge Park is a great addition to the north edge of downtown; there was talk of a playground initially, but nothing was built. I persistently asked city staff who worked on the park project; the response to my playground inquiry in October 2014 was, “No updates on anything at this point in time.”
Outside of downtown, there is nearby McCarty Park that boasts an accessible splash pad. Soon, to a considerable amount to the west, Blackhawk Park along Galena Boulevard looks to feature a playground sure to be a hit with neighborhood families.
Our city is anything but lacking in the parks and recreation department mostly in part to a solid park district. But downtown Aurora is still missing a playground.
I want to see families not only enjoying downtown and all that it has to offer with arts, culture, and the river, but I want families living in downtown and finding that our downtown has everything they need. To be a true urban center, Aurora can benefit from a place or places for kids to play.
In the draft of the updated downtown master plan, there aren’t any renderings of swings, slides, or climbing structures. There’s nothing penciled in on the pedestrian-friendly and underutilized Water Street Mall or adjacent Mundy Park. That’s what I want. A real plaza where people can relax, congregate, and play.
Or perhaps a pedestrian bridge that leads to a playground. The concept seems wildly successful in Chicago with the brilliantly-designed Maggie Daley Park. When I was recently at Aurora’s Wilder Park, across the river from RiverEdge Park, I saw immense opportunity, but in reality, there was one lone man sitting on one of two benches, each positioned next to a garbage can.
I often say that we need to create our own downtown; we need to create the downtown that we want. We can do better with our family-friendly amenities in downtown Aurora, and I look forward to a playground someday. Because I like to swing on swings, too.
Marissa Amoni is the founder and editor of Downtown Auroran Magazine, an online arts and culture magazine focused on Aurora, Ill.
Editor’s note: A public hearing for the CMAP updated master plan is being held on Wed. Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 44 E. Downer Pl. in downtown Aurora. The public is invited to attend.