If you’re cruising through Bolingbrook, following North Weber Road, you’ll pass strip malls, gas stations, a pizza place or fast-food restaurant here and there. CosMc’s tall yellow marquee can be seen to the west.
When Weber becomes Washington Street, you’re leaving the village. A grand entrance to the next muncipality awaits.
“Welcome to Naperville.”
What used to be a modest salutation to travelers coming into town from the south is now a sweeping testament to the city thanks to a recently-completed entrance sign at the point where Bolingbrook meets Naperville.
The sign, part of a years-long beautification project, has been in the works since October 2022.
In all, it was a $100,000 venture.
“The Department of Public Works has been enjoying this work,” city spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said of the monument sign construction. “It’s been creative. Obviously, they fabricate a lot of street signs, which are very important, but those are generally the same size and design.
“This project gave them a little more stretch of the creative muscle.”
The design is familiar.
It was inspired by Naperville’s 50-year-old logo, which depicts a large tree with water running underneath, LaCloche said.
“We’ve had that logo and brand for many, many years,” she said. “It’s very well-known by our community. People want to use it all the time. The tree is so widely recognized.”
At the center of the sign, a limestone base reads “Welcome to Naperville.” On top, a synthetic tree trunk stands tall with a blue crown of leaves. Surrounding the sign are slabs of limestone. The city plans to round out the display this spring with a fresh layer of vegetation, including native plants and pollinators.
Naperville chose to go big at its border with Bolingbrook because there was sufficient space in the city-owned right-of-way, LaCloche said.
Just 30 or so feet away, Naperville’s old, much smaller welcome sign — a blue, metal fixture — still stands. The remnant of welcomes past is scheduled to be taken down soon.
Beautification, including new entrance signs, has been on Naperville’s docket since 2021.
The Naperville City Council allocated $250,000 in its 2022 budget for the public works department to make visual improvements throughout the city.
Beautification efforts were split into a series of projects, from an expanded banner program and viaduct enhancements to parkway improvements and revamped signage.
Today, the city’s perimeter boasts various updated access points. Beyond the Washington Street sign, additions include an LED sign on top of the pedestrian footbridge over Route 59 on the city’s south side and an 8-foot-tall sign — also lit with LED lights — on the east side of Plainfield/Naperville Road, south of 103rd street.
For its logo-inspired monument, though, the city wanted to stay traditional — in illumination, at least.
“When we discussed this (project), looking at entry signs versus LED — of course we’ve been branded with (our) logo and design for so long — it was just a natural thought for us to say, that’s recognizable, let’s use elements of that,” LaCloche said.
Naperville’s new sign is the foil to Bolingbrook’s all-digital welcome sign just a half a mile down the road. Also a relatively new addition, Bolingbrook’s welcome display was installed in October, according to Joy Basel with the village’s mayor’s office.
Bolingbrook’s also came at no cost, Basel said. That’s because Community Digital Displays owns and operates the sign, which it uses for local advertising. Per an agreement with the company, Bolingbrook can utilize the display to share village information as well. Similar signs are scattered around the village.
Bolingbrook does own the digital sign that sits outside its town center, Basel added. Installed last spring, the town center sign cost just under $70,000. Basel said, “It’s important to note that this financial decision also took into consideration” the deal the village is getting with Community Digital Displays elsewhere.
Naperville, however, opted not to go that route, LaCloche said.
“A former council wasn’t interested in those types of signs.” Rather, the intention was to create something that would welcome people to Naperville in a “notable” way, she said.
Online, the city’s renovated entrance has sparked critique and praise. Last month, a photo of the sign posted on Nextdoor, an online social networking site, generated hundreds of comments, with some calling the display an eyesore and others lauding its singularity.
“Actually, I like it. … As a longtime Naperville resident, I was happy to see it,” one Nextdoor user commented. “Excited to see how it will look in spring/summer.”
“Why is there not an electronic billboard on top like the Bolingbrook sign down the road,” another user asked. “I would prefer to see events and businesses listed for Naperville.”
LaCloche said the city plans to do a survey on sign design elements in the first quarter of this year.
Currently, the city does not have plans to build anything similar, she said.