July 2011: City Breaks Ground on RiverEdge Park Project

City of Aurora and Fox Valley leaders came together July 15 to break ground on RiverEdge Park, which will serve as a premiere regional entertainment venue that will foster economic development in the downtown.

RiverEdge Park will be located along the Fox River between New York Street and Illinois Avenue in downtown Aurora. The Music Garden, which will be the first phase of construction, will hold up to 9,500 people and serve as a cultural events hub within a natural setting of the Fox River and downtown.

Mayor Tom Weisner thanked local and state dignitaries for their support for the public/private venture, including State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, State Sen. Linda Homes, Kane County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay, Stewart Beach of the Dunham Fund, Fox Valley Park District Executive Director Nancy McCaul, Kane County Forest Preserve Executive Director Monica Meyers, Brook McDonald of The Conservation Foundation and the Aurora City Council. The groundbreaking took place at the future home of the Dunham Pavilion, which will be built across from the Aurora Transportation Center, 233 N Broadway Avenue.

"RiverEdge Park will serve as a catalyst for creating new construction jobs today while spurring economic development and private sector employment, which will help strengthen the City's tax base for years to come," Mayor Weisner said.

The City has secured $15 million in grant money for RiverEdge Park including $8 million from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) River Edge Redevelopment Zone program, $3 million from the Fox Valley Park District, $2 million from the Kane County Forest Preserve District and $2 million from the Dunham Fund. The estimated cost of the first phase of construction is $12.7 million.

The Music Garden, which is expected to be completed in October 2012, will host the Blues on the Fox and Downtown Alive! concert series and other community events. Aside from the entertainment venue, other RiverEdge Park amenities will include a children's play area, fountains, walking paths, a pedestrian bridge and open natural areas.

"The RiverEdge Park development will provide our community with a place for families to enjoy a variety of outdoor entertainment while helping to stimulate the local economy and spur private-sector growth in the area," State Rep. Chapa LaVia said. "I am pleased to be involved in this development and thankful for the continued efforts of all those involved in this amazing project."

The park is the centerpiece of a 10-year master plan for the City. In recent years, Aurora has made numerous advancements to create a City prepared for the future including a renewed focus on the environment, creating a more sustainable community and revitalizing the historic downtown. The RiverEdge Park project supports that theme by cleaning up former industrial properties and restoring the Fox River to its original prominence in order to attract new residents and businesses to a revitalized downtown city center.

"The collaboration allowed the City and the Fox Valley Park District to fulfill their desires to protect riverfront property for public use," McCaul said.

The $8 million DCEO grant also is estimated to create 150 construction jobs and spur new development, which is estimated to create between 450 to 600 private-sector and non-retail jobs in Aurora.

"Through the River Edge program, we're investing in the future of our river communities by supporting those efforts that are fostering economic growth, attracting investment and creating jobs," said DCEO Director Warren Ribley. "This project is the first step in what we hope will be a brighter and more prosperous future for the people of Aurora."

Other local leaders who had partnered with the City to make RiverEdge Park a reality believe the project creates numerous benefits to the Fox Valley region.

"The Dunham Fund is pleased to be part of a great project that involves the City of Aurora and the beautiful Fox River," said Stewart Beach, chairman of the Dunham Fund. "The organization is also excited that RiverEdge Park will create more jobs for local contractors in the Aurora community."

Senator Linda Holmes added, "RiverEdge Park will be a great environmental asset to Aurora and will help beautify the downtown district. By creating jobs for local construction workers, this project is a win all the way around."