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Community First

Naperville, DuPage County

Housing Program

An MPC Housing Program case study

Program background

In an effort to manage teardowns and preserve local character, the City of Naperville has worked with Community First, an organization of Naperville homeowners, to develop a set of guidelines to manage redevelopment in the community.

In 1999, sensing the impact of teardowns on Naperville neighborhoods, Mayor A. George Pradel created a taskforce to address the trend. While the Teardown Taskforce deliberated options, Community First, an organization that formed in response to the city’s teardown phenomenon, asked the City to consider utilizing neighborhood design guidelines rather than a series of numeric formulas. The City consented, and Community First created the influential Workbook for Successful Redevelopment: An Idea and Resource Guide for Building in Established Neighborhoods. The organization met twice a month for nine months to create the workbook and published the first edition in 2002.

The workbook demonstrates how to integrate a new home into the context of the neighborhood, block, adjacent homes and particular site. This visual guide provides an implementation plan for homeowners and developers, and contains information on working within existing municipal codes. Community First uses advisory guidelines to simultaneously promote creativity and sensibility in home design.

Following creation of the workbook, the City utilized the group as a sounding board when considering the adoption of subsequent city regulations. The partnership between Naperville and Community First has resulted in design-based regulations that effectively preserve community character, without hindering new construction or rehabilitation.

How it works

The workbook serves as a resource for developers to consult before beginning any rebuilding, remodeling or new construction projects in the city. Although the guidelines are not mandatory, evidence suggests that strong community involvement and positive reinforcement are successfully guiding the redevelopment of Naperville neighborhoods.

Homes built according to workbook guidelines incorporate unique characteristics of their neighborhood and block. Builders more thoughtfully reflect relationships between new and existing homes. New homes are not visually or stylistically out-of-place and complement the surrounding environment, rather than contrast it.


Board members and donations provided the initial funding for Community First. A graphic design artist on the Community First board donated her talent and time to create the logo and did all the layout and artwork for the workbook. Subsequently, Naperville assisted the organization by purchasing 300 workbooks for distribution.

Public involvement

Naperville residents can apply the workbook to current and future home-building decisions. Community First encourages residents to hold meetings to review the workbook and develop a strategy to apply the workbook principles. By taking responsibility for home-building choices, people are becoming more involved in the development and design process.


Department of Planning and Development, City of Naperville

  • Goal

    To educate and influence members of the community, developers, architects and builders about how to build in established neighborhoods.

  • Target

    Community members, local government leaders, builders, developers, architects and homeowners.

  • Success

    The workbook has been distributed to Naperville builders and architects and the City often uses it as a resource to encourage new single-family development and redevelopment projects in established neighborhoods that fit the existing character of the community.