Best of Downtown Aurora 2013

New library construction

The new Aurora Public library is being built at Benton and River Streets in downtown Aurora.

Seeing a giant Don Picton head at The Yetee or getting an onion from the mean old Grinch might have made one of your days this year. If you think back about all of the smiles that you had in downtown Aurora over the last year, it’ll make your day again. A lot of pretty terrific things happened at Stolp Island and beyond in 2013.

Here is a list of the top ten things that made downtown shine this year.

10. New Library Breaks Ground. The new Aurora Public Library broke ground this year and is slowly forming into a skeleton of concrete and steel that will soon hold books, media, and unparalleled resources. Knowledge is power, and a new library is more than it’s bones – it’s what it can hold inside.

9. Gravity Building. Jimi Allen and Chris Rud are working hard to sell their idea of a 3-story coworking space on LaSalle Street. Once Aurora catches on to the genius of shared work space, entrepreneurs will flock to the renovated building. It’s innovation at its most formidable, and it’s right in your own backyard.

8. RiverEdge Park. For its first year as an outdoor entertainment venue, RiverEdge Park had few glitches and lots of positive reviews. The 30-acre park and pavilion that accommodates 8,500 spectators are things that Aurorans can utilize and brag about for years to come.

7. Three Galleries and a Cake School. Downtown was lucky to land some great businesses this year, including VARA Design, If These Walls Could Talk and The Yetee t-shirt company. All three included art galleries in their build outs proving that downtown is a welcoming arts district. PME School of Cake Decorating also opened and brings experienced teachers and accessible classes to its Broadway and New York Street location.

6. Miss Saigon. Although the Paramount Theatre has been showered with rave reviews since Tim Rater and Jim Corti paired up to bring their own, self-produced Broadway musical series to the 1,888-seat historic theater, it wasn’t until Miss Saigon that they scored a home run. After theater critic Chris Jones gave it a 4-star review, the touching wartime musical landed on the Tribune’s Top 10 list of Chicago Theater. In it’s third year, the Broadway shows continue to wow and make a name for live theater in Aurora.

5. Two Brothers Cafe. Coffee and beer take center stage at the newly opened cafe inside of Two Brothers Roundhouse on Broadway. Freshly baked goods, quality teas and small lunch plates are all enjoyed in a nice, open space. The cafe’s expanded hours welcome commuters and students alike.

4. Winter Lights. This year’s city tree-lighting stepped it up a notch with a family-friendly night of outdoor movies, food booths, visits with Santa and the Grinch, and live ice-sculpting. The city event is a great kick-off to the holiday season.

3. Girl Rising. It took one woman’s vision to bring a moving and inspirational movie to the Copley Theatre in August. Adriana Francois brought the film to the 216-seat downtown theater and showed that we have an audience for quality, newly released film titles.

2. M.U.S.I.C. Mondays. Well-known volunteer and all around friendly guy Frank Patterson did a stellar job bringing talented local musicians to Culture Stock every Monday night. The free, intimate performances kept growing and filling seats in the bookstore. Patterson recently stepped down from his volunteer role, but he promises to assist in keeping M.U.S.I.C. Mondays alive.

1. First Fridays. Several art spaces and galleries spontaneously came together this year to have art openings on the first Friday of each month. The ArtBar continued as the First Friday originator, and others such as VARA, If These Walls Could Talk, Allen and Pepa Architects, the Paramount, and The Yetee came on board to make First Fridays a night of art, music, food and community in downtown Aurora.