Downtown Aurora had a booming year in 2019. Looking back on the year, highlights are numerous, but none so many as the 16 grand openings within downtown Aurora.
In April, Aurora resident Teresa Fiehn Millies opened Arcana, a private artist and energy studio upstairs in the Sherer Block building at 15 W. Downer Pl. If you recognize her name, Aurora Downtown hired Fiehn Millies for a number of public art projects to add color and vibrancy to downtown such as a crocheted butterfly on the fence of Downer Place at Stolp Avenue and fabric wrapping the former trees at Beilman Park adjacent to Water Street Mall.
In June, Paramount School of the Arts opened to much applause under the direction of Shannon Cameron. The long-awaited vision of Paramount Theatre’s executive director Tim Rater now offers summer camps and performing arts classes year-round.
The Venue opened at 21 S. Broadway bringing a highly-anticipated live music listening room to the heart of downtown. The Venue’s stage welcomes a variety of musical genres and is becoming a regional destination thanks to the Fox Valley Music Foundation.
Throughout the summer, several businesses opened along Broadway including The Cotton Seed Creative Exchange, Latrice Murphy Design and Photography, L & L Vintage, and Fonda mi Pueblito.
Charlie’s Silver Spoon Creamery opened in the long shuttered Silver Plate building at the northeast corner of Downer Place and Stolp Avenue. What for a handful of years was a seasonal art display decorated by the Vacant Window Project is now a bustling storefront serving up more than a dozen rotating flavors of handmade ice cream.
In September, Warehouse 55 opened at 55 S. Lake St. The vintage market shops started by Mark Allen bring together a wide mix of vendors that offer distinctive home goods, clothing, and furniture.
Gary Brown Art Gallery and Studio celebrated their opening at 7 S. Broadway during a busy First Fridays. The studio is now a favorite spot to visit during downtown events.
Later in the year, Society 57 opened at 100 S. River St. The event space and full-time coffee shop is run by a nonprofit started by Scott Hodge and Tammy Helfrich of The Orchard Community church. Named for the year that East and West Aurora became one city, Society 57 serves as a community gathering spot.
Just recently, Mangkuk Filipino Asian Fusion Restaurant opened at 210 E. Galena Blvd. and I of the Angeles, a tarot and reiki room opened across the street a few months early at 217 E. Galena Blvd.
Year’s end brought us the first phase of Yetee Station, an arcade at 102 E. Galena Blvd., Crystal House engraving on LaSalle Street, and Amy Morton’s welcoming theater crowd dinner spot Stolp Island Social at 5 E. Galena Blvd.
There is currently talk of more restaurants coming to Stolp Island. Meanwhile, more residential development is happening from Broadway to Stolp to Benton.
As downtown continues to grow into the New Year, we can be appreciative of the many businesses that have called downtown Aurora “home” for years. They might not be in the spotlight now, but they helped make this growth possible, and their dedication to downtown allowed for the current renaissance.
New and old, downtown growth is helping to build up the community. One that is second to none.
A Slightly Different Point of View by Karen Christensen, Aurora’s Poet Laureate
The candles have melted,
boxes unwrapped, leftovers stored
One gift remains:
What if we chose to see the world
through an altered window
in a singular light
asking new questions,
seeking new answers
Allowing for possibility
imagine what hope we each might spark
if we promised each other to greet the year
with an open heart a searching mind,
and a slightly different point of view?