Millennium Bell Tower undergoes needed repairs


Photo by Amelia Hebel

Amelia Hebel, Staff Writer

If you ever find yourself in downtown Naperville at the start of an hour, you might hear the bells of the Millennium Carillon playing a song. For the past 21 years, the Carillon has been a staple in downtown Naperville, used over the years for photographs and celebrations for Naperville residents and visitors. 

But recently, it’s clear that the tower is surrounded by construction scaffolding, leaving many Naperville residents wondering about its fate. The answer to the confusion is that the Carillon is currently going through some much-needed structural renovations so that Naperville residents can enjoy it for years to come. 

The Millennium Carillon project began in 1997 to commemorate the arrival of the new millennium (the year 2000). With the help of donations and contributions from community members and businesses, Phase One of the project was completed in June of 2000. The tower’s visitor center was added in 2007. Today, Naperville’s Carillon stands 160 feet tall and is the fourth largest bell tower in North America. 

Nina Menis, a former member of the Carillon Foundation Board, described the special features of the Carillon. 

“It’s the most beautiful view of Naperville up on the top and [people have gotten engaged there] so there’s a lot of fun stories. Any individual can take Carillon lessons so they could learn how to play as well,”  Menis said. 

Currently, the Carillon is going through structural repairs like replacing the stairs that go to the top, replacing deteriorating concrete and repairing leaks in the basement of the tower. The project was supposed to start in June 2021, but started late due to the transmitters on the tower having to be relocated. Bill Novack, the City of Naperville’s Director of Transportation, Engineering and Development, shared the complications with the project. 

“You can’t stand in front of a cell tower transmitter without subjecting your body to very dangerous radio frequency waves, so all of those transmitters had to be basically relocated to the outside of the scaffolding,” Novack said.

Before the work began, an assessment done in 2017 found structural cracks and steel corrosion in the tower. At that time, the Naperville City Council was given three options on how to proceed: repair and maintain the tower, make the repairs and then enclose the tower in glass or demolish it. After a large number of community members protested to keep the Carillon because of its importance to Naperville, the Naperville City Council approved a plan to repair and maintain the tower in March of 2020. Menis spoke about how Naperville has worked together to maintain various features of the city. 

“One of the things that I love about Naperville is that people come together to do something amazing for the city to benefit the community over the years. It has started with Centennial Beach [when] people got together and raised money for Centennial Beach. And then you had the Riverwalk, people got together and raised money for the Riverwalk. Then they did the same with the Carillon,” Menis said.

With the transmitter delay and a cold winter around the corner, the project is currently scheduled to be finished by mid-May 2022.

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