Most people visiting or residing at Monarch Landing in Naperville see the beautiful senior living community for what it is now, thriving gardens, thriving residents and all. But Craig Kruckenberg knows the site and grounds as they were when he helped develop them more than a decade ago, before the community opened its doors.
Employed with Hitchcock Design Group at the time, the landscape architect and horticulturalist had a hand not only in planning Monarch Landing’s generous perennials, trees, water features, mini-golf course and other outdoor amenities, he was also instrumental in its structural blueprints.
It was Kruckenberg and his team who made sure that construction permissions were acquired, campus buildings were all related and properly connected to another, that the walk from residents’ apartments to the welcome desk was no more than 700 feet, buildings were a certain height and distance from Route 59 and Ferry Road, parking and other features were accessible, and that all the complex geometry was right.
And it is he who now sees his in-laws, Judy and Ron Barker, enjoying life to the hilt at the community he helped design. “It’s fun to go back and see how the trees have grown and how well things are being taken care of,” said Kruckenberg, who is now the horticultural manager and campus landscape architect at Cantigny Park in Wheaton involved in the master planning of a major renovation there. (“Stop by and see it!” he encourages.)
Kruckenberg’s interest in landscaping and horticulture began when he was a small child living in Iowa. Both of his parents had family farms, and one from the 1850s in still in their possession. “My parents always had big gardens, and as kids we helped plant them. When I was five, I had my own garden,” he said.
Following an initial interest in veterinary medicine, Kruckenberg earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and a master’s in landscape architecture, both from Iowa State University. “As a designer, I try to think in terms of 20 years from now. How big will the trees be? Will they be in the sun or shade? Landscapes are very dynamic,” remarked Kruckenberg, recalling that some of the plants at Monarch Landing came from people who donated them from their own backyards. “We worked them into the landscape design.”
As for the Monarch Landing community, said Kruckenberg, it has helped his in-laws “come alive.” They absolutely love living there, he attests. “When they lived in Tennessee, they were more isolated and had a lot of upkeep. Being in a smaller place is very freeing, and they’re involved in so much…choir, piano, good friends. They really enjoy it.”
Kruckenberg takes pride in the place that Monarch Landing has turned into, noting how friendly and caring everyone is, from residents to staff. “Some people there have become like family to me,” he said. Residents of nearby Warrenville, Kruckenberg and his wife visit her parents at Monarch Landing about once a month.
“It’s such a great place to live. I’m glad to have had a part in it.”