Elgin: The City in the Suburbs

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With apologies to the battery-powered bunny, the city of Elgin keeps growing and growing and growing.

Today’s Elgin boasts a thriving workforce and has become a hub for technology and innovation. Businesses both large and small flock to “The City in the Suburbs,” as do both residential and commercial developers. It is also home to many arts and cultural amenities and to leaders who know the value of economic development, special events and quality of life to a community.

Elgin has approximately 5,700 businesses of various shapes and sizes spanning nearly every conceivable industry. Its ability to offer top-notch, easily accessible facilities that are not burdened by heavy taxation, in a community with a diverse workforce who are willing and able to work, is a huge advantage.

As with most communities, growth begins with financial stewardship by municipal leadership. For the seventh straight year, Fitch Ratings affirmed the City of Elgin’s AAA bond rating, the agency’s highest rating.

“The high ratings allow the city to borrow money at favorable interest rates, making the city’s debt attractive to potential investors and reducing the burden on taxpayers,” said Elgin Chief Financial Officer Deb Nawrocki. “Elgin’s excellent bond ratings are also a factor in attracting businesses to Elgin, as it speaks to the city council’s sound fiscal stewardship and the financial stability of the city.”

Elgin recently conducted a community-wide survey of its residents in which 76 percent of those surveyed who offered an opinion rated Elgin as an “excellent” or “good” place to live. Relative to the quality of police, fire and ambulance service in the city, 86 percent gave a rating of “very satisfied” or “satisfied.” In fact, satisfaction ratings for the City of Elgin rated above the U.S. average in 45 of the 57 areas that were assessed.

The results of this survey helped Elgin’s Strategic Plan Advisory Commission develop its new 2018-22 Strategic Plan for the city to be adopted by the City Council. Among the plan’s stated goals are for Elgin to be a “City of Choice,” known as a top place for people to live, create opportunities, grow their families and businesses and enjoy visiting year-round, for Elgin to be known as a safe and healthy community and to have a high performing, financially stable government.

Some examples of recent growth include a flexible zoning package to the developer of a 58-acre parcel at the intersection of Randall and Big Timber Roads. In exchange for preserving 11 acres of mature woodlands, the City Council approved a planned development that permits office/research/industrial uses and/or retail/commercial uses, depending upon the demands of the market.

In addition, Safety-Kleen, the environmental products and services company recently had its plans for expansion approved by the Elgin City Council to enable them to expand their vehicle maintenance facility along Route 20 and Shales Parkway.

Thanks to sustainable practices and initiatives implemented by the City Council, Elgin is able to sustain growth without markedly impacting its overall carbon footprint as well as residents and businesses’ pocketbooks. Local and state leaders recently passed legislation which has made it possible for homes and businesses to install solar panels, sell the power to ComEd and also reap a 30 percent federal tax credit.

Rainy Investments in the 1100 block of Davis Road was first out of the gate. It recently installed 4,300 solar panels on its industrial roof that are expected to generate approximately 1.2 megawatts of electricity that can then be purchased by users at a below-market rate. That is enough electricity to power approximately 170 homes.

Transportation improvements to and from Elgin, as well as within the city limits, continue.

“The construction on I-90 is now complete and everyone who lives and works here is enjoying the benefits of the improvements to an already great transportation network,” said Marc Mylott, community development director for Elgin. “The fact that we have three interchanges on I-90 and are within a half-hour of O’Hare International Airport gives Elgin a tremendous competitive advantage in terms of economic development.”

City officials are also pleased that PACE has opened a “Park and Ride” facility at the Randall Road exit off I-90 and plans to open another one at the Route 25 exit. Express buses transport people to either the Rosemont Station (CTA Blue Line), which allows for continuing transportation to Chicago or O’Hare, or the PACE Northwest Transportation Center in Schaumburg, just south of Woodfield Mall.

Within its own boundaries, Elgin has spent $9 million to extend the two-lane South Street from Randall Road to Longcommon Parkway.

New commercial development within Elgin continues to enhance residents’ quality of life and give visitors exciting things to do. The Elgin Galleria II, which is filling with retailers and restaurants, has opened along Route 20, east of Nesler Road, right near the newly-constructed gas station and convenience store. The retail out lot spaces in front of the Walmart feature several new restaurants and shops, including Denny’s and McAlister’s Deli.

The former Walmart space, near Royal Blvd. and Randall Road, is home to the newest location for Russo Power Equipment and adjacent redeveloped tenant spaces will include a 22,000-square-foot indoor playground and a neighboring fitness center. Similarly, the city council approved an indoor trampoline park at the 95,000-square-foot commercial building on East Chicago Street. The Fox Valley Shooting Club is also finalizing its plans to open a 23,000-square-foot facility at 780 S. McLean Blvd., which will feature 19 indoor shooting lanes, two training rooms and 8,000 square feet of retail space.

The Grand Victoria Casino recently unveiled the transformation of an upstairs ballroom that had been devoted to VIP gamblers into a meeting and banquet space that can seat up to 100 people. It also completely remodeled its larger Grand Ballroom that seats up to 300. The total cost of the two remodeling projects was $1 million. The casino plans to add another meeting room next year, as well as a lounge where food will be served. Retail space in the pavilion is also being considered.

Public service providers continue to expand and improve within Elgin, as well. Advocate Sherman Hospital has recently received permission from the State to build a $12.7 million ambulatory surgery center on its campus. The 15,000-square-foot center has received unanimous approval from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. It will include three surgical operating rooms, 12 recovery stations, six pre-op stations and non-clinical space for administration, medical records and visitors.

School District U-301’s Burlington Central High School, which educates a portion of Elgin’s residents, is also expanding. It has recently opened the first phase of its construction project that includes a new library, multimedia studio, music room, weight room and a multi-purpose room.

There are also new parks and recreation facilities opening within Elgin. A four-acre park should open next year within The Ponds of Stony Creek – a new 500-unit subdivision on Elgin’s west side. A future phase of that subdivision will include another five-acre park. In addition, the city remodeled the Centre of Elgin Aquatics Center this past summer.

According to Randy Reopelle, Parks and Recreation Director, the department also has its first outdoor fitness area at Grolich Park; has added a two-acre park with a spray playground and a shelter at Woodview Park, next to the East Side Recreation Center; and has recently finished renovating the shelter at Eagle’s Park and Forest Preserve, 1600 Eagle Road. They have also built a parking lot and a roadway to allow residents to better access the 56-acre area’s plentiful walking paths.

Gail Borden Public Library at 270 N. Grove Ave., is well known for its community partnerships and free events. In fact, from March to July 2018, it will exhibit Extreme Deep: Mission to the Abyss, presented by Evergreen Exhibitions in collaboration with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Designed for children and their families, interactive activities will give visitors an opportunity to learn about life at the bottom of the sea. They will even enjoy a partial replica of a deep-sea submersible. This exhibit will be an integral part of the community’s 2018 summer reading challenge, coordinated by the library.

Speaking of events, the city expanded its offering of special events this past year, adding a new Elgin Hay Day event for west side residents, Elgin Civil War Experience weekend on the grounds of the Elgin Mental Health Center and a bike race in the northeast side of town. Elgin’s signature Halloween event, Nightmare on Chicago Street, attracted a record 18,000 people to the streets of downtown Elgin for an immersive zombie-filled night of fun.

New residents continue to flock to new residential communities under construction in Elgin. In addition to the Ponds of Stony Creek, off of McDonald Road, M/I Homes has begun building 36 single family homes in the next phase of construction at West Point Gardens. In addition, 284 apartments will make up a new four-story apartment complex called Watermark at the Grove along the west side of Randall Road, north of I-90.

In the heart of Elgin, the venerable 15-story Elgin Tower Building, built in 1929, is being transformed from an office building to an apartment building by Capstone Development Group LLC. It will eventually feature 44 market-rate apartments, each with dramatic views of picturesque downtown Elgin, Riverside Drive Promenade and the Fox River Bike Trail. The adaptive reuse of this landmark building is the result of a public-private partnership between Capstone and the City of Elgin.

Elgin is well on its way to creating a city that will not only serve the needs of its present residents and businesses, but should lead the way into the 22nd century and beyond.