Downtown Elgin, IL- A Large Historic Chicagoland Suburb

Downtown Elgin is a pretty compact area. I generally followed the boundaries set by google using Geneva/Welling as the eastern boundary, Lake as the southern, and Kimball St. as the norther.

While development in Downtown Elgin began in the 1830s, the oldest standing buildings in the district were built in the 1870s. Most of the district’s buildings were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Early Elgin achieved fame for the butter and dairy goods it sold to the city of Chicago. The dairy industry became less important with the arrival of the Elgin Watch Company famous for producing some of America’s finest watches and survived well into the mid-20th century. Like most midsized American cities Elgin lost most of its landmark business by the 1980s. Fortunately the Downtown area quickly experienced a renaissance in the 1990s converting many historic buildings into lofts, opening many new food and beverage bizs and local businesses, and fostering its arts community. 

The City of Elgin as a whole is the seventh-largest city in Illinois sitting at 115K residents and has experienced consistant growth throughout its history. It hosted almost 3K residents in 1860 and steadily grew from there reaching 22K residents in 1900, 38K in 1940, 55K in 1970 and more than doubled since then, an indication that Elgin has annexed much of the surrounding suburban growth around it. For Downtown Elgin to truly become an premiere urban district it needs more population, which can help attractive important retail services like a full service grocery store, drug store and perhaps some larger clothing stores. There are plenty of underutilized parking lots and auto centric buildings that could be replaced with compact mixed-use buildings.

Click here to view my downtown Elgin Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Good ADA curbs and sidewalk infrastructure.
* Very nice dedicated bike lane along the Fox River. Really no dedicated bike stations.
* Great diversity indicators all around.
* Good number of schools in and around Downtown but generally smaller private schools.
* Good park amenities including a bike trail along the fox river, a couple nice river front parks, and many small parkettes and plazas.
* Some issues with the homeless population but  Dwtn Elgin is overall pretty safe.
* A good amount of the Dwtn Elgin historic fabric remains and some more recent attractive urban in-fill including a large townhouse community.
* Decent tree canopy.
* Solid cultural amenities Dwtn including plenty of food & bev bizs, several art galleries and night clubs, a couple local theaters and local museums.
* Good retail amenities include a couple smaller grocerias, a hardware store, lots of boutiques & gift shops, a couple bookstores, several antiques & banks, plenty of gyms and dessert joints, a dwtn public library and post office, several churches

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* So so density.
* 50 min drive and 1.5+ bus/train ride from Elgin to Dwtn Chicago. But dwtn Elgin has some jobs itself.
* For sale product is a bit limited but lots of for sale product in the townhouse development btwn Prairie and Lake Ave. few 1-bed condos but plenty of 2-bed townhomes selling btwn 200K-350K, 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 200K-350K but limited product.
* Rentals are also pretty limited. 1-beds lease in the high 1Ks and 2-beds around 2K, and 3-beds lease for around 3K.
* Some crummy autocentric development and surface parking lots along the edges of Downtown.
* Dwtn Elgin’s image was not the best in the 80s and 90s but has steadily been improving since the 2000s.
* Dwtn could really use a full service grocery store and drug store.

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