Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Summer news around Elgin

A sparrow celebrating fun and freedom!

There's been a lot happening around Elgin this summer, so we wanted to take a minute to discuss some of the recent developments that have taken place...

4th of July fun!

The outside of the store, all dressed up for the holiday weekend

We had a lovely Fourth of July this year! As usual, Elgin's Fourth of July parade was a lot of fun to watch, and the shop opened to welcome any shoppers who stayed downtown afterwards.

This year, the Fourth of July also happened to be First Fridays, so we had all kinds of tasty snacks on hand.

Lemonade - perfect for a summer's day!

Check out our festive jars - you can drink out of them!

And of course, there were fireworks downtown that night! We watched them from the new Promenade this year - more on that in a bit.

What a view!
Hopefully, you all were able to enjoy the festivities this year in downtown Elgin, too!

Revitalization Progress in Downtown Elgin

This summer has been one of growth and renewal for downtown Elgin, as a number of projects designed to revitalize the downtown area have continued to develop and flourish. Some of these projects are more established and well-known, like the continuing success of the Downtown Harvest Market, but this summer has seen some new projects take shape as well. 

One of the most intriguing ideas so far is the movement to have downtown Elgin listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. The district would include about 102 properties, and could be a powerful marketing and tourism tour, as well as as tax credits and incentives for participating districts.

According to a Daily Herald article, historic preservation tax credits could be as much as 45 percent, with 20 percent in federal tax credits and 25 percent in state tax credits.

There are still questions of potential drawbacks, including the possibility of more rules and regulations, but experts have said that there are no drawbacks to being listed on the registry and all tax incentives are voluntary. Ultimately, at least fifty percent of downtown property owners will have to eventually approve the plan in order to become a listed district.

Right now, the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin is working on the application, which is expected to be submitted later this summer. We're looking forward to seeing what happens next!

In addition to the National Registry, the Riverside Drive Promenade has finally opened. The Riverside Drive Promenade is the the last 1500 feet of downtown riverfront to be redeveloped. Some of its features include permeable pavers, bio-swales, traffic calming devices, and bicycle paths.

On the Fourth of July, Riverside Drive could be seen lit up in full patriotic red, white, and blue colored lights - the Promenade's Facebook page has some great photos that really showcase the lighting system and how great the set-up looks.

We watched the fireworks from the Promenade - check out those lights! Very patriotic!

(This photo is from the Riverside Drive Promenade Facebook page - check it out for more great photos!)

In addition to the Promenade, there has been recent discussions about other elements that could be featured along the riverfront as well. As noted in this Daily Herald article, ideas range from popcorn stalls and ice cream carts to street performers and buskers, and even food carts operated by existing downtown restaurants. 

The Tower Building

The Elgin Tower Building
In less positive news, the fate of the beleaguered Tower Building is still murky following the May 11 fire.

The fire had been purposefully set in one of the building's elevator cars, and burned for about fifteen minutes. A Courier News article reports that "Fire Chief John Fahy said the flames were “rolling” enough that the lobby ceiling sustained fire damage. No one was inside the building at the time of the blaze." At this time, a 58-year-old man,Tommy McBurney, who is homeless, has been charged, according to the Daily Herald.

Following the fire, the Tower Building was condemned, forcing the three tenants to move out. According to a recent Daily Herald article, "In order to reopen, the lobby and the elevators must undergo repairs and pass an inspection."

There is a pending contract to sell the building to Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co., but the Tower Building's fate is still up in the air for now. Hopefully, the historic building will make it through this tough situation.

This is the view of the Tower Building from outside the shop - you can see it's been cordoned off for safety. Hopefully things will be better soon...

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