Category Archives: Elgin

Getting Money out of Elections?

Wouldn't it be nice if a candidate was more worried about filling their "war chest" with ideas and solutions instead of cash?

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Stephen Dubner, co-author of the New York Times best-seller Freakonomics. We discussed “the hidden side of everything,” namely, finding unexpected insights buried in data. (My resulting post focused on asking smarter questions to find answers lurking in piles of data.)

Since it was the day before the Illinois primary, I asked him to expand on a recent claim that campaign spending has a very limited effect on election outcomes. Research by his Freakonomics co-author, Steven Leavitt, found that doubling spending only increased a candidate’s share of the popular vote by 1%.

Recent primaries have reinforced the uneasy relationship between spending and results. Dubner mentioned that candidates who garner more contributions tend to be those who are more active and involved with their campaigns. They’re often more charismatic. These factors contribute to their popularity at the polls, too, making it difficult to separate the effect of spending from other factors.

My curiosity piqued, I asked Dubner whether they had looked at the effect of spending on municipal elections, where campaign “war chests” are often more like piggy banks. The Freakonomics team hasn’t done any research on this aspect, but Dubner speculated that a little bit of money may go farther on the local level, where name recognition is harder to come by.

That makes sense. With national or state-level elections, the media is focused on a couple of big races. At the local level, the media’s attentions are splintered among all the races, especially in a major media market like Chicago.

A year ago, campaign signs were in full bloom ahead of the local city council seats and mayoral election, which got me thinking about the role of signs in elections.

Last week, a Facebook comment about the lack of “re-elect” signs re-ignited the thought. In municipal elections, candidates often face very tight budgets. Unlike at the national level (or state level, particularly in Illinois, it seems), local politicians aren’t in it for a career. Many do it on the side because they want to make a difference. (Call me Pollyanna if you must.) Hence, they can’t afford to sink huge sums of their own money into a race, nor do they have the time or resources to do a lot of fundraising.

Second, many local politicians will run for several different offices over time. Hence, the savvy politician tries to re-use signs, material and goodwill as much as possible. (Plus, I doubt those fancy signs are recyclable.)

Which leads me to this sign I saw while out walking just before the election:

Look closely - the candidate taped the new desired office over the previous sign. On a windy day, the taped piece was flapping around.

So what exactly is the role of money in local campaigns? I think we’d be better off if we could get money out of elections. When I asked Dubner, he said the candidate who attempted to not fundraise – especially at the federal level – would have a hard time finding a staff willing to gamble on such a campaign.

He’s probably right, but I would love to see campaigns focus on issues without worrying about fundraising and glad-handing. Wouldn’t you?

Government budgets – at all levels – are tighter than any time in recent memory. Shouldn’t campaign budgets reflect disciplined, careful, strategic spending? I would be curious to analyze the relationship between those who fundraise more and those more willing to raise taxes. In both cases, the politician is spending someone else’s money – which they tend to treat very differently than their own.

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Building Community through Festivals

Fireworks are about more than just the explosions

While sitting at the Council meeting last week, listening to Mayor Kaptain explain the rationale behind partnering with Hoffman Estates for fireworks, I was reminded of one of his campaign themes:

Build community, not things.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Elgin is the sense of community. For a town of 108,000, it sure feels like a small town in that people know and look out for each other.

That’s not easy to say these days. More and more, people are isolated from their neighbors, or skeptical of neighbors with good intentions.

So do fireworks build community? And if so, can we build Elgin’s community spirit by having “Elgin” fireworks in Hoffman Estates?

I was relieved to hear that the proposed cost was relatively low – $15,000 was pledged during the meeting, which works out to less than 14 cents per Elginite. (Staff time, including police to direct traffic, has not been calculated yet.)

A community-planned and run event, such as the Jaycees were proposing, would definitely foster community. Volunteers who invest time and effort build relationships with each other, but also expand their community. They reach out through their extended networks to get additional help and to draw people to the festival. News of such events travels via social networks and through word-of-mouth. People are often proud of their contributions and want to share it with others.

While partnering with Hoffman Estates achieves the goal of blowing things up, I hope that the planners engage community groups to really bring Elgin into the event. Because that’s the point of any festival: providing a place for neighbors to come together and celebrate the community they share.

Any of us could go attend another community’s fireworks, but if we’re paying part of the bill, let’s make sure it’s truly an Elgin festival.

Funding our Fireworks

Fireworks rock. But are they worth the taxpayer dollars?

Last week, Facebook was lighting up with the possibility of Elgin-sponsored fireworks. As proposed, Elgin might partner with Hoffman Estates (and possibly Hanover Park) to put on an Independence Day display at the Sears Center.

We lost our city-sponsored pyrotechnics in 2008, when projections warned of looming budget trouble. At that time, I remember the discussion being framed in terms of necessities vs. nice-to-haves. City officials mused about what citizens would prefer: fireworks or trash pickup. Of course, most rationally chose trash pickup, a “core service.”

I love fireworks. They’re magical, and they inspire awe and wonder.

But we’re broke. Elgin has been refreshingly transparent about just how broke we actually are. We went through a very open, very painful budget process in December that even affected core services. Effective January 1, we’re paying for trash pickup, with $13.25 added to our water bills every month. Older neighborhoods like mine now pay for leaf removal, too. And yet now, barely three months later, we’re looking at spending money on a nice-to-have?

More frustrating is that the news of new spending comes on the heels of January layoffs that eliminated 22 full-time and seven part-time positions. While some of the posts were already vacant, 19 people lost their job to help save $1.8 million.

Granted, partnering with other communities is a step in the right direction. Rather than competing with our neighboring towns, pooling resources can benefit both sides. We just partnered with Hoffman Estates to spend $53,865 on a dog park. (While the dog park will be nice to have, it won’t actually be in Elgin. The money will be spent in Hoffman Estates, instead of in some of our own dilapidated parks.)

There is another way. The Elgin Jaycees are spearheading an effort to fund a fireworks festival privately, through donations, sponsorships and community donations.

Let’s give the Jaycees a shot. If they have the organization and gumption to run this, let them. Rather than spending tax dollars, let’s see if some of our local businesses – say, perhaps the ones getting incentives from the city – might be willing to chip in a bit.

What do you think? How should we pay for fireworks? Or are fireworks even worth paying for? Take the poll below.

The Council will consider the fireworks question at the March 21 Committee of the Whole meeting. I’m eager to hear the discussion.

UPDATE 3/22: At the March 21 meeting, the Council unanimously approved committing $15,000 towards “enhancing” Hoffman Estates’ fireworks display and cooperating on their festival. No cost estimates were given for staff time or potential police time. 

Reinventing Elgin: Icing on the Cake?

My recent Perceptions & Pawnshops post has gotten a lot of attention, with several great comments. (Thank you!) A lot of the comments touched on a common theme: when there are bigger, deeper, systemic problems, image is moot.

Commenter Beth, a non-Elginite looking in, summed it up best with an analogy:

“While I think aesthetics are extremely important, they are merely the frosting on the cake and we all know that you need to bake a good cake first before you put on the frosting. Frosting an old piece of bread is not going to fool anyone once they take the first bite.”

She’s right, and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve written before about some of the bigger, structural issues that affect our city and its image. Indeed, I make my living creating, massaging and maintaining images. Marketers know that if the product is crap, the best marketing plan in the world is for naught.

We do have our problems, but we can’t neglect our image as we work to fix things.

We have a large low-income population, which is why we have pawnshops, payday loans and their ilk. As commenter Chris pointed out, pawnshops are a better option than payday loans for people in financial distress.

Our schools continue to struggle mightily. To really shine, a city needs good schools. For families with children, the local school’s reputation and test scores can be one of the biggest factors when picking a home. And having poor schools often presents a “hidden tax” when families feel they must pay for private school on top of property taxes.

But crime isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be – in fact, we’re now statistically safer than Schaumburg. As we slowly turn the corner on the recession, businesses are cautiously launching or expanding – sometimes even without government incentives.

Another commenter on the pawnshop post, Chuck, was right when he argued, “The pretense that we can buff our image up into a gleaming city on a hill is delusional.”

However, I’ll argue that we still must be mindful of how our actions affect that image. The bread may be stale, but we shouldn’t sprinkle it with arsenic. Presentation matters. And a decent image will entice people to take a bite or investigate further.

Chuck also mentioned a disparity at the recent special city council session:

“[A]t one time, the discussion was focused on just letting Elgin be Elgin, we are what we are. But in minutes, the discussion was how to improve our image.”

And there’s the rub. Elgin can’t just be Elgin. Elgin’s very soul isn’t content with stagnation and just being. Elgin is an urban city amidst the suburban sprawl, an old industrial city trying to reinvent itself. That reinvention is the key. Long after the factories left, we’re no longer settling. We’re reaching and striving for more.

As Paul Challacombe recently wrote, “[S]omething incremental but fantastic is going on here in downtown Elgin. A ghostly canyon of bricks is being animated, through restoration, human imagination and something resolutely American— entrepreneurs.”

That reinvention entails – requires – crafting a new image rather than accepting the image of who we used to be.

We do have to fix the core. The focus on image won’t fix our schools, and we still have residents who need the services provided by pawnshops and their kin. But talking about our low crime rate and celebrating the good do help bolster our image – which, in turn, attracts more people willing to work to improve our town.

So let’s keep crowing about the good and working to cultivate the kind of image that attracts good, solid residents who will help our town thrive. But at the same time, let’s roll up our sleeves and help solve those structural problems.

We’ve got the ingredients. Let’s make some cake.

New Neighbors, via Habitat

Sunday, I went to the House Blessing for the latest Habitat for Humanity project. I volunteered on the site a few times early last year, and then got sucked into school. But for the past 18 months, I’ve often passed the house while running or biking, watching the transformation.

Pilar and her children, as Tammy (left) and Marlene look on.

This house, on Moseley Street in the SWAN neighborhood, was the first WomenBuild for Habitat of the Northern Fox Valley. From demolition to final detailing, every step was handled by women. Marlene Hensrud served as project director, and Tammy Guilinger as forewoman. Both taught me a lot about construction, rehab and community.

Sunday was especially special. At the blessing, the old house was filled to the gills with volunteers, family, friends, new neighbors, and well-wishers. A pastor led prayers for the home and the family, and Marlene and Tammy handed the keys to Pilar, the new owner. Pilar and her two children will move in next month and finish the final painting and landscaping in the spring.

The house had been vacant for years, an eyesore on an otherwise nice block. As with any vacant house, there’s always concern about its fate – and how it will impact the rest of the block. Will the house find a new family? Will it be bought by an unscrupulous landlord, bent on carving out as many apartments as possible? Or will it just remain vacant, owned  by nobody, crumbling bit by bit with every storm or stiff wind?

The house was built in 1863, making it one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood. The future did not look good. But with funding from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the City purchased the house as a strategic rehab, turning it over to Habitat to conduct the work. The project finished below budget. (I’m not generally a fan of programs like NSP, but Habitat has handled its houses in a much more fiscally responsible manner.)

I know the neighbors are looking forward to welcoming the new family. And as construction sounds echo down my own street, I hope my nearby eyesores will find similar TLC in the months to come. The housing crisis has hurt so many, but maybe we’re finally starting to see some success stories.

On one side of me, an 1860s house left for dead and condemned has been fixed up and now is one of the nicest on the block. On the other side, the long-empty home now looks far worse than ever – but that’s because the new owner is busy replacing windows, the roof, the siding and all the innards. A few blocks away, a neighbor reported that the house next door to him – vacant for sixteen long, long years – was just bought by a new couple.

Are you seeing similar signs of hope in your neighborhood? I know things are still very bad – and so many good people lost their homes – but I wonder if prices have fallen far enough that people are willing to take a chance on some of these old homes with good bones.

A Tale of Two Neighbors

This morning, I woke to several inches of fresh, beautiful, slushy snow.

The radio said it was “heart attack snow,” as the water content was very high. I told myself it would make a great workout – but finding the (preferably day-lit) time would be tricky.

But barely an hour later, as I was on my first conference call of the day, I heard a growling from the street. A minute later, my neighbor appeared on his ATV, with a plow blade strapped to the front. He quickly turned my slushy heart-attack mess into a neatly cleared driveway. He even did the sidewalks for half the block. Hooray for good neighbors! I will bake a sweet thanks this weekend.

Across the street, I have a different type of neighbor with the local car stereo/rims/alarms business. For months, I’ve noticed a correlation between the presence of the bright red Hummer and the house-shaking bass that rattles the pictures on my wall.

Earlier this week, for the first time, I saw the front of the Hummer. (Usually, it’s parked facing the building.)

It seems rather appropriate, don’t you think?

It takes all kinds.

Pawnshops and Perceptions

Last night, I spoke against a new pawnshop that has applied to open in the Town & Country shopping center (McLean/Lillian, in the old Trefon’s).

I’ve learned a lot about the pawn industry lately. It’s not nearly as seedy as I thought. Pawnshops are actually a much better option for people than the payday loans and cash-for-gold shops that have sprung up like noxious weeds. They’re tightly regulated by both the state and city, and work closely with the police to report their daily intakes. They make their money through loans, and in the end, the customer often gets their item back, to re-pawn later if needed. With cash-for-gold stores, items are quickly melted down, never to be seen again.

But sometimes, reality doesn’t matter nearly as much as perception.

Perceptions run deep. They start in childhood and grow as you’re exposed to the world: to your parents, to television and movies, to friends, to teachers. And those perceptions, once baked in, are very tough to change. When cobbled together, perceptions form images of people, communities, or things.

Elgin knows this. Elgin fights perceptions daily, constantly crafting and re-casting Elgin’s image. In the six years I’ve lived here, my marketer’s heart has marveled at all the effort that goes into crafting and re-casting Elgin’s image.

  • We spent $75,000 (!) to redesign our city logo and develop a slogan: “The City in the Suburbs.”
  • We have an Image Commission that gives annual “Image Awards” to recognize “image-enhancing efforts from Elgin residents, businesses and civic organizations.”
  • We build and rebuild websites to lure companies from abroad, filled with pictures of diverse, happy people who have somehow found an Elgin where it’s always sunny.

Image is on the minds and lips of city officials, not to mention residents who contradict outdated perceptions that continue to tarnish our image decades later.

We spent oodles of money on fancy brick pavers and new streetscaping for downtown. We celebrate ECC as a major regional destination. The city tries to lure golfers to the courses it owns, including one right by the proposed pawnshop. Thousands of out-of-towners come to Larkin High School every year for various sports and other extracurricular activities.

Each person who comes into our town makes or affirms their own perceptions of Elgin. Each presents an opportunity to change their minds, to shake their perceptions of the Elgin of old. For the younger people headed to ECC or Larkin, it’s often a first impression. So we talk about how the entry corridors fuel these perceptions.

And yet, when faced with a pawnshop to open at a major interchange and entry point, we allow it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for letting the market decide what types of businesses can open in a given area. But the city puts pawnshops in a separate category for a reason. Until a year ago, there were none in town. The city created a special type of license for pawnshops, and issued only one, to Windy City Jewelry & Loan. Windy City doesn’t use the word “Pawn” in their signage. They don’t overtly advertise that’s what they do. (Interestingly, the city has no such restrictions on payday loans, cash-for-gold shops or similar businesses. By my count, there are at least 20 such businesses scattered around town, including one already in the Town & Country shopping center.)

Rendering of EZPawn's proposed signage

But this new shop will have “EZPAWN” emblazoned 30 inches high by 198 inches wide, on a bright red background. Depending on how they position the sign, it will be one of the first things people see when they exist Route 20 at McLean, or even as they drive past on 20. That includes people going to Larkin, ECC and the Highlands golf course.

The Zoning Board recognized this and asked the petitioners if they could perhaps not use the word “Pawn” on their sides, and instead use the corporate name, EZ-Corp. But EZPawn is the trade name, so of course they’ll use their name on their signage.

The Board ultimately approved the proposal, which now heads to the City Council for final approval.

Whatever you personally believe about pawnshops, the widely held perception is not good. Thanks to my research, my perceptions have certainly changed. (Plus, Google now serves me lots of ads for pawnshops, payday loans, and bankruptcy attorneys.) But if someone already has less-than-ideal image of Elgin, how will that sign change – or affirm – their perceptions?

Am I off base? What do you think?

View the entire petition and Zoning Board details. Full disclosure: in my capacity as president of the South West Area Neighbors, I did write a letter based on input from the neighborhood, and spoke at the hearing. 

Do Gamblers Like Opera?

Elgin’s Grand Victoria Casino sits just south of downtown, several thousand tons of ostensibly “floating” entertainment.

Elgin’s Hemmens Cultural Center, home to the fantastic Elgin Symphony Orchestra, is less than a mile away, in the heart of downtown.

Both attract steady audiences to Elgin, though the casino’s numbers are down significantly in the past couple of years.

In theory, both venues should drive crowds to the growing restaurant and bar population that’s trying to take hold in downtown. But in reality, that doesn’t really happen, particularly with casino patrons who have their pick of dining options within the casino’s confines.

Last week, the City Council decided to pursue a study that will evaluate the feasibility of an entertainment venue that could serve both purposes: hosting the ESO and growing arts community while also serving the Grand Victoria’s need to compete with the new Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. (Thankfully, we’re not paying for this $45,000 with tax dollars. The Grand Victoria’s parent company, HGMI Gaming, will foot the bill.) While a location hasn’t really been determined, some have floated Festival Park, given its location between the casino and downtown, as a logical space.

Mike Danahey’s wonderfully comprehensive Courier News piece covers the biggest issues: Festival Park is the only green space in downtown; the need to be good neighbors to the townhome residents who have struggled with noisy downtown venues (namely the Main Event), and the odd pairing of gambling and arts. This is the part that really piqued my interest.

Elgin talks a lot about becoming a destination for the arts. The ESO has been an institution since 1950, and we have plenty of smaller groups like Elgin Opera, Janus Theatre, Elgin Theatre Company, Elgin Art Showcase, and others I’m surely forgetting. ArtSpace is becoming a (taxpayer-funded) reality that will bring 55 artists to downtown. SpaceTaste Gallery has periodic shows and really unique things to see.

In that sense, the Hemmens has outlived its useful purpose. Built in 1969, it has only 1200 seats, strangely configured. The acoustics aren’t worthy of the ESO – I was blown away when I went to a recent ESO concert at the Prairie Center in Schaumburg. A new facility is overdue, and would offer more flexibility to serve the growing variety of arts needs.

But I still struggle with how one venue can successfully meet the needs of such disparate groups. As Danahey points out, facilities hosting symphony concerts are inherently structurally different than those hosting casino shows that feature rock and pop acts. A single facility might serve the traditional arts (symphony, opera, stage productions), but would not have the bones needed for a more contemporary act, and vice versa.

Facilities aside, lets consider their respective audiences. Do gamblers like opera? Do we care if they do? I don’t see a lot of mingling of audiences. Would most casino goers consider attending an ESO performance?

I think we need to be realistic that such a venue would have to serve two distinct audiences. While that’s not impossible, it takes very careful planning. Understand who your audiences are. Research their respective needs. Admit that there won’t be much overlap. Work with local complementary businesses to cross-promote where it makes sense. While casino patrons may not attend gallery openings, ESO-goers may be interested. I haven’t see that kind of connection to date, and it’s a relatively easy win.

I do think that a facility bridging the tundra between the casino and downtown may help downtown businesses. I love the openness of Festival Park (see my header picture at the top of this blog), but standing at the casino, looking towards downtown, the empty expanse seems endless. And if you do venture north into downtown, the first block of Grove is a ghost town, with far too many vacant storefronts. The new Prairie Rock Grill will anchor this corner, and hopefully bring in traffic that will help encourage other businesses.

What’s your take?

A-Caroling We Went

Thursday evening, as the winds shifted  to bring in biting winter air, a small party of friends assembled nearby. “Let’s go Christmas caroling!” my friends had suggested as they invited me over. I realized I had never actually done old-fashioned, door-to-door Christmas caroling. As a child, my Brownie troop had caroled at the local retirement home, but that was about the extent of it.

My friends just moved in and don’t really know their block yet, so we thought this would be a great opportunity to spread some cheer.

We weren't quite this Dickensian...

I dressed for the cold, swaddling myself in a big scarf, hat and mittens. We assembled song books from internet print-outs and, after letting the trio of adorable little girls bake cookies, set out down the dark block.

We quickly realized several things. First, many houses are truly vacant. I knew this is a problem in the neighborhood, but it becomes more apparent at night.

Next, a lot of people just don’t answer the door. At each house that showed some signs of life, we sent the smallest in our group – a bubbly blond five-year-old – up to ring the bell as we began singing. Most times, even if we clearly saw a tv on or other indications that someone was home, no one ever came to the door, so we’d move on after a verse. Granted, thinking about it, I don’t answer my door if I don’t recognize the knocker, especially after dark.

Third, kids really seemed to enjoy the experience, on both sides. The three kids with us delighted in singing, especially “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” which we sang as the finale every time we actually had an audience. And  where people did answer the door, kids would watch with giant grins. At one house, no one answered the door, but a small girl peered at us from the upstairs window, waving and smiling. We sang a couple of songs to her and moved on.

Fourth, some people just don’t appreciate some roving carolers. At one house, a couple had just pulled up in their car… and sat in the car, paralyzed with some type of cheer-fear, until we moved along. And at our very last house – next door to our organizers – the woman opened the door, saw us, and slammed the door rather forcefully in response. Bah, Humbug!

Afterwards, while warming up with hot chocolate and cookies, I was content and merry. Next year,  perhaps we’ll choose a block with some known “friendly” houses.

47 Categories: Brainstorming for Downtown Elgin

Tonight’s Downtown Brainstorm Workshop lead small groups through a prioritization list. The Downtown Neighborhood Association identified 47 different types of businesses that currently don’t exist in the downtown core. (For purposes of tonight, “downtown” was defined as the central business district only: roughly the area bounded by Grove, Villa, Dexter and Prairie.)

But not so fast: before we could start prioritizing, Tonya Hudson, Executive Director of DNA, gave us some background and parameters. (Ted Schnell covered the details well in his live-blog on BocaJump.)

Essentially, to flourish, downtown must be full of unique, innovative businesses – unlike what people access on Randall Road – that can draw people as a destination. Meanwhile, we must also build the daytime downtown population to support these businesses. And at this point, we’re not talking about specific brand names.

What can fill these storefronts?

With that in mind, we ranked the 47 categories individually, then tallied our rankings and began discussing our top 10 for each group. All the groups had different lists, but the aggregate showed some commonalities. As we did in the session, let’s look at each for a) existing, complementary businesses; and b) target customers.

1) Ethnic restaurants: A good variety of ethnic restaurants would fit in well with our growing entertainment district. Positioned among the various bars and other restaurants on and near Chicago Street, restaurants can benefit from proximity to entertainment options at the Hemmens, the Elgin Art Showcase, and the casino – if only they can get the word out. Such restaurants could attract foodies and 20-40 year olds with disposable income. What type of restaurant would you want to see? One of my group mates was advocating hard for an Indian place, but I’d also love to see tapas or a good Middle Eastern place to join our existing Villa Verone, Toom Toom Thai and Bangkok House.

2) Pet Store/Supplies/Grooming: This didn’t even make my group’s top 10, but several of the other groups talked about the dearth of such a place in Elgin, especially since the small, “scary” place on McLean closed. And they’re right. If you need anything beyond the basics, you do have to leave town for pet food. This would attract families and other pet-owners. Given talk of pet licenses in Elgin, we could probably determine how many dogs (at least) are in Elgin.

3) Convenience Store: Many mentioned the lack of any true convenience stores in downtown, other than those attached to gas stations, which are kind of shady. And they’re right. There really aren’t places to pop in for a very quick drink or snack, or a gallon of milk. A nicer convenience store could fill this gap, and attract professionals downtown during the day (City Manager Sean Stegall specifically requested a place that carries Hostess Cherry Pies), and residents in the evenings/weekends. Butera’s ok, but it’s hard to access on foot – there’s no real pedestrian access, other than playing Frogger through the parking lot – and they close relatively early.

4) Gift Shop: My group discussed merging a couple of the categories together, including Gift Shop, Card Shop and Stationery Store. I envision something like the Paper Merchant in Geneva, attracting women from teens through their 30s, and perhaps beyond. Positioned near good coffee and Elgin Books, this could create easy browsing and lingering.

5) Electronics: This was barely a blip on my group’s radar, but other groups talked about bringing some kind of Radio Shack-type store to downtown that could supply the electronic odds and ends working professionals need: batteries, cables, maybe print cartridges?

6) Musical Instruments: This would tie in well to ArtSpace, coming next year. Also, it would help attract the teens and artists DNA desires, as they will spend on things like dining and entertainment.

7) Full Service Restaurant: See also, ethnic restaurants (above), but with a focus more on families and after-work professionals. This could be a steakhouse or similar to the existing (and fabulous) Elgin Public House.

8 ) Call Center: A call center would bring more people downtown, increasing the daytime population that helps support all the other businesses.

9) Card Shop: See Gift Shop above.

From there, the conversation devolved as people mentioned some of the categories overlooked. (I don’t have a #10 in my notes, and nor does Ted’s transcript.) Here are all the rest:

Art Gallery
Auto Dealers
Auto SupplyBeauty Supply
Bike Shop
Camera/Photo Shop
Candies/nuts/popcorn Shop
Carpet/Flooring
Child Day Care (private)
Chiropractor
Cigar/Tobacco Shop
Clothing Store
College/University
Comic Books/Collectibles
Costume Shop
Craft/Hobby Shop
Dance Apparel Store
Dance Studio
Doctors Office
Drapery/Blinds
Dry Cleaning
Florist
Grocery Store
Health Club/Gym (Private)
Health Food Store
Hotel/Motel
Movie Theater
Home Furnishings/Decor
Office Furnishings
Party Supply Store
Quick-Service Restaurant
Shoe Store
Sporting Goods Store
Stationery
Tanning Salon
Toy Store
Uniform Supply Store
Wine Shop

What would help draw people to downtown Elgin?

Thanks for all the great suggestions so far – keep them coming!

In the next few days, I’ll have more thoughts about the direction of downtown, including some marketing shifts. In the meantime, add your thoughts below.