Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Forbes Magazine published a profile on Walter S. Arnold, an Elgin stone carver:
But what you get when you pay $8,000 to $45,000 for a Walter Arnold fireplace is not just an ornament for your home, but the sense of a connection to the whole history of men coaxing form from stone.
Read it here.

And don't forget to check out the wonderful pictures of Elgin at:

Thanks, James!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Does this make sense to anybody else?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

It's November.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Elgin lane stands empty (and without a cashier!) at Trader Joe's in Geneva the day before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Somebody asked why I have a link to the Herald on the sidebar but not the Courier:
How can you have a link to the Daily Herald but not to the Courier? The Courier IS Elgin.
The answer is that the Courier's page is so poorly designed that I don't feel comfortable directing visitors to it. My chief problem with it is that it doesn't separate local news from national/international news. If the folks at the Courier think that people are going to their website to read about Baghdad, somebody needs to deliver a case of alarm clocks to their office. I mean they need to wake up. There are a million sources of national and international news. The Courier is the last place anybody is going to go to if they want to know what's going on in the rest of the world. So in short, I can't link to the Courier because the link doesn't lead to Elgin news.

I'm not the only one who doesn't like it. Here's what another Elgin blogger has to say about the Courier's site (read the whole post):
This is also a part of a larger issue i have over the layout of the Suburban ChicagoNews website. The layout clutters four different newspapers together and each one could be worthy of its own site...
He's right.

Fact is I would love to have a link to the Courier. We all know the Herald is an Arlington Heights paper, and we all detest its expansion into the Fox Valley. But the Courier hasn't responded well to competition. I don't want to go into it at length, but I will say that my impression is that the current owners are not doing an adequate job with the paper, and I hope to see it become a local paper once again, locally-owned and locally-focused.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I came across this interesting blog entry by someone who once lived in Elgin . Here's a short excerpt:
A few weeks ago I looked up Elgin in the Wikipedia and found, to my surprise, an entry. That entry led me to flickr photos of Elgin, which led me to a blog which led me to several other blogs. In the few years since my high school reunion, Elgin had come online and out of the 20th Century. After being amazed and in awe about this miracle, I began to realize that not only was this a good opportunity to know what was going on in Elgin, it also gave me a chance to see Elgin through the eyes of others...
It's a long entry, but well-written and very much worth reading. Read the rest of it here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

There was some handwringing in the city council last week over the practically nil increase in sales tax revenue over the past several years. I think it was Thomas Sandor who asked whether all this housing will just end up benefitting other municipalities. I think it's a legitimate question to ask of developments planned in the border areas. Stony Creek, or example, is so far south that surely it will orient towards South Elgin, St. Charles and Geneva. New homeowners along both the north and south side of McDonald road already get welcome kits directing them to Geneva Commons and businesses in St. Charles. No such welcome literature/advertising comes from Elgin. I would guess that developments in the north direct new homeowners towards Alonguin Commons. So Elgin is sort of stuck in the middle of these two major lifestyle centers and the market is not large enough to support the construction of an Elgin Commons.

So what can you build in Elgin? Super Target is already in South Elgin and serves much of Elgin. Maybe the market can support another one in the north end of Elgin, especially if the Otter Creek target closes--its space there can be taken by Wal Mart. What would really be nice to see is a Sears Grand, especially since the company is basically headquartered in Elgin (it's closer to the center of Elgin than to Hoffman Estates). I think Sears Grand would draw a lot of interest. People have gone up to Gurnee just to see it. Cabela's would be nice but it looks like Hoffman's beat us to the bargaining table. Anyway just some random thoughts on retail...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Seigle's, one of Elgin's leading corporate citizens, announced the sale of the company to a British multinational this week. Mark Seigle said that the merger wouldn't interfere with plans to donate the ground they own across from the library should the city decide to build a new concert hall there. I hope he decides to donate the ground whether a concert hall is built there or not. I think it would be best to convert that block into a large park, replacing the function of Festival Park and allowing the latter to be built out (see my post on Festival Park).

I don't think it's a good idea to put the concert hall on the Seigle's site. There's a lesson to be learned from the Civic Center, which failed to revive downtown entertainment, dining and retail business. I think the failure of the Civic Center was in placing the Hemmens all the way in the middle of the site, isolating it from the downtown's retail and dining establishments. If the concert hall is built across from the library, it will again be isolated. I think it was one of the people associated with the ESO who was quoted in the paper when the idea was first publicly floated, saying how great it would be to have this concert hall across from the Centre and the library. I agreed with him then. I thought it would be great to have this group of new civic buildings, almost like a campus; it would look nice.

But then, I asked myself, are people going to walk over from a concert to the Centre for a workout or a swim? Or to the library ? After some thought, I realized that any combination of these three buildings doesn't really make sense. I mean, it doesn't reflect any real usage pattern. People eat before or after going to a concert. They don't go work out.

So I don't agree with that site plan anymore, but I can understand why it seems to make sense. A similar rationale created the Civic Center. But the Civic Center, while aesthetically pleasing--it won an AIA award, failed in its purpose of reviving the downtown. Let's learn from that. I would suggest a site much closer to the heart of downtown. One such site would be the parking lot occupying the northwest corner of Douglas and Highland. Yes, that's a part of the Civic Center, but with the expected demolition of the former library building--and its replacement by a condominium project, the Civic Center will have lost its integrity (this is merely the continuation of a process that started with the construction of the parking garage next to city hall). It's no longer a landmark worth preserving; it's fair game.

The disintegration of the Civic Center makes you wonder whether it may be time for a project as ambitious as the original Civic Center project. This would involve the relocation of the post office and city hall, both of them perhaps in need of expansion? Perhaps the west bank--State Street-- would be better locations for them, freeing up the ground they sit on now, making possible not just a concert hall but an art museum. It is time afterall for art in the suburbs, and what better place than Elgin? Negotations with the Art Institute or the Terra Foundation may prove surprisingly fruitful, especially if the architectural significance of the new building is assured. Architecturally-stunning concert hall and museum would do wonders for Elgin's image and economy, transforming it into Illinois's second city...and Bilbao of the midwest.