A Hidden Gem
Village of Algonquin, IL
Often referred to as the “Gem of the Fox River Valley,” Algonquin is nestled in the bluffs of the Fox River. Algonquin is an active and growing community in the Fox River Valley region with a vibrant community spirit. Algonquin is proud of its heritage and equally proud of its reputation as an attractive and progressive village.
From a vast amount of shopping and dining, to an historic downtown nestled on the beautiful Fox River, Algonquin is a truly welcoming community with plenty to offer its residents and guests. We spoke to Village of Algonquin President John Schmitt to find out more.
The Village of Algonquin was settled in 1834, incorporated in 1890, and is located in both Kane and McHenry Counties. Located approximately 40 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop, the Village has had significant growth over the last two decades. Through managed development and growth of the community, the Village aims to maintain its friendly and community-oriented atmosphere.
Algonquin offers superb amenities such as parks and nature preserves, quality schools and libraries, and close proximity to commuter rail and tollway access. The community is a wonderful place to call home, with superior public safety services combined with outstanding neighborhoods. The Village is devoted to providing residents and visitors with the best quality of life possible, which is reflected in the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and development policies.
“We developed a comprehensive plan, and our village grew dramatically, but because we were well-prepared, we did not suffer the financial pains that many communities do,” says Schmitt. “We grew in concert with our school systems and our businesses so that the tax burden remained relatively small when compared to other communities.” With a population of about 30,000, it is still a fairly small town, yet its tax base is well diversified.
Algonquin has a solid base of residential and commercial development as well as an expanding industrial/business sector. The thousand-acre Algonquin Corporate Campus is being developed on the village’s west side. Oral healthcare supply company Young Innovations and moving and storage firm Advantage Moving and Storage are located there. The Corporate Campus will provide jobs that are better than average, which helps balance the Village’s jobs to housing ratio. This creates a tax base that supports the community and keeps residents in the village; it also further feeds the retail and service sectors. The Algonquin Industrial Park, which includes plastics industries, the area’s post office, transportation-related businesses, and tool, die and mold industries, is also found on the west side. There are currently shovel-ready sites available from 1 acre up to 25 acres, and larger sites exceeding 100 acres are also available.
The village has also identified corporate data centers as a target industry, hoping they will take advantage of the Village’s high-speed fiber optic capacity and substantial electric supply. “The Algonquin Corporate Campus is serviced with plentiful public water and sewer capacity, as well as major electric, natural gas, and fiber optic facilities. Because Illinois is an open-source state, corporate users can select their own suppliers of power and gas utilities,” continued Schmitt. “We also offer two separate internet suppliers, each with their own fiber optic networks, plus a third open-source high-capacity fiber line that an end user can simply pay to light up whatever capacity is necessary.”
Construction is also underway on the Longmeadow Parkway Fox River bridge corridor. The four-lane Fox River bridge crossing will lessen traffic congestion in northern Kane County and service the Corporate Campus with direct route connections to Randall Road, Illinois Route 31, Illinois Route 25, and Illinois Route 62. Algonquin is located approximately 30 miles from O’Hare International Airport, which offers direct flights to destinations around the world.
Randall Road is the region’s premier retail hotspot, and Algonquin is in the center of it, featuring three outdoor malls or lifestyle centers. They are the Algonquin Commons, the Galleria and the Esplanade. The Commons is completely built and did quite well during the economic downturn, remaining 93% occupied, which is relatively high for this type of retail cluster. The Galleria and Esplanade are still growing, with a great deal of interest from different types of retailers and medical offices. Village of Algonquin Director of Development Russell Farnum is busy working to achieve full occupancy.
“We are growing, and we are working hard to keep that growth balanced,” says Schmitt. “We are creating good jobs, solid schools, great shopping and dining opportunities, and great neighborhoods, all of which make a fabulous community.”
The village doubled in size between 1990 and 2005. The growth was mainly single family homes worth between $200,000 and $600,000. “We are now building mostly apartments, that are extremely popular today, when mainly single family homes and condos were built the prior two decades.”
Quality education is available to Algonquin residents from School Districts 158 and 300, both serving students from elementary age through high school. The Village lies within the Elgin Community College District in Kane County, and the McHenry County College District in McHenry County. Both colleges offer technical, vocational, and two year associate degree programs.
“We have great development sites available, and we have some fairly high-end developers scouting the area. We have a promising future in that regard and are not overextending ourselves. We built a tax base that would sustain a reasonable growth rate. When you grow substantially over two decades – like we did – it can pose problems, but we were ready for them. All of the details came together at the same time, which is the direct result of the planning and preparation we’ve done.”
The village is ‘The Gem of the Fox River’ because of its downtown area that includes three riverfront parks, featuring concerts every Thursday night in the summer and ice skating in the winter. All along the Fox River, there are many communities that do not possess a real downtown. Algonquin has one, and, although quaint, it is just right for the community and boasts some exceptional restaurants.
“We’ve got a large park with a band shell. The whole community shows up for events downtown. There are also car shows on our Main Street. I’m trying to get a car group to plan a classic car show or concourse d’elegance.”
Schmitt sees downtown as the heart of the village. He attends the Algonquin Founders’ Days Festival, which has taken place in July for over fifty years. The well-attended festival features games, music, parades, fireworks, carnival rides, and the cardboard boat regatta, all in the downtown core.
Recently, an extensive plan was devised to revitalize the downtown and prepare for the future. “We want to enhance the streetscape, add more parking and walking paths to go along with our bike paths. Our regional bike path goes right through downtown Algonquin, and connects with other regional bike paths that extend over 100 miles. We are working on many ways to enhance the recreational value of our open spaces along the Fox River. We’re creating an environment that makes people want to park the car and explore.”
The village is bisected by the Fox River with the majority of the population on the west side. The east side has an aging highway corridor and does not offer the same kind of shopping opportunities as the west side, so the Village has performed an economic study to identify key redevelopment opportunities for the east side.
“This sets the stage for redevelopment along East Algonquin Road, and assures that when redevelopment occurs, it shares the same success as Randall Road. It creates an opportunity to strengthen the shopping and other business opportunities, to provide more balance on the east side of our community.”
Schmitt’s overarching goal has been to ensure that the village keeps its sound financial position. It took much work, dedication and discipline, but the village now has a Triple A bond rating, which was accomplished without raising tax rates. It is rated one of the best small cities to live in Illinois, having come in twenty-fifth out of 2,700 communities. Exceptional services and a desirable living environment is the vision, and the only way to accomplish that is to ensure a stable financial position.
A strong force for the Village of Algonquin’s success is the Village Board, which has a great deal of stability. The Village of Algonquin is formally organized under the Trustee-Village form of government, and combines the political leadership of the Village Board with the strong professional experience of an appointed local government Manager. John has been part of the board for twenty-three years, and the board member with the least experience has been serving for nine years. Because of the experience, background and knowledge of the board members, they understand the needs and desires of the residents, what the community needs in order to be successful.
“We have a really good working relationship with each other, and our Staff. We also work closely with all of our state and federal representatives, no matter which party they are in. We will continue that into the future, and we will continue to prosper.”