For years, Judy Van Dusen took her children to an orthodontist's office in the Elgin Tower Building, enjoying the sweeping views of the Fox River and the charm of its manually operated elevator.
But the orthodontist, like most other tenants, moved out a few years ago after the 1929-era building fell into disrepair and was condemned in 2014. Since then, the 15-story structure has stood tall but vacant in the heart of downtown Elgin.
But the iconic building is getting a new lease on life. Van Dusen was among about 80 people who attended a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning for a long-awaited redevelopment project.
The first apartments should be ready for move-in March 1 and the entire building open for occupancy May 1, said Bill Luchini, president of Capstone Development Group of St. Louis. There will be 44 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
"It's a cool building," said Van Dusen, who is on the Elgin Heritage Commission and volunteers at the Gail Borden Public Library. "It's great that this is happening."
Tish Calhamer, who works at Gail Borden, agreed. "I'm so excited it's going to be restored to its former, or even better, glory," she said.
The $16.6 million project, led by Capstone, came about after nearly two years of negotiations. The deal was finalized in late August with the purchase of the building from the Stickling Foundation. Restoration work had started in March thanks to a preliminary agreement.
The initial plan called for 45 apartments, but the developer decided to add a top-floor gym and remove one of two penthouse units, said Andrea Miller of Miller Chicago Real Estate. Prospective tenants can put their names on a preliminary list for apartments, where rents will start at $915. The building's website is elgintower.com.
Judson University student Cameron England, who attended the ceremony, said young people are all about living in walkable, urban areas. "I think it's going to help bring back more people to the city," England said. "The more populated, the more fun."
Developer Richard Souyoul of Chicago partnered with Capstone for the project, which includes $6.35 million in tax increment financing from the city and $2.6 million in state historic tax credits that expire in December. Luchini said he'll capture as many tax credits as possible by purchasing construction materials before the end of the year, and storing them in a warehouse if needed.
City Manager Rick Kozal credited the resolve of the developers in overcoming "seemingly insurmountable hurdles."
"Whether it was vexatious lawsuits, expiring tax credit legislation, a crumbling facade or even the wildly fluctuating global economic market that's wreaking havoc with the investors, they stood the course."
Marco Muscarello, owner of the now-closed Gasthaus Zur Linde bar adjacent to the building, filed a lawsuit in Kane County alleging spot zoning to stop the redevelopment project. The lawsuit was dismissed earlier this year but Muscarello is trying to get the Supreme Court to hear it.
Muscarello's federal lawsuit was dismissed this week by U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood; the judgment, though, would allow Muscarello to file an amended complaint if it meets certain criteria.