Keisha Thomas, a first-time entrepreneur from Belvidere, wants to open Escapade 360 on the third floor of 77 Riverside Drive, an empty, former office space downtown.
Escape rooms are live, physical group games where players are locked in a room and have to "escape" by solving puzzles. The rooms have themes -- jail break is a popular one -- with puzzle clues spread throughout.
Thomas said she and her husband have visited about 30 escape rooms in Illinois and as far as Nevada, Ohio and Barcelona, Spain. They range from elaborate ones with Hollywood-like, sophisticated props and audiovisual effects, to bare bones ones with little more than a picture on the wall as decor, she said.
"We'll be in the middle somewhere," she said. "We are mindful of the need to have an immersive experience."
Escapade 360 will have a travel theme, with the lobby decked out as an airport terminal and employees dressed up as pilots, Thomas said.
The first two rooms will be the "The Sherlock Adventure," set in a Victorian parlor in London, England, and "The DaVinci Experience," set in a 15th century workshop in Florence, Italy. The third room is in the works, and the fourth will be determined by the best idea submitted in a contest, Thomas said.
The city's planning and zoning commission will consider the proposal Monday. Staff members are recommending approval, which will need a final OK from the city council, Senior Planner Damir Latinovic said.
This would be the first business owned by Thomas, 39, who works as a webmaster for a company in Westchester. Friends and family are also participating in the venture, she said.
In the last two or so years, escape rooms have popped up throughout Chicago and the suburbs, including Addison, Bloomingdale, Arlington Heights, Downers Grove, Wheaton and Palatine.
Thomas said she considered opening an escape closer to home but decided Elgin -- based on affordability and location -- was a better option.
Escape rooms are popular team-building activities for corporations, Thomas said.
"Everyone is always on their phones or watching TV, or on social media, and it creates all these silos," she said. "The thing I love about escape rooms is that it's a real experience. You're in there with people and you have to work with people to solve things. You have to think, and you have to act."