State of the suburbs: Governments making up for lost time
The Great Recession took a huge toll not only on the viability and growth of for-profit businesses, but also the local governments that depend on the sales taxes and property taxes that naturally rise when the economy is strong.
With even a village like Schaumburg having to start its first property tax due to shortfalls in its once robust consumer taxes, most every local government spent a few years in survival mode rather than improving facilities.
But just as pent-up demand among consumers is expressed once a financial crisis is over, so too have governments begun to make up for lost time in their own public upgrades.
And some government projects, like Barrington's Hough/Main development project downtown, are intended to jump-start economic development and inspire more private investment in their wake.
While some of the ongoing government projects are renovating or replacing buildings that date back to the early or mid-20th Century, they're all taking advantage of the current recovery to build facilities to last far through the remainder of this economically turbulent 21st.
Among government's most important contributions to the economic recovery is the widening of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, including long-awaited interchange improvements at Meacham, Roselle and Barrington roads. The expected beneficiaries include St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and Schaumburg's Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center.
Schaumburg already is planning for the potential redevelopment at the intersection of Meacham and Algonquin roads, just north of the convention center, for an entertainment district.
Since the hiring of management firm Global Spectrum in 2010, Hoffman Estates reports huge strides in the marketing and profile of the village-owned Sears Centre Arena. This year, the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament returned to the Sears Centre, two years after it was first held there.
The increasing popularity has attracted Dallas-based Main Event Entertainment to plan for a family entertainment center next to the Sears Centre next year. It will feature bowling, laser tag, video games, a ropes course, restaurants and a bar.
Long before the recession, Barrington officials were making plans to rev up what they considered to be the underutilized southwest corner of Hough and Main streets at the center of the village's downtown.
The village bought several properties at the corner with the intention of selecting a single developer for a unified project that would provide more retail, restaurants and parking for Barrington's commercial core.
Though both political gridlock on the village board and then the recession caused a longer wait than was anticipated, the project finally opened this year with both new and relocated tenants.
Among the businesses signed up or already open in the development's two buildings are Egg Harbor Cafe, Starbucks, AT&T, Japanese restaurant Shakou and 18/8 Haircuts & Styling for Men.
These tenants represent about 70 percent of the available space in the new development, which has been intended to be a catalyst for further, entirely private development elsewhere in the downtown, Village Manager Jeff Lawler said.
The village still owns all the underlying property itself -- ensuring the long-term future of its 123 parking spaces -- while the development is on a 99-year lease.
Palatine village hall
After 63 years of service -- originally as the former Palatine High School -- Palatine's village hall is in the midst of an overhaul intended to transform the aging structure into a proud symbol for the rest of the 21st century.
The $12.7 million project began by stripping the building at 200 E. Wood St. down to bare concrete. The accoutrements removed included not only those recently used by village staff and the Palatine Park District, but even the beige lockers once used by high school students.
When completed, the roof will let in more natural light.
The exterior renovation will be at least as significant as the work inside. The drab concrete atop the building will be covered by aluminum panels, and the brick facade will undergo a modernizing facelift.
Currently, village officials work out of a temporary location at 150 W. Wilson St., just south of the railroad tracks, but expect to move into the renovated building in the spring of 2016.
Summer 2015 will be remembered as the time Aurora replaced its 111-year-old, Carnegie-funded library at Benton Street and Stolp Avenue with the state-of-the-art Richard and Gina Santori Public Library on River Street.
The $28 million, two-year project was greeted by 1,500 eager patrons on its opening day in June.
Among the new attractions are the Maker Space -- which features a vinyl cutter, laser cutter and 3-D printer -- and the Kiwanis of Aurora Children's Center's large storytime room.
• Renovation of the White House in Barrington.
• Plans for a new Arlington Heights police station.
• Completion of Arlington Heights Public Library renovation.
• Renovation of the Poplar Creek Public Library.
• Early stages of the renovation and expansion of the Lake County criminal court building.
• Lakemoor is building a new combined police station and village hall.
• Some Lake County communities soon will start transitioning to Lake Michigan water.
• Libertyville may build a parking deck behind its civic center.
• Glen Ellyn is working on a new pedestrian underpass.
• The Anderson Road bridge in Elburn should be completed in spring.
• Elburn's new fire station is nearing completion.
• The first floor of the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin could be renovated.
• Renovations at the Naper Boulevard Library in Naperville recently were completed.