How development along the Fox has changed the Tri-Cities

  • Proximity to the Fox River is a selling point for many newer developments in the Tri-Cities, such as Quarry Stone Pond condominiums in Batavia.

      Proximity to the Fox River is a selling point for many newer developments in the Tri-Cities, such as Quarry Stone Pond condominiums in Batavia. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Posted1/24/2020 6:00 AM

More than 40 years ago, a Chicago media outlet described the Tri-Cities area as "sleepy little towns along the Fox River."

It wasn't a slam against our fine communities. It was actually a compliment of sorts, that this area was possibly the last bastion of suburban tranquility.


Still, it was an accurate assessment only in that the cities along the Fox River hadn't entirely figured out what to do with riverfront properties in terms of moving from the past to the modern era.

These were river towns more than a century ago, no doubt about it. Most of the grain mills and other industries were set along the riverbanks, and most of the people in the towns worked in these locations.

Fast forward to today, and you see a sign that says two of the five luxury row homes for sale at Stevens and First Streets in Geneva are sold, and the Park Place of Geneva townhouses across the street is full, except for one or two being on the market on occasion.

These particular spots are not along the Fox River banks, but they are close enough to remind us that the river has served a purpose now far beyond its initial place in history.

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"Sleepy" no more in this day and age, these towns now view the river as a focal point for recreation, newer homes and, more recently, "luxury" condo or townhouse living.

You could go from Elgin to Aurora and find all sorts of places to live where the river is the key backdrop.

If you were doing a census, it's probably safe to say those living in direct proximity to the river would make up the population of an entire separate city.

In addition to many historic older homes along the Fox, we have taken that desire to be close to the river to a different level in our development through teardowns and the building of those condos and townhouses.

Batavia has Quarry Stone Pond condominiums in an excellent location near the river, downtown and the Riverwalk.

St. Charles has a similar setup in the Brownstone Townhouses along riverfront property that years ago housed the Howell furniture factory and, much later, the Piano Factory Mall.


Geneva's River North condominiums sit along the river and next to River Park, and another upscale housing project is in discussion phases for the former Mill Race Inn property.

There are plenty of other smaller sites in each town, and even affordable apartments at The View in St. Charles, Riverain Point retirement apartments in Batavia or Carroll Tower in St. Charles.

But that aspect does trigger another thought about our love for life along the Fox River.

It's been an interesting conflict of sorts in the Tri-Cities, where city officials have long contemplated whether they offer enough affordable housing in the region.

That's always been a tough call, but it's a sure thing that having that sort of option along the Fox River has been relatively rare compared to the lure of more expensive townhouses and condos.

It's not a statement trying to represent life right on the river as something only well-to-do families can participate in.

It's more about the reality of economics and the different type of value we've placed on life along the Fox River, compared to how our forefathers had to look at it -- as a natural resource vital to life and as a trade route important to area farmers.

It's also a challenge any community going far beyond the "sleepy" phase has to address as life along its precious natural resource changes with the times.

Still more meals:

A couple more readers have weighed in on where they would dine if they were to eat three meals out on consecutive days.

Kim Kimmel of St. Charles breaks down her two days by town. She said her first day would be in Geneva, with breakfast at Buttermilk, lunch at Moveable Feast and dinner at Gia Mia.

"It's all day in Geneva, and add a stop at Graham's and I am all set," Kimmel noted.

Her second day would be in St. Charles, with breakfast at Brunch Café, lunch at Townhouse Books, and dinner at ZaZa Trattoria or Francesca's.

Her treat in that town would be a stop for ice cream at Kimmer's.

Max Rumbaugh of Geneva would start the first day with breakfast at Andre's in Batavia, overlooking the Fox River. Lunch would be at Deane's Deli and Market in Geneva, and dinner would be Tusk Thai in Batavia.

His second day would be breakfast at Lumes in Batavia, lunch at Doughocracy in Geneva, and dinner at FoxFire in Geneva.

Rumbaugh said his wife would go with different choices, with breakfast at Townhouse Books in St. Charles, lunch at Fiora's in Geneva (where she loves the crabcakes), and dinner at FoxFire.

The couple said they particularly enjoy the table by the fireplace at FoxFire, where they always have their anniversary dinner.

For safer roads:

Anyone who travels along Fabyan Parkway and holds their breath when going through the intersection at Route 31 would be happy to know the county is investigating ways to improve that stretch of road.

It has seemed to have an odd "bend" to it when passing through, one that makes you hope everyone is paying attention and staying in their lanes.

We know people don't always pay attention, thus, the holding your breath part.

The Kane County Division of Transportation has a good way of putting that feeling into words, saying the alignment in the road "causes an uncomfortable maneuver for through and turning traffic on Fabyan Parkway, leading to a high amount of turning and rear-end type crashes."

The county is asking people to get involved and understand the process by visiting

The Frog Squad?:

It sounds strange to me as well, but the Founding Frog Squad is how the "Eat The Frog Fitness" studio in the Geneva Commons is pushing its early registration before opening at 1414 Commons Drive.

It looks to be an interesting, scientific-based approach to fitness, which appeals to a lot of people these days.

In addition to the fitness center, an indoor golf range has also opened in the Commons.

Pat Lenski's Golf Underground operates at 610 Commons Drive as a place for golfers to hit balls during the winter months.

More and more, these types of businesses are filling open storefronts that used to house retail shops or restaurants in major retail strips.

It's likely a wise business strategy to be in areas where a fair number of people would see it on a regular basis.

As for the name of the fitness center, the company's Facebook page explains that Mark Twain once called the task that we often put off as our "frog." For many us, that "frog" would definitely be getting into a fitness regimen.

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