One year in, Elgin Tower gets mixed reviews from residents, praise from city
A year after the iconic Tower Building in Elgin reopened its doors, residents gave it mixed reviews and city officials praised it as a catalyst for additional downtown investment.
Built in 1929, the 15-story former office building at 100 E. Chicago St. was converted into 44 apartments and welcomed its first residents in late January 2018. Property manager Chris Pezza of Miller Chicago Real Estate declined to answer questions other than to say, "The Tower is full and we appreciate the support of the town's people."
Some residents who spoke with the Daily Herald said they are happy living in the historic building with its downtown convenience; others said they moved out after leaks in their units.
Developer Bill Luchini of Capstone Development Group in Missouri said he was told the leaks affected "three or four" units on higher floors. "It's a big, old building and there's a lot of opportunities for these things to happen. It's a situation where, when we find out about it, we trace it down and figure out the source."
Former resident Tyler Epstein said he and his girlfriend moved in February 2018 into a one-bedroom on the 14th floor, and in May or June they moved into a two-bedroom, for the same rent, because of a leak in the ceiling. But after a leak sprung in a window of the second unit, they moved out in October, he said.
Management was "totally understanding" and let them out of the lease with no fines, he said.
"It was overall a good experience living there," he said. "Everybody was friendly."
Resident Tim Arigi, who moved into a one-bedroom on the 13th floor in April 2018, said he's been happy living there and has extended his initial six-month lease through October.
"I wanted to move into something that was unique to the area. There are not many 15-story buildings around," he said.
Arigi said his place is small but worth it, with a great view and proximity to downtown bars and restaurants. The only drawback is that the windows could be better insulated, he said.
Construction was done by Skender Construction of Chicago, whose project manager Mitch Braam directed questions to Luchini. The rehabilitation of the building received the 2018 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation preservation award for adaptive use.
The Elgin City Council today will be considering rehabilitation plans for two buildings adjacent to the Tower Building on North Grove Avenue, City Manager Rick Kozal said. The city contributed $6.35 million in tax increment financing money to the $17.9 million project, which received state and federal historic tax credits.
"Other area developers and downtown property owners have met with city staff with proposals, those developers being well aware of the immediate success the Elgin Tower achieved with its apartment occupancies almost immediately following its opening," Kozal said.
Kozal didn't answer questions about the building leaks and whether he has any concerns about the project, and instead praised the resolve of the developer, mayor and city council "to return the city's most iconic building to its former majesty despite the extraordinary obstacles on the path to its redevelopment."
Former resident Heriberto "Bettoo" Gallardo said he'd been excited a year ago about moving into a unit on the ninth floor, but was disappointed and moved out in early February.
A leak stemming from a sprinkler was fixed within the first two weeks, then a small leak sprung in the hallway, he said. Sometime during the summer a leak started by the entrance to his laundry area, he said.
Workers came and the leak stopped eventually, "but it took them two months to repair the drywall. There were holes in the ceiling for a while," he said.
Gallardo said he was credited about $1,000 in rent over two months but was unhappy with management's slow response.
Resident Bob Clarizio, on the other hand, said management does "a really good job."
"There is no full-time person (on the premises) but it sure feels like there is," said Clarizio, who moved into an eighth-floor apartment in July and plans to extend his one-year lease.
Management's response was quick and efficient when pipes burst in a second-floor unit during the polar vortex in late January, flooding the first floor and basement, he said.
Clarizio said the affected resident spent the night in a hotel room at the building's expense and then was moved into another unit. The fans and flood remediation equipment were still running Monday, which is a good thing, he said.
"It's the optics of showing they care about the mold and the people's safety," he said. "To still have the equipment running a month later and the water is clearly gone ... it was just impressive to me."
Luchini said the work in the aftermath of the polar freeze included adding insulation to windows in the lower floors and "addressing how furnaces are working in the units."
The residents also said they occasionally had problems with the keyless front entrance in winter.