Don’t look too closely, but Elgin is transforming in front of our faces. The Artspace lofts are progressing the River Side Promenade are both in construction. Not that fixing the streets and a few potholes would be always appreciated, but these are major projects we are taking here, things that will change the texture and vitality of our long dormant city center.
What is different about these projects, they are both very communal efforts, they will bring new people and our own citizens back to core of the town. Unlike, our condomania or even just attracting and occasionally losing new businesses or companies, these are the kinds of things that may finally transform the city in ways we may have yet to imagine.
In the end it may have been all the well to the good have spent all this time on the brick pavers, the Fulton parking lot which makes the Artspace viable, to have restored the underground infrastructure, to have built that police station, new library, and the Centre. All these things have collaborated on a town that does seem to be on the rise.
And this is a good thing, because many older towns in this country are not as much with a future as a decrepit past, bloated budgets, and a road to harder times. And Elgin has for a long time been a hard case of its own, a city in a painful transition into our modern times. It is not just a circumstance, that ways may be slowly improving, it was the effort that has been a slow but consistent effort that has been frustratingly run by many of our people.
But then again, maybe it not be some surprise or some serendipity that some older cities like Elgin have a future in this new era instead of the “megaregions”, the “edge cities” that so been seen as our future until recently. The megaregion concept itself is a product of globalization, long distance travel, and industrial food with 1500 miles from farm to plate.
Subjects that are being renegotiated, to the point that even manufacturing is slowly returning to smaller American towns like ours. Small towns also develop real communities—you know places that have a real symphony orchestra, a fabulous library, and a wealth of the arts—good police, fire fighters and public works and parks.
The all-American town.
But then, it makes sense when you eliminate the pundits and the sociologists from the mix. These cities like ours where built first in the most logical places, by a river, near good farmland, the railroads came through long before politicians started trying to fund billion dollar boondoggles of “high-speed rail.” These cities were built care, brick by brick, they last today in both efficiency, potential and with beauty.
In fact, towns like Elgin have not only a need to survive into a new era of so-called ‘sustainability’ but may really be indeed the key to that future. Cities have always been where our futures lie, however these days more and more of the larger cities, due to both politics and the sheer complexity of things have become les manageable, rural areas are becoming evermore mechanized in agriculture and the populations will decline, the cul-du-sac culture of the now ancient suburbs have started becoming less viable as our energy-taxed times go by. So the future, after our many travails may indeed belong to places like Elgin, big enough to be diversified and serviceable, but small enough to manage without corruption.
In short, the future may not be entirely rosy, but it is possible that towns that were built by realists over a hundred years ago, in logical spots still can be the place stake our future as well.
Which is why it time to applaud these new projects in our town will both enhance the city as it has always been while creating some new spaces to negotiate the coming times. The Artspace was once a Sears Roebuck store, an American icon that is on it’s last legs in the age of the internet. The Promenade (like the new library before it) turns its face to the river that once turned its back to the Fox as threw it effluents downstream to Aurora.
So the past is long gone, but the geography persists, it is in our blood, both the old-timers and our newer citizens. I don’t Mr. Gifford saw a colony of artists or a riverfront deck along the Fox, but so it goes.
Elgin, like many another town, is as organic as any human. The course of the town is for better or worse by the imaginations of its citizens or by the wrong ideas. Or even just taking the time to find an idea that works.
Maybe we found a couple.