ALGONQUIN – Some small-business owners said it’s a struggle to be on the “ghost town” east side of Algonquin.
But village officials are hoping some new initiatives, including a face-lift of the Algonquin Town Center strip mall, will bring new life to the area.
The new owners of the Algonquin Town Center, which formerly housed Butera Market, plan to invest more than $5 million into improvements to the center, adding new landscaping, lighting and a parking lot, community development director Russell Farnum said.
“It’ll be a massive improvement to the center and generate a lot of excitement for east Algonquin,” Farnum said.
Another big lot the village is aiming to redevelop is the former Brunswick Zone property. Farnum said the village does not yet have anything to announce, but the owner is eager for something new at the site.
Despite a promise for redevelopment, small-business owners said the closings of major businesses – such as Butera, Brunswick and a Verizon Wireless store, as well as the temporary closure of Mandile’s Restaurant and Banquets – have hurt.
Owners Connie and George Pagones of Chubby’s Gyros, 1450 E. Algonquin Road, installed LED lighting around the restaurant’s windows to “show there is still life on the east side.” But the village said it is against code, and it has asked the business to remove the lights.
“We added lights so people know there are businesses alive and the east side isn’t dead yet – even though it looks like everything is emptied out here,” Connie Pagones said.
She said the police department also recommended keeping the lights on for safety in the area after the nearby Verizon store was robbed.
Deputy Police Chief Ryan Markham said suspects tried to drill the lock on a payment island of Wright Wash, 1520 E. Algonquin Road, in the morning hours of
“Lights are always a great deterrent from criminal activities, along with surveillance cameras,” Markham said. “There are quite a few vacant storefronts, so we just don’t have a lot of traffic in the area.”
Jack Touma, owner of S.T. Cigars Inc., said village codes – such as the light code and codes against signage along Algonquin Road – have prevented his business from being noticed.
“The village isn’t helping, and we are a small business,” Touma said. “We were doing OK in the ’90s, but it’s getting worse. Butera leaving has hurt us big time. The flower shop next to me closed and moved to Randall Road, also.”
Village President John Schmitt said the population on the east side is not dense enough to support businesses. Schmitt said about 9,000 people support east Algonquin, and more than 20,000 people – including from Lake in the Hills and Carpentersville – support the strip centers along Randall Road.
The village needs to bring in a unique business that will draw visitors to the east side, Schmitt said. Traffic along Algonquin Road also deters people from leaving the road and shopping, he said.
The marketing firm a5 branding and digital recently was hired for a maximum of $58,000 to create marketing tools to promote vacant areas of Algonquin, including the east side.
“I would like to see the Brunswick Zone area, as well as any other vacancies, to have businesses thriving there and not to be shuttered,” Trustee Laura Brehmer said. “That’s why I’m interested to see the marketing materials as far as what the village can do to market Algonquin more.”
Trustee Jim Steigert said he hopes the Longmeadow Parkway expansion and the downtown streetscape project will help the east side by making it easier for people to travel.
“We’ve been fighting this and working on it for many, many years,” Steigert said. “Density has always been a problem on the east side, and once the downtown streetscape is complete, it’ll bring people over to patronize business on the east side, too.”
Planned development on the east side of Algonquin
• Kids Island Daycare will be a dual language children’s learning facility and day care that will revive a former furniture store at 1600 E. Algonquin Road.
• The Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine clinic plans to merge its Crystal Lake and South Barrington offices into one at 1340 Ryan Parkway, north of Route 62.
• O’Reilly Auto Parts will redevelop the former Wendy’s site at 1720 E. Algonquin Road.
• Next Door Storage will be at 1910 E. Algonquin Road.
• Glenloch of Algonquin is constructing single-family homes for residents ages 55 and older off East Algonquin Road near the Route 25 intersection.