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Mayor Kaptain Talks About The Benefits Of Living In Elgin, IL

Dan Green
The Mortgage Reports contributor

Meet David Kaptain, Mayor of Elgin, Illinois.

Tell us a little about yourself and why you choose to serve the City of Elgin?

I have lived in the city of Elgin my entire life and I strongly believe in giving back.

I was born in Elgin in 1947 and grew up in the city’s southeast end. I attended local schools (Garfield, Ellis, Elgin High and Elgin Community College), then enrolled in Bradley University, where I received a degree in chemistry in 1970. My chemistry degree led me back to Elgin where I was employed for 33 years (1973 – 1996) as a chemist and subsequently plant manager by the Elgin Sanitary District (now Fox River Water Reclamation District). I married my wife Sandy in 1979 and we lived in the Blackhawk Manor subdivision until 1986, when we moved across the river.

I have always strived to give back to my community. I was a founding member of the Eagle Heights Residents Association in 1990 and served as its president for 10 years. I was also a founding member of the Elgin Community Network in 2001, was its first chosen president and am currently the executive director. I served on the city’s Planning and Development Commission from 1999-2005, prior to my election to a two-year term on the City Council. I was re-elected in 2007 and elected mayor in 2011.

As mayor, my focus has been on community outreach and leading the community toward a more sustainable future. My wife and I are both avid environmentalists and cyclists.

What do you enjoy most about Elgin?

Elgin is a true microcosm of the Midwest. We are known as “the City in the Suburbs” because we can offer our residents the type of lifestyle that appeals most to them. We have a downtown city district that boasts culture, arts, entertainment and recreation; a suburban area with award-winning golf courses, modern subdivisions and retail shopping; and even rural areas with farms and wide open spaces.

We offer incredibly varied housing options and serve as a major transportation hub. Plus, the river that runs through the city offers both scenic and recreational opportunities as well as the best drinking water in the county (determined by the Kane County Water Association; Elgin’s water is a mix of well and Fox River water). Elgin is a large city of 110,000 with a small town atmosphere.

Do you have a favorite local restaurant or eatery?

I enjoy all kinds of food, which makes Elgin a perfect place for me. Whatever I have a taste for—from bakery goods, to deli delights, to a hardy barbeque, to ethnic restaurants (Italian, Mexican, Thai, etc.), to fast food or upscale dining—there is always a good place in Elgin to have a great meal.

What does Elgin have to offer it’s residents?

Today, approximately 110,000 residents join me in calling Elgin home. This is not surprising with the number of great services we offer—a high quality of life, low crime rate, convenient transportation, variety of housing options and dependable city services. Financially, the city is doing well. Our city government continues to find ways to serve our residents and businesses more efficiently, while maintaining a AAA bond rating. Investments in technology through a 311 customer service center initiative promote transparency while providing high-quality city services. In addition, the new 311 mobile app adds to the list of convenient ways for residents to connect to our city services.

However, the provided services are only half the equation. It’s the people who make the real difference. As the “City in the Suburbs,” Elgin builds upon its 160 years of rich diversity and forward-thinking residents, businesses and community activists who contribute to the great success and vitality of Elgin.

The city’s strategic renovations and investments in our historic downtown help cultivate a lively entertainment and arts district. There is something for everyone along the Fox River, whether it’s visiting our world-class library, taking in a show at the Hemmens Cultural Arts Center or stopping by one of the many inspiring art galleries. Riverside Drive Promenade is yet another vibrant asset, connecting recreation, retail, multimodal transportation and civic business.

A focus on our families and children naturally involved us in Elgin’s Alignment Collaborative for Education (ACE). ACE combines and aligns the resources of local businesses, service organizations and the city for the benefit of our public school students. These stakeholders focus on meeting specific goals for our children including preparing them to learn and succeed, as well as developing a skilled workforce, strong families and a healthy community.

It is the community members, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and business leaders that truly drive our community to do bigger and better things each year. As one of the fastest growing cities in Illinois, Elgin’s thriving community will continue to embrace opportunities and position itself for future success. With a diverse housing stock, quality healthcare options, educational opportunities for all ages and good paying jobs, it’s no wonder so many people want to join me in calling Elgin their home.

Recent recognitions:

  • The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarded the city of Elgin its Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the city’s 2014 budget and financial plan.
  • The national golf publication, Golfweek, rated Elgin’s golf courses The Highlands and Bowes Creek the #2 and #8 public courses in Illinois in its 2012 “Best You Can Play” state rankings. Elgin’s Bowes Creek Golf Course received the 2009 Merit Award in recognition of outstanding professional achievement and the 2012 Design Excellence Award by the American Society of Landscape Architects-Illinois Chapter.
  • Elgin ranked 46 and 62 in two lists ranking the Top 100 Best Cities for Young Families in America. (12)
  • Elgin ranked 31 in the Top 100 Safest Communities (over 100,000 population) in America. (3)
  • Elgin ranked 27 in the Top 100 Diverse Communities (over 100,000 population) in America. (4)
  • Data-science group GoodCall ranked Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metro Area the #41 best large city in the U.S. for law graduates looking to launch their career. (5)
  • The U.S. National Park Service listed Elgin’s Downtown Commercial District on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Elgin’s 311 program was honored with a prestigious 2014-2016 Citizen Engaged Community designation by the Public Technology Institute (PTI).

What do you think is the most distinguishing characteristic of Elgin?

We are a diverse community with a long, honorable history. Our roots as a bustling city began with Elgin’s founding in April 1836 and continue to weave their way into the lives of today’s residents, businesses and visitors.

I am proud of our diversity and culture. Residents will find exactly what they need to build a fulfilling and balanced life for themselves, their families or their businesses. With our close proximity to Chicago and our own amenities, Elgin provides a unique choice for residents interested in city or suburban living.

How would you describe the Elgin schools?

Elgin students are primarily served by two public school districts, a number of private/parochial schools and Elgin Community College. In addition, at the college level, Judson University’s and Providence Baptist College’s main campuses are located in Elgin, as are a number of satellite colleges such as National Lewis University, DeVry University, Columbia College and Keller Graduate School of Management.

School District U-46 serves more than 40,000 students from 11 communities across Kane, Cook and DuPage counties. With 40 elementary schools, eight middle schools and five high schools, U-46 ranks as the second largest district in Illinois. Its mission is to be a great place for all students to learn, all teachers to teach and all employees to work.

Elgin is also served in part by Central Community School District 301. The district strives to have students, staff and families come together to support excellence in education and college/career readiness. The district’s priority is to prepare students for success in their continued education and career path, and the district is focused on developing graduates that are prepared for success following graduation.

Elgin’s progressive school districts work to provide career options for all students and have joined forces to initiate an Alignment Collaborative for Education (ACE). ACE’s mission is to align community resources in support of public school strategies to raise student achievement, improve the health and happiness of our children, create responsible, productive and contributing members of our society and advanced the economic and social well-being of our community.

Why might a homebuyer want to consider Elgin?

Elgin is one of the fastest-growing communities in Kane County. Through our growth, we have maintained our independence and identity, achieving status as an award-winning All American City.

People are finding that Elgin offers a way of life few other suburbs provide. With a housing stock that is as diverse as the city itself, residents are sure to find a place to call home. From our four historic districts with majestic Victorian mansions to our many neighborhoods with comfortable single-family homes or townhomes, Elgin offers something for everyone.

Recent Rankings:

  • Ranked second in housing starts in the Chicago Metro region (metrostudy.com) with a strong market in resales
  • Ranked first for the number of closing on new homes in 2014
  • Ranked first in the Chicago market with 11,414 future lots set to be approved for development (Redfin)
  • 60,000 people work in Elgin each day—more than 50% of the city’s population
  • Elgin ranked the third best city for families by apartmentlist.com. The analysis focused on four factors that are important to families: safety, housing cost, school quality and child friendliness. The website noted that “Affordability and safety helped this city 35 miles northwest of Chicago claim the title of third best city in Illinois for families. Rent for a 2 bedroom averages $10 a month below national averages, accounting for 19% of median incomes. And 29% of this fast-growing city’s 110,145 residents are under 18, boosting its score for kid friendliness.”
  • CNU (Congress for New Urbanism) Illinois recognized Elgin Artspace Lofts with their Charter Award in the Best Block, Street and Building category at their annual awards ceremony in December 2014. The project was chosen for this award category because the project completed a good block level plan while providing multi-functional, context fitting buildings along the block. The 55 residential units offer a mix of affordable live-work units for individuals and families as well as a 6,000 square foot retail space fronting Spring Street that adds to the pedestrian experience.

What does Elgin offer by way of the arts, entertainment and recreation?

Elgin is an entertainment and arts center and a recognized leader in providing a high quality of life with a wide variety of options. Elgin’s exceptional opportunities include cultural arts and entertainment that are unmatched by surrounding suburbs—including serving as the home for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. The strong base of arts organizations and individual artists distinguishes Elgin as an arts destination. Art venues such as our Hemmens Cultural Arts Center, Art Showcase and Art Loft’s retail area along with events such as Art & Soul on the Fox and a summer concert series in the city’s recently renovated Festival Park help solidify Elgin as a leader in the cultural arts. We know that this awe inspiring aspect of our community will continue to grow, attracting more and more professionals and patrons.

In addition to the arts, more than 1,600 acres of well-equipped parks are designed to satisfy individual and family recreational desires. Lords Park, a 108-acre regional park features a zoo, public museum, aquatic center, various sports fields and a historic pavilion that can be rented for special events. Wing Park, a 121-acre regional park, features the state’s oldest 9-hole golf course along with a little league baseball complex, additional sports fields and a public swimming pool.

The city of Elgin also boasts two award-winning, 18-hole public golf courses and an immense outdoor sports complex with more than 20 fields, volleyball courts and the area’s premier BMX track. There are also 4,000 acres of Kane and Cook county forest preserves that offer canoeing, fishing and equestrian trails. Residents have immediate access to the Fox River Trail and the Illinois Prairie Path, wintertime skiing and ice skating, swimming and boating and a wondrous array of sports and other recreational activities and events.

Tell us about any notable developments which are currently underway, or planned for the near future which will be of interest to Elgin residents.

In the near future, Elgin residents can look forward to the completion of the following projects:

  • Further expansion of the Elgin Sports Complex
  • Tower Building redevelopment, 45 rental apartments in downtown
  • Stonebrook single-family residential subdivision in west Elgin
  • Watermark at the Grove Apartments with 258 rental units
  • City’s construction of the South Street extension, which will connect Longcommon Parkway to Randall Road
  • The final phase of the downtown street-scape project (two main arterial bridges and a connecting side street)

Elgin is home to a diverse business community that sells, manufactures, packages, services and distributes numerous items from springs to blocks of cheese. This diversity positions Elgin as a premiere city for business. According to the Elgin Development Group:

  • 5,721 businesses are located in Elgin (seventh highest in Illinois)
  • 172 businesses are headquartered in the city
  • 182 businesses have sales of more than $10 million
  • 240 businesses import or export
  • 139 businesses were founded prior to 1950; one-third in the last five years

Only 400,000 (10 percent) of the more than four million square feet of retail space in the city is currently vacant. Russo Power Equipment Company has proposed a retail facility in a vacant 14-acre site in Elgin. With Russo, Elgin’s vacancy rate drops to a low 7.5 percent. Other major business developments include:

  • Elgin Volkswagen dealership
  • Elgin Galleria II retail building (16,000 sq. ft.)

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