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NENA Residents Voice Preference for More Parks, Open Space

A recent survey of residents of northeast Elgin shows an overwhelming preference for parks and open space in any future development in the area. A significant number of residents indicated they were open to residential development, as long as that development was in line with the existing character of the area, which includes two historic districts. Few supported business development in the neighborhood, with many strongly against any sort of commercial development.

In February 2015 the Northeast Neighborhood Association of Elgin (NENA) conducted an online survey of residents of northeast Elgin to gauge how residents felt about potential development of local property owned by Advocate Sherman Hospital which was on the market at the time. A secondary objective was to gain a better understanding of what residents value most (and least) about the neighborhood as a whole and what types of development might be most acceptable, or even desired. NENA also hoped to get feedback on a March 12 Public Meeting it held addressing these concerns.

The survey was part of an initiative launched by NENA in reaction to the listing for sale and potential of parking lots south of the former Sherman hospital (south of Slade Avenue & straddling Center Street extended). Although the parking lots have since been taken off the market, NENA plans to use the results of the survey in its ongoing communications with the City of Elgin, and institutional property owners such as Advocate Sherman Hospital.

The typical respondent to the survey was a home owner living within a 6 blocks of the Advocate Sherman Hospital parking lots to which the survey refers. More than 78% of respondents have lived in their current residence for more than 5 years and 61% for more than 10 years.

When asked about potential development of the Advocate Sherman parking lots, residents ranked “park” as having the most positive, “open space” as their second, “residential” third and “business” last.

Of 113 who responded, 105 (93%) were either moderately, or strongly positive toward “park”, and 84 (74%) were either moderately, or strongly positive toward “open space”. No responses were strongly negative toward a park, and only two respondents were even moderately negative toward parks. Not surprisingly, there was less consensus about the specific nature of future parks or open space, with preferences ranging from sports fields

Residents were also open to residential development in general, but within that much more positive toward single family homes and senior housing as compared to other options. Feelings toward residential development were relatively evenly spread, with 44% feeling moderately or strongly positive toward it, 15% neutral and 41% feeling strongly or moderately negative.

When asked specifically about preferences for each of six possible directions within residential development, 113 respondents indicated “single family homes” as their most preferred. When considering the weighted average responses, “single family homes” would rank as most positive, “senior housing” as second, “town homes” third and “business” as last. Rental apartments, affordable housing and condominiums ranked least positive and each of these three categories received substantial “strongly against” responses. One consistent theme expressed by respondents was that any new housing should be “appropriate to the neighborhood” (single family, historic styles, match neighborhood).

Residents indicated they were strongly against business development within the neighborhood. Business development clearly had the least positive appeal, and the most strongly negative reactions (56% strongly negative) and 71% either strongly or moderately negative toward business development on this property.

A total of 90 respondents (77%) knew in advance about NENA’s March 12 public meeting about the same basic issues as covered by this survey. Among respondents, 32 (27%) indicated they had attended the meeting and 85 (73%) did not attend the meeting. Of the 32 who attended the meeting, 23 (72%) felt it was extremely useful and all others considered it somewhat useful. None who attended felt the meeting was not at all useful.

Northeast Neighborhood Association of Elgin (NENA) supports the community through a range of activities including: hosting public meetings and social events; supporting local schools; working closely with local law enforcement and elected officials; and hosting the routes for Elgin’s annual Fourth of July Parade and Fox Trot. NENA advocates for historical preservation through: creation and promotion of historic districts; community outreach and advocacy related to historic preservation; supporting the annual Historic Elgin House Tour; and the NeighborWorks program. NENA created and maintains the Ann Street-Douglas Avenue Butterfly Garden and hosts the Homes for the Holidays house walk.

The full results of the survey are available by request to info@nenaofelgin.org.