Spotlight on Algonquin: Scenic Beauty, Economic Growth Set ‘The Green City’ Apart
- Editor’s Note: This summer, Kane County Connects interns Annabel Sengstock and Lizzy Kramer are putting the spotlight on 26 Kane County communities, from burgeoning Aurora to serene Sleepy Hollow, looking at each community through the eyes of a city leader. This article, the first of the series and written by Sengstock, profiles the village of Algonquin and Village President John Schmitt.
When Village President John Schmitt moved to Algonquin in 1989, the first thing he noticed about the town was its unique landscape.
“Algonquin has hills and bluffs that make its topography stand out from many other communities in Illinois,” he said.
If you took a snapshot of the village when Schmitt arrived in ’89, you’d have seen a secluded, rural community on the outskirts of Kane and McHenry counties. Gorgeous to look at? You bet. Wonderful people? Without a doubt. Economic development powerhouse? Maybe not so much.
“There was one grocery store in town,” he said. “Randall Road was a two-lane country road. Jacobs High School (the high school in Algonquin) was in the middle of a cornfield. And the city itself was financially broke.”
Today, Algonquin has undergone dramatic changes to become a bustling suburban town and business center. The population of the village is three times what it was almost 30 years ago, and the number of stores and commercial buildings in town has skyrocketed.
In fact, Algonquin now holds a 1,000-acre corporate campus that has huge potential to bring jobs closer to home, Schmitt said.
Despite the positive effects of Algonquin’s development, recent expansion has also brought a few new challenges to the community. The Algonquin corporate campus needs more occupants, Schmitt said, and Village Board members hope to find companies to fill empty office space.
To do this, Algonquin has brought high-speed Internet to the corporate campus, and the village is now working to improve traffic conditions outside the campus by widening Randall Road and supporting construction of a new transportation gateway, Longmeadow Parkway, to prevent congestion.
Not everyone in Kane County approves of these plans, but Schmitt feels they are necessary to keep residents in town, provide much-needed jobs and continue to help Algonquin prosper.
Schmitt believes easy access to the corporate campus via Longmeadow Parkway will have a positive environmental impact because residents won’t have to drive as far to get to work, therefore cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. He believes development of the corporate campus will help support local business in Algonquin, as well.
“(The corporate campus) helps our businesses, because workers will stay in town to go to lunch or go shopping,” Schmitt said.
In the next five to seven years, Schmitt and the Village Board plan to redevelop the downtown area of Algonquin. The project will cost the village $20 million to $30 million and will include replacing outdated pipes and renovating the surface of the streets. Schmitt hopes this new development, along with Algonquin’s prime location on the banks of the Fox River, will draw tourists to the downtown area.
Since 2005, the Algonquin Village Board has supported Schmitt’s economic development efforts, helping him raise support for the Western Bypass Bridge in 2014. The bridge, one of Schmitt’s proudest achievements to date, stretches over Randall Road in McHenry County and provides much-needed access to emergency services, shopping and employment opportunities, while skirting the locally significant historic downtown district of the village.
Although Schmitt has been village president of Algonquin for more than 15 years, he says he won’t be ready to retire any time soon, having recently been re-elected to the position in early 2017. Before he leaves office, Schmitt says that he would like to accomplish four goals: draw more large customers to the Algonquin corporate park, widen Randall Road to reduce traffic, complete construction of Longmeadow Parkway, and make downtown Algonquin a tourist destination.
- Population: 30,046
- Year Founded: 1890
- What Makes Your Town Unique? Interesting topography of hills and bluffs that stick out from the “flatland” of Kane County. “We have a physical environment that is not common in Illinois,” Schmitt said.
- Events / Festivals: Founders Days Festival, Art on the Fox, Old Time Country Harvest Festival
- Most People Don’t Know: Algonquin is a leader in environmentalism for the Kane County area — the town is certified by Tree City USA (also known as the Arbor Day Foundation); Village President John Schmitt is a self-described “tree hugger.”
About Village President John Schmitt
- Family members: Married to Cheryl Schmitt, father to two daughters and grandfather of five.
- Profession: IT manager
- How Long Have You Been a Resident? Since 1989
- How Long Have You Been Village President? Since 2002
- Favorite Memory in Algonquin: The 2014 ribbon cutting of the Western Bypass bridge — which is named after Schmitt.