- 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 civic leader. This article, the seventh of the series, is written by Sengstock and profiles the village of West Dundee and Village President Chris Nelson.
- FEATURE PHOTO BY CINDY KENNEDY PHOTOGRAPHY
Village President Chris Nelson moved to West Dundee 12 years ago looking for a good place to raise his daughters, but the community ended up becoming so much more than just a place to put down roots.
“Shortly after I moved to the area, I became aware that my neighborhood was selected for the “Best Block” Award by Good Morning America. It’s very impressive. Clearly the people who lived there cared a lot about the town and each other,” the village president said.
Nelson says the friendliness of West Dundee residents and the positive attitude of its business leaders are two reasons the village was able to survive the economic pressures of 2008, the move to Internet retail, and growth in surrounding towns such as Algonquin and Crystal Lake.
Now almost a decade after the recession, West Dundee is poised to not only get back in the game against its neighboring towns but become a leader in regional business development.
“Over the past several years, we’ve tried to build on a solid foundation that was already there before,” Nelson said. “We already have a beautiful downtown area and a great regional mall. Now, we want to reformat West Dundee so that we can compete again. We’ve started to see success with that so far.”
Dundee is in the midst of economic development efforts to revive Spring Hill Mall. Construction is already under way on a $40 million renovation project and will continue for the next three years.
“We’d like to have more activity immediately around the mall, and make it more of a campus-like setting,” the village president said.
West Dundee also is in the first phase of renovating its downtown, which will be largely completed by 2020. By updating downtown West Dundee, Nelson hopes to bring business to restaurants and new entertainment centers in the area.
Nelson calls the area along Route 31 an “untapped area for growth,” where the village hopes to add apartments and offices. These new developments are a reflection of West Dundee’s priorities and promise.
Change on the Horizon
Rather than focusing only on retail, Nelson said the village is shifting its attention to residential and commercial growth. (West Dundee is not the only community to do this. Read more here.)
“We’ve seen a resurgence of people wanting to build homes in West Dundee,” Nelson said. “We also have a lot of interest from private investors and companies who want to come to town. Over the past three years, we’ve had over $100 million in private investment come into the community. Now we’re just trying to keep up. But it’s a good problem to have.”
Although West Dundee has many large projects on the horizon, it has to balance its budget with its capital needs. Roads, water and sewer systems are aspects of the town that require continual funds for upkeep, and quality infrastructure.
“Ever since we’ve lost some of our retail, the village has to find creative ways to cover these responsibilities without burdening taxpayers too much,” the village president said. “But I think we’ve done a good job so far. It’s a challenge that every town will have.”
West Dundee has a lot to work with, Nelson said, including a diverse and educated workforce, proximity to two state routes and accessibility to high-speed Internet fiber.
Ten years from now, the village president sees a growing West Dundee, both in population and economy. With an increasingly diverse economy, a downtown area with more public gathering spaces and a more-crowded Spring Hill Mall, Nelson says the future of West Dundee looks bright indeed.
West Dundee 2017
Year Founded: 1887
- What makes your town unique?: Even though West Dundee is a small, historic town, it also has many big-city amenities. The village is situated in a prime area for transportation (about 40,000 people drive through the community each day), and its proximity to Spring Hill Mall makes it a shopping destination. West Dundee is also home to the headquarters of many international companies!
- Events/Festivals: Concerts in the Park, Heritage Fest, Dickens in Dundee
- Places to Visit: Randall Oaks Zoo, Dundee Township Historical Museum, HoverPark
- Size: 3.83 square miles
About Village President Chris Nelson
- Family Members: Married to Julie Nelson and father of two daughters.
- Profession: Comcast employee, dealing with government regulatory affairs
- How long have you been a resident? 12 years
- How long have you been Village President? Four years
- Favorite memory of West Dundee: Taking his daughters to Grafelman Park and realizing how friendly West Dundee residents were.
Read the Spotlight Series
- SPOTLIGHT ON ALGONQUIN: Scenic Beauty, Economic Growth Set ‘The Green City’ Apart
- SPOTLIGHT ON BURLINGTON: ‘Small-Town America With a Big, Big Heart’
- SPOTLIGHT ON AURORA: New Mayor Hopes to Bring Innovation To ‘City of Lights’
- SPOTLIGHT ON BIG ROCK: Improving the Quality of Life in Rural Kane County
- SPOTLIGHT ON ELBURN: A ‘One of a Kind’ Town
- SPOTLIGHT ON ST. CHARLES: New Development Projects Bring Vitality to ‘Pride of the Fox’