Artspace, Elgin, Illinois

When people are asked  what attracts them to the new Elgin Artspace Lofts most people say: “the other artists…and it’s in an emerging downtown.”

Like many railroad communities in Chicagoland in recent years, Elgin was working hard to preserve and enhance its downtown, with the arts as part of the plan. When City officials were introduced to Artspace at the Illinois Main Street Conference, they asked Artspace to help them achieve their goals.

The result is the Elgin Artspace Lofts (EAL), a $15.2 million mixed-use project that created 55 units of affordable live/work space for artists and their families plus 6,000 square feet of retail and community space for arts- friendly businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The historic Sears structure, occupied most recently by Elgin Community College, has been completely renovated and linked to a newly constructed addition.

Who: The City of Elgin and the Elgin arts community were the driving forces behind the project, working with Artspace to plan and develop the facility. Elgin’s residents and civic leaders believe that permanently affordable space for artists will strengthen an emerging arts and culture cluster in downtown Elgin, serve as a catalyst for continued development, bring vibrancy and activity to the street and increase the number of individuals and families living and working downtown.

Location: The downtown Elgin Arts and Entertainment District, a few blocks from the Hemmens Cultural Arts Center. The project is transit friendly – located near several bus lines, the Metra train, restaurants, parks, the community center and the main library. Elgin Artspace Lofts 51 S. Spring Street • Elgin, IL 60120

“We are especially proud of the diversity of the applicant pool that have applied to EAL. This suggests that we were successful in attracting a broad range of artists from various demographic backgrounds. We anticipate the neighborhood to continue to attract people that want to live in an up and coming urban setting with a big city appeal and a small town neighborly warmth. Everyone knows everyone in the business district.” -Kimberly Moore, Artspace staffer and asset manager for EAL.

The lofts feature family and artist-supporting amenities such as: in-unit washer and dryers, free covered parking, a landscaped courtyard, rooftop deck, kid friendly tot-lot, and chic open-air gallery/exhibition space with a skylight surrounded by wide hallways for moving artist equipment and materials. Standard lofts feature 10-foot high ceilings, while 12-foot and even 18-foot ceilings, large windows, track lighting, and exposed beams.

Recommendations for a visit to the neighborhood: A few must-see options in Elgin from Artspace staff:

Check out the Elgin Historical Museum on Park Street, the Natural History Museum at Lords Park, and the Fire Barn Museum. The Planetarium U-46 was used by the Elgin Watch Factory to set time on their watches by the stars; it is now owned and operated by the school district for students to learn astronomy.

Don’t forget the Grand Victoria Casino and Festival Park both located along the Fox River promenade; they have a great water feature for the kids and lots of open space for family picnics. Take a walk in the park or ride your bike from the park to one of the new local restaurants. Stop by Elgin Art Showcase for a performance, and a gallery visit.

The shop Soulful Sparrow has eclectic gifts and clothing. Located on Douglas Ave. across from Villa Verone. The LEED certified building Kimball  Theater on the Elgin Academy Campus is impressive.

Good eats: Restaurants that have popped up since the EAL opened: On the Side– homestyle cooking (food for the soul like stews, soups, and mac & cheese); Choochs Pizza (a pizzeria and sports bar); and Mr. Tequilas, Mexican grill.

Who are we? About Artspace: With headquarters in Minneapolis and offices in Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Washington D.C., and Seattle, Artspace is America’s leader in arts-driven community transformation with 32 projects in operation in 13 states. To date we have completed more than 1,100 affordable live/work units for artists and their families as well as a million square feet of non-residential space for artists, arts organizations and creative enterprises.


Follow the EAL project and activities: