The first thing you might notice while walking along the old Riverside Drive parking deck that juts out over the eastern shore of the Fox River in downtown Elgin is the element of decay.
Weeds have grown upward from cracks in the pavement. A concrete barrier bars vehicles from most of the deck’s former southbound lane, because the deck’s underpinnings have weakened with time and may not support a vehicle’s weight.
In fact, a fairly large area, where the decking is in disarray, has been cordoned off by a tall, chain-link fence, lest an unwary pedestrian or bicyclist be swallowed by the deteriorating structure.
Even along the Riverside Drive’s eastern edge, where vehicles and pedestrians are allowed, there is a sense of deterioration, despite new buildings that have gone up along it in recent years. City officials long have wanted to transform this area into an $8 million riverfront showcase called the Riverside Drive Promenade.
Last October, hopes rose that it soon would happen when Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the state would provide an $8 million River Edge Redevelopment grant to the city. The project to create an urban riverfront plaza was to be funded through the state’s $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! capital program.
The money would be used to demolish the old Riverside Drive decking and to build a new, environmentally sensitive . Officials said the project would create an estimated 100 construction jobs and nearly 120 permanent, private-sector jobs.
Any celebration of the announcement was short-lived, however. The state’s financial woes already were well-known, and city officials pledged at the time that no contracts would be signed until the state grant money was in hand.
Then came Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Illinois Jobs Now! Capital plan. One court ruling threatened the future of the $31 billion capital bill and its funding for the Elgin project.