Up to 42 Judson University students may become new residents in downtown Elgin under a proposal to convert a former bank building into a dorm.
The plan involves a $2.5 million renovation to a building most recently occupied by a PNC Bank at 26-28 N. Grove Ave., across the street from the post office.
The university, which purchased the property in 2019, would renovate the structure into a dorm and classroom space capable of hosting up to 42 students in 13 one-bedroom and studio apartments.
City staff members endorsed the plan as a way to bring activity to a space that's stood vacant since 2017. They also like the idea of bringing young, arts-minded students to a downtown in need of more foot traffic.
But planning and zoning commissioners who saw the plan Monday night expressed concerns about the safety of the facility and adding that many residents to the downtown on a property incapable of providing parking for all who live there.
Commissioner Steven Migala didn't like the idea of putting students on the first floor of the two-story property, where common areas and classrooms will also exist. Judson Trustee Ben Gluntz said the first-floor dorms are situated to the back of the building, which will also have video cameras and key card entry, and be patrolled by the university security staff.
Commissioner Karin Jones pointed out the project has only 12 parking spaces on site. That means added pressure on public parking facilities and the potential for vehicles to get parked in obstructive ways. Jones has been a vocal critic of what she calls "nonexistent" parking enforcement by the police department downtown.
Judson officials performed a parking study that indicated nearby parking garages would have ample unused spaces to accommodate students living in the dorm. But commissioners also endorsed a downtown residential project last month that, combined with the Judson project, could bring as many as 100 new downtown residents needing daily and overnight parking.
The concerns were not enough of a roadblock to derail the project. Commissioners endorsed the plan 6-0.
The full city council must sign off on the plan before it can move ahead. It would include the city's kicking in $485,000 in tax increment finance district money -- property tax money set aside for redevelopment rather than for local governments.
Dorm: Commission approves plan 6-0