Elgin residents, ArtSpace residents, and area dignitaries who helped facilitate the affordable housing development tour the facility during its official ribbon cutting Thursday. | Jane Walker for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 2, 2013 6:56AM
ELGIN — Pam Thime, an interior designer, and her husband moved from St. Charles into the Artspace Lofts in downtown Elgin just seven days before its grand opening event on Thursday night.
Her neighbor, Tim Voelker, moved into the 55-unit affordable housing development in February. A filmmaker, Voelker said he was looking for an apartment that he could afford while still pursuing his art of filmmaking.
Both said they had found the housing they needed at the right time, and a community that supports their work at the Artspace lofts.
The official grand opening Thursday included a ribbon-cutting and remarks by local politicians and donors who made the development possible.
“This is a rare day for the city of Elgin. It is a rare day … when a project meets and exceeds every expectation,” said Mayor David Kaptain.
The $15.2 million effort to convert the 1908 Sears and Roebuck store and former Elgin Community College Fountain Square Campus into a creative colony — plus a new three-story structure next door — began in 2007. Construction started in autumn 2011 and finished ahead of schedule. In addition to housing, the reconfigured building holds 5,000 square feet of commercial space on the first floor along with community space, including a gallery, for use by the development’s residents.
That gallery, as well as several units and the courtyard between the old and new building sections, were put on display during the grand opening event.
All 55 units are already filled, Kaptain said, noting those residents bring with them “people to come to the downtown and look around our community in a new light.”
He also thanked previous Mayor Ed Schock for his work on bringing Artspace to Elgin, beginning in 2007.
“Mayor Schock was with us every step,” said Heidi Kurtze, vice president of the Minneapolis-based Artspace.
State Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin) pointed to the second floor-balcony during his remarks, noting that he remembered shopping at the old Sears store. “If I remember, that is where the shoe department was at Sears.”
For the artists there, the development filled a need.
He’d been looking for an apartment when a friend told Voelker about Artspace. While his rent ended up being a little more than he was originally looking for, it has been the perfect location, Voelker said.
“It gives me a peace of mind,” to be living among other artists, he said. The amenities of downtown Elgin also make it a good place to live, he said.
“We have access to the Elgin arts community. That is what makes this city so great,” he said. “That is a testament to this city.”
The day she, her husband and her therapy dog moved into Artspace, Pam Thine said, they were able to sell their St. Charles house. It is the perfect fit for her work and the business — in which she often decorates customer’s homes and workplaces with the work of independent artists.
“I support 20 different artists,” through her design business, Thine said.
She was worried that the two-bedroom unit wouldn’t have enough space to hang all of the art she had. That ended up being taken care of by hanging some of her art in the hallways.
In a previous tour, Voelker noted that residents were allowed to hang their work in the halls — as long as it was “family-friendly.”
Staff writer Mike Danahey contributed to this article.