How COVID-19 has affected new home construction in the Fox Valley
It's not as easy as it was in, say, the late 1980s and through the '90s and early 2000s to spot full-blown subdivision construction unfolding in the Tri-Cities and surrounding area.
We haven't visited, or even heard about, a major new subdivision "parade of homes" or even something like the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association's popular Cavalcade of Homes unfolding in one large subdivision in many years.
The association did have a Cavalcade this past fall, but it illustrated how things have changed during the pandemic, as well as a general pivot in how developers may view new projects.
Last year's Cavalcade featured 20 homes in six counties, with at least five of those homes in Naperville, and others spread out as far south as Oswego and Plainfield, and as far north as Crystal Lake -- with places like Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn and LaGrange Park in between. As for our local connection, Shodeen Homes was showcasing a home in Elburn Station subdivision for this Cavalcade.
In that regard, it's like a "road show" concept for people to visit these homes from various builders such as Airhart Construction, Meritus Homes, Oak Hill Builders and others.
The NIHBA reported that thousands of people "safely visited" this year's Cavalcade under pandemic protocols.
"One change that was made this year was ticket sales were all done online, so that increased the safety factor," said Jan Buscher, executive vice president off the NIHBA, which is planning its next Cavalcade for 2022.
"The next one in 2022 gives builders a little more time to prepare for the next opportunity to participate," Buscher added. "Still, other than some increased costs in building supplies, the home building industry has not been negatively impacted by the pandemic."
As such, individual local developers are pushing subdivision projects, even though they are not as numerous as in the past.
"There are still subdivisions going up, in places like Elburn and North Aurora, but it's not as common as it used to be," said Brian Henry, real estate agent with ReMax Excels in Geneva. "There are still some pockets being developed, sometimes for townhouses, sometimes single-family (homes)."
The best example of a large subdivision unfolding in the region is Lincoln Valley with various "age-targeted" housing options and a "clubhouse living" pitch through national builder D.R. Horton and its Freedom Homes brand.
Lincoln Valley is spread across what used to be Fox Valley Country Club golf course along Route 25 between Batavia and North Aurora.
In the meantime, local builder Keim Corp. and others continue to build homes in subdivisions that are as many as three years along. For Keim, that's Amber Woods Estates in Wheaton and Corron Estates on the north side of St. Charles, or Autumn Ridge in North Aurora.
More likely, builders have projects unfolding in smaller spaces, like Nitti Builders' Greenhouse Pointe along Western Avenue in Geneva.
Some larger projects between St. Charles and South Elgin off Randall Road appear to have been built out just before the pandemic set in, such as Trails of Silver Glen, and Sagebrook off Crane Road.
The same could be said for Regency Estates and Anthem Heights off Woodward Drive, in the area behind the west-side Aldi in St. Charles.
So, even though a major Cavalcade of Homes in one huge subdivision, like we used to see so many years ago, may not be in the works, developers are still making their living and sparking interest among those who like visiting the models -- and traveling a bit to do so.
Restaurant in bank site
More than a year ago it seems, this column speculated that a great restaurant with maybe some condo living on the top level would make for a nice fit in the empty BMO Harris Bank site along the Fox River at 1 E. Main St. in St. Charles.
This spring, it appears that will become a reality -- at least the restaurant part on the first floor. The Graceful Ordinary will open at that spot as a joint venture of Chicago chef Chris Curren and his wife, Megan, along with Conrad and Curt Hurst, a father-son duo who operates Frontier Development.
This multimillion dollar operation touted as an upscale American waterfront tavern will be another major lift to the downtown dining scene, and yet another development that should take off nicely when the pandemic is under more control.
We've already seen places like nearby Flagship on the Fox, Pollyana Brewing and Alter Brewing doing quite well.
When the Arcada Theatre reopens, there is plenty of new action in store for patrons, as you will see in the next column item.
Rockin' pizza soon
When quizzing Arcada Theatre frontman Ron Onesti about a month ago on when we could expect to see him open his Rock 'N Za pizza restaurant next to the theater in downtown St. Charles, he hesitated to say.
At that time, he was thinking about changing the name of the pizza place. As president and CEO of Onesti Entertainment, he has a million ideas, business decisions and nostalgic memories (do you read his column in the Daily Herald?) floating in his head. So it did not surprise me that his wheels were turning on this as well.
It appears he decided to stick with Rock 'N Za, as he sent out a news release last week saying he plans to open the site "soon." When that might be wasn't completely clear, but we can expect to be checking out pizzas named after famous musicians and all sorts of other interesting entertainment there before long, and also as pandemic restrictions lift.
Once the pandemic passes, music fans are going to be in for the special treat in seeing what Onesti has been up to the past year. The renovations and additions at the Arcada should be off the charts.
To say we are glad Onesti stuck with his commitment to St. Charles and downtown entertainment through the past year would be the first major understatement of 2021.
Cups of kindness
It's no surprise that Kristi Beltran and her parents, Scott and Terry Beltran, owners of Daddio's Diner in Batavia have come up with another idea to help those in the community while also promoting Daddio's.
They've done it numerous times in the past, and are at it again with the Pay It Forward program. It's a fairly simple concept. If you are doing well, or "up on your luck," you can buy a $2.50, $5 o r $10 "cup of kindness" ticket that is put on the diner's community board.
It stays there until someone else struggling financially or having a bad day can pull it off the board and redeem it.
"Many of us know what it is like to both have days where we struggle and days where we are extra fortunate," Beltran said. "Pay on the fortunate when you have it, and accept the support when you need it."
The diner will also "pay forward" some of the donations to area organizations.