Illinois communities receive Main Street awards
9 months ago
Winners include local downtowns of Quincy and Jacksonville
Illinois communities receive Lt. Governor’s Awards for Downtown Revitalization
September 17, 2012. Several Illinois communities received the 2012 Lieutenant Governors Awards for Excellence in Downtown Revitalization during the Illinois Main Street Conference held September 13 - 14 in Quincy. The award winners included Batavia, Bloomington, Cambridge, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Genoa, Jacksonville, Moline, Momence, Pontiac, Prophetstown, Quincy and Waukegan.
The presentation of the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Downtown Revitalization has been an annual occurrence since 1994, the year after Illinois Main Street was established. Illinois Main Street programs were eligible to submit award nominations for activities completed between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012. A total of 17 awards were presented, four in each of the Main Street points of Design, Organization, Promotion, and Economic Restructuring, and one for Volunteer of the Year. Judges from the three state government entities supporting the Main Street program – the Office of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency – selected the winners.
“Across the state we see renewed efforts at revitalizing our downtown communities, and the passion and dedication shown by these honorees is inspiring,” Lt. Governor Sheila Simon said. “These honorees exemplify the best of what our state has to offer and remind us that Illinois Main Streets are open for business.”
The Design Awards
These awards honor excellence in public or private construction or rehabilitation projects and in Design Committee activities.
Jacksonville Main Street for its “Dig It 2” Project
By 2009, Jacksonville was slowly untangling itself from its downtown urban-renewal nightmare. But this award honors “Dig It 2,” the second phase of the project that brought new water and sewer lines, sidewalks, period-style streetlights, wayfinding, and landscape improvements to feeder streets. Perhaps most noticeably, Dig It 2 reconstructed one of Jacksonville’s historic steel arches, fabricated by one of their local long-term businesses, the Eli Bridge Company. Jacksonville Main Street continued its supporting role by providing information guides and on-site offices for project engineers and posting project information on their website, Facebook and Twitter pages. During construction, 11 businesses expanded, 61 new jobs were created, and two buildings were improved. During construction, the buzz about the downtown’s rebirth generated more than $17 million in private reinvestment.
Historic Quincy Business District for its Downtown Walking tour podcasts
The project initially called for about a dozen podcasts about historic downtown buildings, but it quickly captured the imaginations not only of HQBD’s intern, but also of the many HQBD volunteers. Their intern spent her summer break digging through records, uncovering hundreds of stories and photographs about downtown buildings. The tour quickly grew to 27 stops with at least four more in development. Each building is “tagged” with the QR code that takes you directly to its own web video. The online videos were an instant hit in preservation-minded Quincy. Many building owners have added HQBD’s videos to their own websites and have become some of the campaign’s biggest promoters. The judges thought this was a fantastic and exemplary use of technology to raise awareness of historic resources.
The Promotion Awards
The Promotion Awards recognize excellence in promoting an Illinois Main Street district through creative and effective image campaigns, retail sales events, and other promotional projects that help spread the word about the community’s central business district.
Jacksonville Main Street for its First Annual Downtown Celebration
After last year’s city-sponsored celebration marking the reopening of its square, Jacksonville Main Street’s Promotion Committee decided to maintain the momentum in 2012 with an annual festival on the square. Volunteers coordinated marketing, sponsorships, music, food, vendors, entertainment, and a parade even bigger than the one during the big celebration in 2011. The opening of the South Main Street improvements was marked by a ribbon cutting. Vendors sold their wares on and around the square among dance performances, pony rides, military displays, and children’s art activities. More than 30 sponsors gave over $14,000. Gross income exceeded $34,000 and yielded a net profit of $12,000. Dozens of new volunteers stepped forward, and interest from businesses outside the Main Street District looking to relocate into the district increased by nearly 15% in the weeks after the Celebration. The judges saw this as an excellent way to create a new tradition by celebrating its renewed downtown.