Much of what was discussed in the first part of the meeting was a
recap of conversations that have been covered by LDN in the past. To
understand the full history of the project, visit the links to past
articles at the end of this one.
Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers
opened the meeting, reviewing with the public the scope of the
project, which includes a 25-block area in the downtown district.
The area encompasses the courthouse square and works its way out
from there. It includes the Chicago and Sangamon Street rail
corridor to the west, which has been characterized as a second
downtown area in Lincoln. In addition, both Latham and Scully parks,
which are county property, are included in the plan, as well as
business areas along Broadway, Pulaski Street, Kickapoo and McLean
Forgy spoke about the history of the project, outlining the
process beginning in 2010, when the city applied for a downtown
revitalization grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and
Economic Opportunity. In January 2012 the city won the award, and a
number of related activities have taken place since then.
Discussing the money aspect of the project, Forgy explained that
the grant funds from DCEO total $675,000 and do require a local
match. The current budget, including local match, comes to $775,000.
That money has been divided into funding the planning and then
actual implementation. He said $336,300 is being invested in the
planning stages, leaving $438,800 for project implementation, which
will not cover all that is being proposed. The city will have to
find additional funding for many of the projects. This funding can
come from future grants and also the possibility of a Rehabilitation
TIF District for the downtown area.
What has been done thus far has included a lot of study of the
downtown district by a variety of professionals looking at traffic
flow, land use and a variety of other aspects of the downtown
Among those working with the steering committee is Ian Colgan of
Development Concepts Inc. Colgan was present for the meeting and
offered a PowerPoint presentation about the project.
Colgan said there are two stages to downtown revitalization:
redevelopment and revitalization. He classified redevelopment as the
precursor for the entire project and said it was basically the
strategic plan for the future, with the revitalization portion being
more of the design for the future.
He said this first stage offered the committee and the community
a vision of what could be and gave those involved in the project of
sense of direction. He also stated that the ultimate goal of the
project is to improve the quality of life in Lincoln and boost
economic development in the downtown area.
He said this could be done through improving shopping and dining
opportunities, increasing arts and entertainment offerings, adding
more special events in the downtown area, improving downtown housing
and employment opportunities, and creating a desirable outdoor
Colgan spoke about the stumbling blocks the city might encounter
as they try to achieve a successful revitalization. Among them, one
key situation for the city is the size of the downtown area.
Compared with other towns of similar population, Lincoln's downtown
district is very large. He said basically the population of the city
cannot financially support a fully developed downtown area.
Therefore the city will need to draw consumers from outside the
region to help support those businesses.
He commented on the great success of the Lincoln Art & Balloon
Festival as something that brings a large number of people into the
community, but he said there needed to be similar activities, such
as special downtown events or smaller festivals dispersed throughout
the year, to help drive traffic into the heart of the city.
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He would later talk about why the city's downtown is so large,
drawing attention to the fact that Lincoln is unique in that it has
two downtown regions: the courthouse square region and the rail
region. He also noted that in this day and age, both footprints are
obsolete. He explained that in Lincoln there is no "across the
street" atmosphere that is the most desirable today. When shoppers
come out of a business and are facing another interesting location
"across the street," it creates a visual interest in what is on the
Colgan said that in order for the city to catch the market, they
are going to have to have interesting attractions, such as
businesses that will call visitors back after a festival or event.
He said in identifying what the city has right now, one draw could
be the number of thrift and resale shops in the city. He said that
in itself was a good and bad point, in that not all resale and
thrift is considered attractive.
To draw in new businesses to the downtown, the city is going to
have to make the area attractive to those new investors. He said
building renovations can play into that, and again, that can be a
pitfall. He noted that a lot of the buildings in the region were in
fairly good condition, but that when there are renovations needed,
it is going to be costly.
Colgan finally noted that right now the city doesn't have a solid
organization working toward growing the downtown business community.
He noted that this needed to be a group of people similar to what
the steering committee is now. These people need to be focused and
driven to bringing new businesses to the area as well as supporting
and helping the existing businesses continue to thrive.
He also made mention that when the studies were started, the Main
Street organization was without a director, and that they have
recently hired one. This is a good thing for the future of
revitalization. Likewise, he also noted that the city of Lincoln has
recently hired a city administrator, and he said that person, too,
would play a key role in bringing business into the region.
Some of the key issues the city is facing in downtown
revitalization include helping visitors find the downtown region,
making it more attractive to the visitor and providing ample parking
for day-trippers, so they can shop and spend dollars.
In the next segment, Colgan's discussions will include viable
ideas about what can be done to resolve some of those issues.
[By NILA SMITH]
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