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    Ten years ago, Collinsville’s Main Street suffered from blight, vacant storefronts and crumbling sidewalks. In the last decade Collinsville has implemented programs and developed financial tools to turn this around and now the “Uptown” Collinsville District is once again alive with unique shops, locally owned restaurants and an array of offices and financial institutions.
    In addition to what Uptown Coordinator Leah Joyce calls the “day-to-day smaller improvements business owners are making to their buildings,” a few major projects occurred in 2013 to further the progress of Uptown revitalization.
    In October, the City Council sold a vacant building that had been donated to the city to a development group that has a long history of rehabilitating Southwestern Illinois Main Streets.
    “Instead of tearing down the historic landmark, which was built in 1899 by the American Brewing Company, the city chose to invest in stabilizing the building and held on to it for two years until the right developer came forward,” Joyce said.
    In the upcoming year, Main Street Developers LLC will finish renovating the Apex building at 100 E. Main St. to include five upscale lofts on the second floor and a high-end sports bar and restaurant on the main level. The project is estimated to total $1.2 million when complete.
    Another Uptown project in 2013 was the renovation of the exterior of Ashmann’s Pharmacy, located at 209 E. Main St. At the intersection of Main Street and State Route 159, this turn-of-the-century building, whose northern and western walls were left exposed after the Illinois Department of Transportation demolished a neighboring building, had previously undergone numerous renovations and masonry patches that left it with inconsistencies in design and structure throughout.
    The pharmacy’s owner received IDOT compensation that provided for minimum improvements required to bring its now-exposed exterior up to city code, and applied for an Uptown TIF grant to help fund the rest of the much-needed renovations.  Architectural elements were added, a storefront window constructed on the west wall, and extension of the awning to the west wall. The entire project came in at $179,000.  
    The third phase of the city’s ongoing Streetscape Program also began in 2013. When complete next year, the area in front of City Hall and its adjacent streets will boast brand new streets, sidewalks and streetscape elements. The city was also notified that it will receive $1.2 million in federal grant money through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program for the fourth phase of streetscape improvements, which will encompass areas of Main Street east of 159 including Aurora, Clay and Chestnut streets.
    Finally, when IDOT expanded and realigned Highway 159 through the heart of Uptown, green space areas were left behind at the site of the former Burt’s Chuckwagon as well as sites adjacent to Ashmann’s Pharmacy and Home Furniture. The city is currently creating three urban parks in those areas that is intended to further enhance the environment along Main Street and provide a safe, walkable Uptown area for visiting, shopping and dining.