Year in Review 2014: Southwestern Illinois

Collinsville’s investment in Uptown pays dividends in 2014

    Uptown Collinsville continued its ongoing transformation in 2014 by utilizing its programs and financial tools to improve infrastructure, change the aesthetics of some key areas, assist existing businesses to expand and attract new business to the Main Street area.
    When the Illinois Department of Transportation expanded and realigned Highway 159 through Uptown, three green spaces were left behind at the prominent intersections of Main, Clay and 159. The city took this opportunity to create three urban parks with substantial landscaping, masonry work, signage and a sculpture. The project made such an impact that in July it received an Improvement Award from Collinsville Progress, the Community Development branch of the Collinsville Chamber of Commerce.    
    The city also completed the third phase of its ongoing Streetscape Program. As with all of the Streetscape projects, the city staff says it takes great pride in working hard to find alternative funding sources. Funds for the Streetscape projects were secured through competitive federal programs, which pay for up to 80 percent of the total costs. The area in front of City Hall and its adjacent streets now boast brand new ADA-compliant concrete sidewalks, trademark antique shepherd’s hook pedestrian street lamps, brick imprinted asphalt crosswalks, decorative street signage, street trees and cast iron tree grates. In addition, a plaza-like entryway to City Hall was created.
    The city also purchased and razed the non-historic building across from City Hall and built a 50-space parking lot that provides additional parking options for those visiting the many restaurants and businesses in the commercial district.
    Uptown Coordinator Leah Joyce says one of the things she most enjoys is seeing how the city’s investment in its infrastructure and the aesthetics of the area spurs private investment. The Uptown TIF Grant program continued to be utilized by many existing business owners to make improvements to their buildings. One of the most noticeable improvements that was supplemented by the Uptown TIF Grant program was the expansion of the popular restaurant and bar, Friday’s South. The owners purchased the building adjacent to their existing establishment, rehabbed half of the space and doubled their restaurant and bar area.
    “Each year we also have the pleasure of seeing new, unique businesses come to our Main Street area,” Joyce said. “Last year we had record store open that specializes primarily in new vinyl records but also has a fine selection of hard-to-find jazz.”
    The coming year will be another great one for Uptown when the upscale sports bar Reifschneider’s Grill and Grape and five high-end lofts on the second floor open.
    “The City of Collinsville is looking forward to another exciting year of projects that improve our infrastructure, enhance our aesthetics, benefit our existing businesses and draw in new businesses,” Joyce said.