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Historic main streets in Illinois to get refresh

A $225,000 grant helped the program relaunch this year

A row of historic buildings on a small community’s main street.
Shops along main street in Galena, Illinois
Shutterstock

Main streets, whether your in a busy city or rural town, act as a central gathering place for residents. Although, the decline of these centers is becoming all too common. That’s why one organization has relaunched an initiative to revitalize historic downtowns throughout Illinois.

In 2015, the Illinois Main Street Program lost all state funding after spending 25 years helping communities across the state. Earlier this month, the National Main Street Center announced it had received a three-year $225,000 grant from the Driehaus Foundation to get the initiative up and running again.

More than 29 communities have been supported by this program including neighborhoods in Chicago, Batavia, Libertyville, Moline, Waukegan, and Springfield.

“Downtown revitalization work in small towns is extraordinarily challenging, particularly in light of the decline in employment in rural communities and significant changes in the retail sector,” Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center said in a statement.

The goal is to get residents and businesses active around their own main streets again. The program offers tools and training on how municipalities and groups can grow their local economies and enhance the quality of their downtown areas. Another focus of the program is on redeveloping older historic buildings into vital community hubs.

In addition to the statewide program, specialized services will be offered to Chicago neighborhoods through Urban Main. The new program, launched earlier this year, provides tailored resources to older and under resourced historic commercial districts.