In The News Making headlines one project at a time.

Monmouth, Ill. looks to revitalize its downtown, restore historic buildings

MONMOUTH, Ill. (KWQC) - The small Illinois community of Monmouth wants to capitalize on its downtown and bring more people in.

The city hired a company to come in and study the downtown area and work to preserve the history of the buildings, and hopefully bring in more businesses. Right now, the downtown area is 60-70% occupied according to the city, but it hopes the revitalization plan will improve that.

"Some of the buildings that have remained vacant for some years have started to deteriorate and we don't want to purchase those buildings and and tear them down for parking lots but rather to preserve the character of downtown Monmouth,” Lew Steinbrecher, the city administrator, said.

The city will pay the company $112,000 for a one-year agreement. The city council will approve the official agreement in the coming weeks. The company is set to start providing its services on May 1.

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Aledo Considers Downtown Revitalization Help

WHAT WE KNOW: In December, Aledo aldermen eliminated the economic development coordinator position formerly held by Tarah Sipes. The 30-hour position paid $30,000 annually. Mayor Chris Hagloch said the city was exploring a contract with a downtown revitalization firm.

WHAT'S NEW: On Tuesday, aldermen approved an agreement with 353 Court LLC of Pekin, a downtown revitalization firm operated by Todd Thompson and Steve Foster. Representing the company, Erik Reader said the group will form a strategy to cultivate local entrepreneurs.

"We're excited about it... it's a lot of work, and it's certainly a challenge, but there's a lot of opportunity here," he said.

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Downtown Revitalization Strategy Will Take Support From Property Owners

As work begins on a downtown revitalization strategy for Aledo, one of the challenges will be getting all of the property owners on board. The firm 353 Court is doing the work and team member Erik Reader was asked about that issue.

The consulting firm was retained by the city last month with their multi-year contract starting on February 1. They will be paid $103,000 in the first year, followed by $112,500 in year two, $56,000 in year three and another $56,000 in the fourth and final year.

353 Court Lays Out 4 Year Plan

353 Court laid out a four year plan to revitalize Aledo’s downtown business district to the City Council Monday night. 353 Court’s Downtown Report-Strategies for a Revitalized Business District was reviewed in a power point presentation. Todd Thompson explains what he felt were the highlights of the report.

Thompson explains what's in their four year plan for the city.

353 Court began their work for the city in February of this year.

Aledo Looking to Incentivize Downtown Business Owners

WHAT WE KNOW: In June, downtown revitalization firm, 353 Court of Pekin, presented a four-year action plan to Aledo City Council aldermen.

Their findings report details buildings, businesses, branding, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It outlines thorough recommendations on how to create a vibrant downtown.

WHAT’S NEW: Court 353 met with the city’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Committee in July to begin setting up programs to incentivize downtown business owners.

This week, the council approved the new program guide.

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Havana

Havana has invested $1.6 million in its downtown revitalization effort. (Ron Johnson/Journal Star)

After Lean Years, Downtown Havana's Time Appears To Be Now

HAVANA — Life along the Illinois River in this Mason County city can go slowly. That isn’t necessarily bad.

Changes in downtown Havana have been coming quickly. That isn’t necessarily bad, either.

A 2-year-old municipal initiative has resulted in at least 10 new downtown businesses opened or buildings rehabilitated. Other openings and rehabs appear imminent. About $1.6 million in public and private investments have been made.

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Yoga Happens Here

Bear and Carol Groch, both massage therapists, are instructed in yoga techniques at "Yoga Happens Here" in downtown Pekin. "I'm really excited to see the revitalization and the direction it is going," said Carol while visiting "Yoga Happens Here" for the firt time.

Pekin downtown renovation nears next step

Just a decade ago, a walk in downtown Pekin meant a trip to a lawyer’s office, the Tazewell County Courthouse or the Pekin Municipal Building to pay a ticket.

The buildings were dilapidated and many were unoccupied. Downtown, as historic as it was, was blighted with empty storefronts. The former Timothies Interiors was one of the blighted buildings. It had deteriorated to the point that the back wall collapsed.

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353 Court continues Pekin revitalization

PEKIN — Pekin’s downtown is bustling with activity these days as brick by brick and broken window by broken window in the historic business district is revitalized.

Todd Thompson and Steve Foster, the developers of 353 Court LLC, are putting the finishing touches on 215, 405, 407 and 507 Court St. as part of Phase II of their downtown revitalization project. One of the buildings has a new tenant and the others are all in negotiations with tenan

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Jake's Place

Jake's Place owner Jake Ista gives a haircut to his father, Steve Ista. Ista relocated his barber shop from North Pekin to the 200 block of Court Street in Pekin after 353 Court LLC developers Todd Thompson and Steve Foster stabilized the former L.R. Boarding House that was built in 1877.

Development: Pekin has visions of a vibrant downtown

Developer Todd Thompson remembers from his childhood the vibrant business community in downtown Pekin. He also remembers returning to the community years later to find that many of the historic buildings were boarded up and abandoned — left to the wrecking ball to which so many buildings in Pekin had already succumbed.

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Jake's Place

North Pekin barber shop Jake's Place will soon make a move to 217 Court St., joining other businesses that have come to that block, officials say. Photo: Josh Bradshaw / Times staff

200 block of Court Street in Pekin attracts another tenant

The 200 block of Court Street has attracted another new business.

The Pekin City Council on Monday approved a Central Business District Tax Increment Finance district loan/grant of $5557.50, which is half of the money needed to transform 217 Court St. into a barber shop. The TIF loan/grant is designed to aid with improvement of the interior of a commercial or retail business.

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200 Block

The 200 block of Court Street looks far different after soome recent restoration work. Photo: Josh Bradshaw / Times staff

Exclusive: Officials speak of TIF successes

The 200 block of Court Street has attracted another new business.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles examining the Central Business District Tax Increment Finance District and its mission. Today’s installment details city officials’ points of view on TIF programs and their success.

One Pekin City Council member recently questioned the city’s practice of giving money to downtown businesses to rehabilitate their property. Councilman Lloyd Orrick said, “The word loan means to me that you’re borrowing money ... and that it is going to be returned.”

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Taste Sensations

Teresa Lohman pours a sample at the recently opened Taste Sensations wine-and-cheese shop at 409 Court Street in Pekin. Photo: Skyler Edwards / Times staff

Downtown preservation takes strategy, commitment

The 200 block of Court Street has attracted another new business.

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles examining the central business district Tax Increment Finance district and its mission. Pekin developer Todd Thompson remembers Pekin when the downtown central business district was a thriving and vibrant part of the community. Thompson left and came back years later to find a stagnant shadow of what once was. He bought property in downtown Pekin and said he could not believe how blighted the downtown had become. Businesses had moved to the east side of town. "I could not get a renter or anybody to buy the building," said Thompson. "Every time I turned around it seemed that there was another building for lease in the downtown, or the price reduced.

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Railhouse

Dustin Maquet of Maquet Inc. is requesting a total of $76,971 in Tax Increment Financne District funds to rehab 219 and 221 and turn the space into a restaurant/pub, officials say. Photo: Josh Bradshaw / Times staff

TIF grant sought for downtown restaurant project

The 200 block of Court Street will be the site of a restaurant and pub if the Pekin City Council approves a plan for a Tax Increment Finance District grant/loan application.

Dustin Maquet of Maquet Inc. is requesting a total of $76,971 in TIF funds for the restaurant/pub. Pekin Economic Development Director Leigh Ann Matthews compared the proposed restaurant to Perdue’s Grill in Tremont.

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