Some see a derelict property, an eyesore bringing down property values. Some see history and potential.
Those who have the vision, then invest their own money and elbow grease, own a special place in a community. They show an appreciation of character in a world all too quick to take the cheaper or easier path of raze and replace.
David Braswell bought and renovated five houses in one of Belleville’s oldest neighborhoods, East Garfield Street. The small houses on a brick street date to Belleville’s beginnings.
“I thought it was important that people know there are actually groups of people, neighborhoods of people, who actually enjoy doing this,” Braswell said.
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Shiloh and O’Fallon community members recently showed their desire for a town center, which Belleville already has. They flock to the small districts with tin ceilings and historic character, which Belleville already has.
O’Fallon is starting to realize the value of its older neighborhoods. Architecture and materials that cannot be purchased at a big box store help define a community, as does the ability to walk to a coffee shop or pub.
But what really sets a community apart are dedicated residents who make things better without expecting much from local government other than a minimum of interference. Those are truly do-it-yourselfers.