It’s easy to fixate on the short-term inconvenience caused by any civic infrastructure project, especially those that go beyond the basics of roads, sewers and public safety.
Sometimes, though, a little forward thinking will bring clarity to the project; you have to look beyond today’s lack of parking and toward tomorrow’s improved lighting and aesthetics. More importantly, you have to look beyond the mere expense and see the return on investment.
In the case of Belleville’s streetscape project on North Illinois, we have the benefit of hindsight. Want to know what the improvements along those six to seven blocks can do for the city and downtown? Just take a walk from the fountain square and down East or West Main and you’ll see.
Shops, restaurants, wider sidewalks, seating bump outs, fresh paint and new development have revitalized downtown Belleville to the extent it hasn’t seen since St. Clair Square opened opened so many years ago.
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Yes, downtown Belleville has reclaimed its stake as a destination where will people go to spend some of their entertainment budgets.
Streetscape investments are far from free. Federal, state and local tax dollars are all well-represented in the total funding package. We all know where all of that money comes from: you and me.
Government will never give back what it’s already taken from us. In fact, it often presents expenditures as if it’s doing us a favor.
But with so many examples of government waste at every level, it’s refreshing to see a project that pays something back as an economic driver. In this case, it’s a streetscape.