A third metro-east community Main Street has been added to the Illinois Main Street program.
Columbia was named the 46th city to join Belleville, Alton and others to the list during an outdoor ceremony Monday at Fountain Park in front of City Hall on South Main Street.
Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson thanked the city staff and the state’s Main Street program for selecting the city. He called Main Street and its businesses along the roadway “the heart of Columbia.”
“You did it,” Hutchinson said in congratulating those involved in the local effort. “You understand what this is all about. You understand why it’s important to have a Main Street people can walk and can enjoy.”
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Carol Dyson, of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, said this designation helps its members in community-building, economic development and historic preservation.
“Columbia is an obvious choice to be selected to the program, because you are already making great gains already with many of the principles and policies on Main Street,” Dyson said.
State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Red Bud, and State Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Okawville — whose districts include Columbia and Monroe County — also congratulated local leaders on the new designation.
Costello said being part of the Main Street program is about focusing on job growth, business development, business investment and tourism.
“With all of those things, I think you will see that (it) will all explode here in Columbia with just the networking that is involved within this program,” Costello said. “I think what is as important to Columbia is the fact that it recognizes and really highlights the historical aspects and character of a town like Columbia.”
“Every time I come to Monroe County, I want to remind you of how lucky you are,” Luechtefeld said. “This is a special place. It truly is. Where many other counties are really struggling and the property values going down, it’s not a good situation, and you can see that probably they’re not really going to make it. But in this city, in this county in particular in my district, good things are happening. You are moving in the other direction.”
Costello said Columbia’s Main Street has a “great, great history that I know you all celebrate.”
Historic Main Street Columbia Association President Bob Freyman said the new designation will consolidate other pre-existing efforts into a single focus as the community works together toward economic development and preserving the city’s history.
“We have a great community here,” Freyman said. “And we want to bring it all together in an organization that can bring it to the next level and really make this Main Street a real destination, not just in Monroe County, but the whole St. Louis metro area.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.