East St. Louis city leaders embarked on an effort to restore hope to the city with a cleanup project to beautify and make the city safer, according to Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks.
Jackson-Hicks kicked off her “Restoration of Hope” initiative on Tuesday. The renovation of the land around the welcome sign at the intersection of 10th Street and St. Clair Avenue is the first project of a long-term strategic plan to restore and clean East St. Louis.
Area residents, members of the mayor’s new Summer Youth Jobs program and others are working on the initiative. Restoration of the land will include heavy duty infrastructure including new sidewalks, cleanup and beautification such as weed trimming and planting, installation of a new welcome sign, and additional lighting.
Jackson-Hicks was joined by some city leaders and volunteers as well as six young people who are being paid thanks to Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation and Progressive Treatment Solutions, which are both businesses located in East St. Louis.
“We want to get the city clean and keep it clean. This is crucial to our growth and economic development. We’re starting with our downtown area (where the welcome sign is). We have a plan to sustain what’s being done,” she said. “We are putting in new sidewalks, some sod, and we’re cutting down trees. In the area where the MetroLink tracks are, you couldn’t see anything for all of that overgrowth.”
She also said the effort will be focused on “problem properties,” which are often owned by individuals who live out of state.
“It’s truly sad. That’s why it’s crucial that we get code enforcement in Regulatory Affairs operating the way it’s supposed to be. We’ve got to get property liens on these problem properties,” Jackson-Hicks said. “The owners of these problem properties do not care how they look. We care. We have to live here. And, with our limited resources, the city is having to pay for all of these properties. It’s a huge drain.”
From 8:20 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day this week, workers and volunteers will be in the downtown area.
The goal, Jackson-Hicks said, is to “make our city safer and cleaner. Most important, we want to restore hope to our citizens. We want them to know that this is not something we’re doing as a ceremonial type thing. We are going to spread throughout the city.”
The following businesses are assisting with the initiative through donations of materials and/or supplies: Hanks Excavation, Hurst/Rosche, E. J. Dougherty Oil and Stone Supply, Crown Food Mart and SRM Construction in Centreville.
To volunteer to help with the initiative, call 618-482-6843.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503