Hotel Belleville - Meredith Home Project
Focus on the empty storefronts, empty hospital, empty old folks' home and you'd think the heart of Belleville is failing.
But this is spring. This was the weekend when Belleville was most vibrant because art and creativity were flowing.
Looming over it all was that dark, five-story old folks' home that was nearly buried. We suddenly see a sign of life, and that growth could spread across downtown Belleville.
The Hotel Belleville, which was later the Meredith Home, just got the loans that will allow a $12.8 million renaissance as it becomes retail space and housing for low-income but active seniors. On Friday, as the art fair began, the Illinois Housing Development Authority approved the federal tax credits that developers can turn into cash for renovation.
This and another project to bring more senior residents downtown are welcome news, but also promises of things to come. Those new residents will draw more people downtown to what could be a healthy loft community.
Those folks will not only boost the new restaurants and bars downtown, but become part of the civic life. From playing chess on the square to holding political forums at the coffee houses, these will most likely be people who appreciate and build the character of Belleville.
Think this is an overly optimistic view? Well, there's likely a vacant storefront you can go stare at.
But be careful standing on the sidewalk. Some entrepreneur might run you over.