Danville officials recently announced the city received a $75,000 grant from the state’s Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery — RISE — program. The money will be used to pay for a study of downtown that will focus on “cohesive downtown revitalization, according to Logan Cronk, the city’s community development administrator.
The grant fuels an excellent opportunity for officials to develop a long-term plan to keep downtown a vital and vibrant place. Once the plan is complete, city officials will be able to apply for more grants to pay for specific projects.
Downtown Danville already features a number of assets that could serve as anchors to the new plan. There is David S. Palmer Arena and the Riverwalk, Towne Centre, Temple Plaza, Fischer Theatre, Vermilion County War Museum and Danville Public Library. And the county courthouse and separate administration building also serve to bring people downtown during the day.
The development of the plan will give officials the opportunity to decide — once and for all — the fate of Bresee Tower and the adjacent Kresge lot, along with the now empty Adams Building. Bresee has been designated for demolition. The Adams Building might be a decent candidate for renovation, especially if prospective tenants can be lined up. Renovating the building just to have it stand empty serves no purpose.
Officials also will be able to consider giving the downtown corridor along Vermilion Street a new look. Façade renovation, along with changes designed to improve the area for pedestrians, could encourage more foot traffic in the area, especially if there’s a way to connect downtown to the Riverwalk just a couple of blocks away.
Officials also can look at things such as additional benches for visitors to use during special events; better signs to help visitors find parking areas, and brighter and better connections from downtown to those areas. They should even look at the trees along Vermilion Street to determine whether they fit a new scheme or whether they have grown large enough that they now block street lights at night.
Whatever the course the downtown plan takes, it must be practical. Target what can be attained and what will really bring more visitors to the area. It should expand and further develop the assets already in place, including the development of housing on the upper floors of some of the buildings.
The right plan will bring more people to downtown Danville. More people will support more businesses in the area. More businesses improve the city for us all, while making downtown an attraction to visitors. This new plan could spark a significant revitalization for downtown, breathing life into the entire community.