Columbia receives special Main Street designation

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Pictured, from left, are Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson, aldermen Mary Ellen Niemietz and Jim Agne, city administrator Jimmy Morani, administrative assistant Jackie Hausmann and community and economic development director Paul Ellis during Monday’s ceremony recognizing Columbia’s Main Street designation. (Andrea Degenhart photo)

The hard work and dedication of Columbia officials and downtown merchants earned the city official accolades in the form of recognition on Monday as the 46th Main Street program in the state of Illinois.

“This is a celebration that was a long time coming,” said Paul Ellis, director of community and economic development for Columbia.

The Main Street designation by the state will provide Columbia with resources and networking to advance their historic preservation as well as building the economy and tourism of the downtown area.

“Ten years ago when I became mayor, we were looking at development and what was going on around Columbia… we realized that this is the heart of Columbia,” Mayor Kevin Hutchinson said during a ceremony outside City Hall.

He credited Main Street business owners and residents with helping to make Columbia “the town that everybody loves.”

“You get it. You understand why it’s important to have a Main Street that people can walk, that people can enjoy,” Hutchinson said.

State Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton) offered his congratulations to the city and said the much-deserved Main Street designation “recognizes and really highlights the historical aspects and character of a town like Columbia.”

With a Historic Main Street program already in place, Columbia’s efforts are focused on creating a downtown that is a retail, dining and tourism destination. And with the success of these efforts come additional jobs and revenue, which is critical with the state’s current poor fiscal climate.

Longtime State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), who just last week announced his upcoming retirement, said Columbia is a “truly special place.”

“In this city, in this county, good things are happening,” he said.

The Illinois Main Street program is a national movement to revitalize downtown communities. It is administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity with assistance from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Office of Regional Economic Development. And the vast resources and networking opportunities these agencies provide Main Street communities assist them in preserving the architecture that makes them unique while becoming social and cultural centers of their communities.

Monday meeting
In action taken during the regular meeting of the Columbia City Council on Monday night, aldermen approved an ordinance to amend the city’s zoning code to add financial institutions with a drive-through facility as a permitted use in a C-1 district (neighborhood business).

This measure was taken as State Bank of Waterloo discusses the possible purchase of the former Hardee’s restaurant site near Midwest Petroleum at Route 3 and North Main Street as a future bank location.

The bank is currently in negotiations on the property and a couple of hurdles still remain before any such deal is complete.

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