SHELBYVILLE — Anticipation is building for a $1.4 million downtown enhancement project funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Main Street, which is also Illinois 16, will see new lighting, flowers, seating and accessible sidewalks. The work also will fill in old coal chutes leading to basements of many of the buildings on Main Street that can make the street level unstable.
Shelby County Economic Development Director Anna Kiley and City Engineer Alan Spesard presented IDOT's plan during a special public meeting Monday at City Hall.
Spesard said Shelbyville began working on the grant proposal in 2011, but the funding wasn’t released until this year. Another public meeting is planned for Nov. 6.
“We have been working on this for a long time,” Spesard said.
More than 40 people attended Monday's meeting. While geared primarily toward downtown business owners, several farmers and agribusiness owners attended and raised concerns about Main Street access for their large equipment.
The two-block project will begin at the Shelby County Courthouse at East Main and Washington streets and go west to Walnut Street. Construction is expected to start in June.
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“Shelbyville is an old and historic city,” Kiley said. “The streetscape will help us enhance the beauty and usability of our downtown and pay tribute to its heritage.”
Business owners were told to expect up to 10 business days of limited access to their storefronts while the work is being done. Spesard said one side of one block would be done at a time.
"Without allowing for delays due to weather, I think this will take every bit of the summer construction season," Spesard said.
Jodi Allen, owner of bakery/restaurant Iced, said Tuesday the short-term interference would be worth it for the long-term result.
“I expect I’ll have to be closed a few days,” she said of her business at 118 E. Main St. “I also have a lot of elderly customers that might have a hard time making it in, but I’m looking forward to the finished product.”
“This is going to improve our downtown, and I’m excited for it,” Allen said. “But we’ll all be glad when it’s done.”
Kiley said property owners are eligible for up to $25,000 in matching tax increment financing, or TIF, grants for improvements they make to their buildings, and that the city has a facade improvement plan that will provide owners with architectural consultations.
“We can give you a consultation on facade improvement that can merge your vision for your property and what we are trying to accomplish to improve the downtown area and make it more appealing,” she said.
Shelbyville farmer Keith Hennings said he was concerned that large farm equipment only has "a few inches to spare" when traveling along Main Street now.
“If you make it any smaller, I’m afraid there could be accidents and someone could get hurt," said.
Spesard said the final design would not significantly change lane widths or eliminate turn lanes that must meet IDOT standards. Parking spaces on both sides of the street will remain, he said.
“The two times we’re most concerned with are, of course, spring and fall,” said Shelby County Farm Bureau Board member Troy Uphoff. “While this is a great opportunity for Shelbyville to improve their downtown, Illinois 16 is an important route for agribusiness.”