SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan presented “Illinois Tomorrow Awards” to five Downstate winners today, recognizing outstanding examples of balanced growth initiatives.
The City of Alton, Bi-State Development Agency, Prairie Creek Environmental Habitat in Sangamon County, PORTA Community Problem Solvers in Petersburg, and Elmwood Community Foundation, were recognized today. The nine Northern Illinois award winners were recognized in Chicago in December.
“These accomplishments are all excellent examples of private and public sectors working together for the long range public interest and improved quality of life in our communities,” said Governor Ryan. “The recipients have put into practice the Illinois Tomorrow principles promoted by my administration.”
Those principles include reducing traffic congestion; preservation of open space; reinvestment and redevelopment; quality of life; and local government partnership.
“Urban and suburban redevelopment, farmland and habitat protection, and improved public transportation are among the achievements of these award winners. They can serve as role models for other communities,” said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Renee Cipriano.
A review panel composed of representatives of 12 varied public and private agencies and organizations evaluated the award applications.
Additional details on the winners follow:
City of Alton: Environmental cleanup and redevelopment of the 160-acre former Owens-Illinois Glassworks site into the Alton Center Business Park. The city teamed up with various public and private entities to redevelop the site of the century-old sprawling factory complex that had once employed more than 5,000 but had been vacant for more than a decade and had extensive environmental contamination. The demolition of most of the old complex and refurbishing of two large buildings has been completed and the first tenant employing 350 has occupied the site. Future plans include construction of additional buildings after more tenants are recruited. The work on the site also was recently recognized with a national Phoenix Award for excellence in brownfield redevelopment.
Bi-State Development Agency: Recognized for its approach in constructing the 17.4 mile MetroLink light rail extension from East St. Louis through Swansea and Belleville. Abandoned right-of-way was used for most of the route, avoiding new land acquisition; a parallel bicycle trail is planned; the route was altered to avoid Native American Land; and free parking spaces were provided, as well as coordinated bus feeder service. The extension also reduces traffic congestion by taking more than 25,000 vehicles per day off highways.
PORTA Community Problem Solvers Team (honorable mention): Recognized for raising awareness, coordinating fundraising activities and grants, and providing playground equipment in a declining floodplain area of Petersburg.
Elmwood Community Foundation: Honorable mention for master planning, determining community needs through a survey and web site and various other local improvements.
Prairie Creek Environmental Habitat: Honorable mention for restoring a natural habitat behind the Pleasant Plains Middle School in Sangamon County that is also used for environmental conservation education.