SPRINGFIELD – Because the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Springfield each year, Gov. Blagojevich today awarded a $1.5 million grant to the city of Springfield to help enhance the downtown experience. Capital City leaders will use the state grant to complete the planning and design of Capitol Avenue - to transform the street into a red carpet to the Statehouse and other famed downtown sites, including Lincoln’s home and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
“Now is the right time to focus on enhancing downtown Springfield, to better welcome visitors to the Capitol Complex and to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Improvements will create economic opportunities for businesses in the area, attract people to visit downtown, and help stimulate social interaction and community life.”
Although schematic drawings of the improvements are virtually complete, construction-planning documents still need to be finished. The $1.5 million state grant will complete the fieldwork necessary to solidify the schematic design, finish planning, acquire the right-of-way required to make the improvements, prepare and obtain the necessary permits, and finally, prepare the plans and bidding documents to solicit contractors’ competitive bids. The planning work is expected to be complete in early 2006.
“We are glad to see this vital commitment by the Governor to such an important project which will link the downtown business center and historic sites with the Capitol Complex,” Mayor Timothy J. Davlin said. “The Capitol Avenue Project will transform the street into an exciting promenade which will greatly enhance the experiences that residents and visitors alike will have when they visit downtown Springfield.”
In early 2003 a Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team, or R/UDAT, consisting of economists, urban planners and design professionals, studied the downtown area and described Capitol Avenue as “arguably the most important streetscape environment in the City of Springfield.”
The R/UDAT team recommended the avenue be redeveloped from Second Street to Nineteenth Street and include everything within the 80-foot right-of-way of Capitol Avenue, as well as improvements to the Third Street railroad overpass. Some of the suggested improvements are lantern stanchions, markers engraved with state and Springfield history, pedestrian lights and limestone benches.
“We have one opportunity to make a good first impression on the tens of thousands of people expected to visit the museum,” said Durbin. “Our shared goal is to make sure we greet those visitors in a way that makes them want to come back and bring all their friends. Enhancing Springfield’s downtown area is vital part of that effort and the grant will certainly be put to good use.”
In November 2004, Sen. Durbin secured $1 million in federal funding to help the Illinois Department of Transportation and the City of Springfield prepare the city’s infrastructure for the museum opening and anticipated crowds in the coming months and years.
The Capitol Avenue Improvement Project will not only create a gateway to the Capitol Complex, it will showcase Springfield and help revitalize the downtown area. The estimated cost of construction for the project is $11.3 million. The project will be divided into four phases and each phase will take a year plus to complete. It’s anticipated the project will be paid for with a combination of local, state and federal funding.