LOCKPORT – Looks aren’t everything, but they are important for the city of Lockport as it tries to attract new business.
Lockport city officials have a plan to beautify the community that includes improving the appearance of streets and properties while also installing new signs and monuments.
Mayor Steven Streit said there’s no doubt the beautification plan is part of his overall goal to boost the city’s profile. As retailers who may be interested in bringing their business to Lockport drive through the city, they take a holistic view, he said.
“If it looks like we don’t care about our town. It doesn’t encourage them to come here,” he said.
The city already has improved one major eyesore of the downtown area by inviting a new owner to take over the Volz building, which was heavily damaged by fire years ago. Now it’s the home of the bar and restaurant Embers Tap House.
City Administrator Ben Benson said the focus of the beautification plan to improve streets and properties will be the corridor that starts on East Ninth Street and stretches to East 159th Street.
Streit said one rare opportunity for aesthetic improvement for the city is the Illinois Department of Transportation’s 2017 project to improve Routes 171 and 7 in the downtown area.
Because beautification efforts are not part of the state project, the city administration proposed having “streetscape” improvements, such as better sidewalks or brick walkways, in addition to the IDOT work. The city budgeted $200,000 for streetscape improvements.
Streit said it’s an opportunity for the city that comes along every 40 to 50 years.
“We want to make sure we don’t squander it,” he said.
Benson said the city would work with Woodridge-based V3 Companies and Teska Associates, which has offices in Plainfield and Evanston, on the project.
Another part of the beautification plan would be enforcing code compliance on properties, which would include the hiring of two part-time community service officers to assist code enforcement officer Tom Fulton.
Benson said the positions for the community service officers may be filled within 30 to 40 days. He said the code compliance enforcement is not about raising revenues but garnering compliance.
Third Ward Alderman Darren Deskin said there are a dozen properties in Lockport that are abandoned and in need of fixing.
“These abandoned properties haven’t had any maintenance or any upkeep, in some cases, in decades,” he said.
Some properties are located in unincorporated areas and the city may have to either work with Will County or incorporate those areas to make them more presentable, Streit said. He said some of them are located along Route 171.
The next part of the beautification plan is to set up more signs and monuments in the city. For about $180,000 over the next three budget years, city officials plan to install about 10 new signs as well as flower plantings at Lockport’s main gateways.
The city has a historic gateway sign at the entrance of East Ninth Street but now officials want them all over the city, Benson said.
City officials also want an LED sign for the shopping center at 159th Street and Interstate 355. Because IDOT owns 159th Street, Benson said the city is awaiting approval to install it.
Streit said the sign will be helpful for the city.
“When you do those kind of things, you can promote stuff that’s going on in the town such as festivals,” he said.
Streit said the city is proactively trying to improve the community, whether it’s replacing a chain link fence with a better fence or filling empty spaces downtown with new businesses.
“All those kind of efforts, we’re taking the lead on,” he said.
LOCKPORT BEAUTIFICATION PLAN COMPONENTS
• Street infrastructure improvements
• Property code enforcement
• Installation of signs, monuments