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Monmouth streetscape beautification project to spruce up public square

The $3 million Rebuild Illinois grant will be used for streetscaping and beautification of the downtown square.
Courtesy photo
City of Monmouth
A $3 million Rebuild Illinois grant will be used to revitalize the public square.

Construction is expected to begin in June and be complete by the end of the year.

The city of Monmouth is finalizing designs for a streetscape beautification project on the public square that will change the face of downtown.

City leaders say the project, which is funded by a $3 million Rebuild Illinois grant, will improve both the aesthetics and functionality of the public square, adding more parking and making it more pedestrian-friendly.

“The streetscape project really slows down traffic. It narrows the entrances into the circle, in the center of the public square, from two lanes down to one lane. It will be just one-lane traffic around the circle,” said City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher.

Other improvements will include new landscaping, planted medians, benches, pedestrian lamps -- and even rain gardens.

The city hopes the project will go out to bid this month, with construction to begin in June.

First up for the beautification work will be the four entrances and exits to the public square – on East Broadway, West Broadway, North Main, and South Main.

Part of the renovations there are to change parallel parking to diagonal parking and add medians in the 100 blocks of those streets.

“We expect to be able to increase the number of parking spaces in the downtown,” Steinbrecher said.

Then renovations to the four quadrants of the square will get underway, starting with the northeast quadrant by city hall and working counter-clockwise. The last quadrant to be renovated will be the southeast one, by Market Alley.

“That construction is expected to last through the end of the year,” Steinbrecher said. “Hopefully by the holidays, everything will be substantially completed.”

Steinbrecher said the quadrants will be more square as opposed to the current semi-circle shape, and the project in general will soften the look of the public square.

“There will be a lot more greenery,” he said. “There will be very large, triangular-shaped entrances into and out of each of the quadrants. There will be rain gardens in each of the quadrants as well.”

Steinbrecher calls it a “once in a generation, legacy project.”

As a precursor to the beautification work, the city began replacing water mains in all four quadrants earlier this year.

More parking, possible outdoor music venue

Another project is underway in Monmouth to create more parking downtown.

Steinbrecher said the need for more parking is a good problem to have.

“It means that people are coming into the downtown. They’re spending money at the stores and restaurants,” Steinbrecher.

The city will construct a new parking lot in the vacant former auction house lot in the 100 block of South First Street, behind the rear entrances of businesses along Market Alley.

“We’ve been working with the business owners the last couple of years trying to provide more off-street parking in that area,” Steinbrecher said.

The city received a $50,000 contribution from the Pattee Foundation that will fund two-thirds of the cost.

Steinbrecher said a neighboring business is also partnering with the city on the project to add some new parking spaces. So in all, the project will create 20 new parking spots downtown.

“That will hopefully help a lot of the businesses there in the southeast quadrant,” Steinbrecher said.

The new parking lot will occupy around two-thirds of the vacant lot.

Steinbrecher said the other third will be available for picnic tables or possibly as an outdoor concert space.

“It really enhances the parking in that area but it will also create a small entertainment area,” Steinbrecher said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.