Never stop learning…

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a day long workshop provided by the Illinois Main Street program. The Jacksonville Main Street program was our host for the day. Just a bit larger than Sterling and about 45 minutes West of Springfield, Jacksonville has been a part of the Illinois Main Street program since 1999 and in 2012 was a “Great American Main Street” award winner from the National Main Street program.

Perhaps even more than the information presented at the various workshops I’ve attended over the years, one of my favorite things is the inspiration I get in seeing the projects in person that have taken place in the communities I’ve visited.  My visit to Jacksonville proved to be quite inspirational.

As the workshop was starting early on Thursday, I travelled down on Wednesday afternoon.  Rather than staying at one of the hotels on the edge of town, my friend, Judy, the Jacksonville Main Street director, tipped me off to a new business right in the heart of their downtown – The Little Stove and Hotel TLS – a great little wine bar and Italian Restaurant recently opened.  They’d converted the upper floor into 3 hotel rooms, available on Air B&B.  Perfect!

The host had asked for my ETA and a fresh carafe of water and ice bucket were waiting in my room.  I settled in and then walked downstairs for dinner.  A fabulous little place – a welcoming feel, open, clean, about a dozen tables and seating at the bar overlooking the small open kitchen.  Woodfired pizza and craft cocktails. The whole time I’m thinking….”we could do this in Sterling”  – a great restaurant on the main floor, a private meeting room in the back, and 3 Air B&B’s on the upper floor of a great corner building in their downtown.

Thursday morning came and I walked the block down to “The Plaza” where our workshop would be held.  WOW!

This HUGE former bank building, slated for demolition not all that long ago, is in the process of being fantastically renovated into a multiuse building – a tap room, axe throwing business, multiple small retail business and a plethora of space yet untapped, but full of potential! AMAZING!

Catching up with my Main Street counterparts, meeting a new director and board members from one of the newest Illinois Main Street communities; getting the opportunity to share about our Shoppes at Grandon Plaza project; and hearing what other Main Street communities are doing is always reinvigorating, and just another reason why I continue to love this job every day.

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