City celebrates federal funding for Madison neighborhood

Apr. 25—DANVILLE — Some of the blight has been removed around the Madison neighborhood and Carle at The Riverfront area, but more needs to come down.

Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said more connections to the neighborhood and Ellsworth Park, its river and beauty, and also with the Kickapoo Rail Trail and other trails, are additional future goals with federal funds the city is receiving.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (IL-02) presented an $850,000 check in federal funding to the City of Danville to revitalize the Madison neighborhood.

Over the last two days in Danville, Kelly also hosted a grants workshop to assist community leaders to navigate the federal grants process and a reception at the Danville Art League for students who submitted works to the Congressional Art Competition.

The Madison revitalization check presentation occurred at Chandler Street and Logan Avenue where Carle has a Community Garden.

The project is to provide better housing and infrastructure, remove blight, and provide more accessible public services to increase the quality of life and economic productivity of the area.

"Every person, no matter where they live, deserves to live in their home safely and comfortably," Kelly said.

She said she's proud the funding will help some residents with much needed repairs on homes and improve their quality of life.

"I'm so excited to see how this funding will grow our community and support families in this area. So, I will be back, Kelly said.

She said this is just the beginning of her supporting initiatives that improve the safety and well-being of this community.

Williams said the city had a few projects in mind for possible funding, but the Madison neighborhood was deemed having a good chance of getting funded.

He said Carle has already made a wonderful investment, and the city participated in a study with Vermilion Advantage and land bank of the housing and infrastructure remaining in the Madison area to build on that momentum in the neighborhood.

Williams said for every good house the neighborhood has, there are three to four more in "rough shape."

"So, this will go a long way in helping us help our residents,"' he said.

Danville Ward 2 Alderwoman Carolyn Wands and her husband, Gene, who passed away six years ago, started making improvements in the West Downtown area when they moved here 24 years ago.

They purchased 12 homes in a square block, on the other side of Gilbert Street, and wanted to make things better. They had to demolish two of the houses and 10 were restored. All will be sold as of June, so she'll be out of the landlord business, Wands said.

She said it was a great experience in helping clean up a neighborhood. It's been a lot of hard work focused on the area.

There's still a lot of blight, and infrastructure needs taken care of, Wands said.

"I have great hopes for this area. I know that it can be different. I know that in my heart. Anything can change if people care. You have to care," she said.

Even just picking up a piece of trash can make a difference, she said. People notice a nice front yard and property, and people will want to do better themselves, she added.

"That's what happened in West Downtown," Wands said.

She said owners have improved the homes and worked tirelessly to bring them up to a different standard because they've seen people care.

"Everybody has gotten on board and that's what it takes," Wands said. "But it takes someone to start."

She said she loves the city and wanted to make a difference in what little bit she can do.

She said Gene told her when they first came here, just hang on, they'll work hard and change will come.

"And it has," Wands said, thanking the city and others who've been involved and also made it happen.

Williams said the funding can be used on infrastructure, such as improving sidewalks, streets, sewers, and housing, such as helping homeowners improve their homes and eliminating blight.

He said he wouldn't be surprised if it's six months or more until the city received the money, so that gives city officials time to do more work with the preliminary game plan from the neighborhood study and be more specific.