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Twin Cities Talk: Imitating success in Dixon

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

ROCK FALLS – After I wrote about the state of downtown Rock Falls in my column last week, I received a response from Phillip LeFevre, past executive director of Dixon Main Street and a Dixon native, comparing the two cities’ downtowns.

He wrote about why he thinks they are so different. He pointed out all the professional buildings in downtown Dixon and the immediate vicinity.

With numerous banks and KSB Hospital, the intersection of First Street and Galena Avenue is very busy, LeFevre said.

This is a good observation. Professional buildings staff many people who want to leave the office for an hour and eat lunch. Accordingly, there are many options just steps away for them to do so.

LeFevre also noted Dixon is the county seat. That means the court system is downtown.

“Since Dixon is the county seat, a lot of lawyers have downtown offices,” he wrote.

Banks, a hospital, lawyer’s offices and the courthouse all contribute valuable foot traffic to downtown. LeFevre is right about that.

What can Rock Falls take away from Dixon’s example? Banks and hospitals are not likely to miraculously appear in its downtown. But, the addition of more options might attract professional buildings.

The two elements work together to create a successful downtown. If there are employees, they will need dining and beverage options during and after work. They may return to the area for leisure time on weekends.

Another key element LeFevre pointed out is the wide variety of entertainment options in downtown Dixon. That’s also true. On Friday and Saturday nights, there is live music at Books on First, entertainment at Crystal Cork and at the new Ginkgo Tree Cafe.

Dixon also has Second Saturdays, which features art and entertainment that opens doors of local businesses after hours once a month.

These ingredients aren’t a secret when it comes to successful downtowns. Entertainment, music, food, people – they all combine to attract outside attention and build success.

How towns like Rock Falls and Sterling find success in building and growing their downtowns has yet to be fully discovered.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at ksood@saukvalley.com or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.

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