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Dateline Dixon: Meeting to offer first sight of streetscape plan

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 12:14 p.m. CDT
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Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Dixon. He can be reached at mmencarini@saukvalley.com or at 815-284-2224, ext. 229. Follow him on twitter: @MattMencarini.

Tonight is your chance to have your say about how Dixon will look in the future.

The city, along with Wendler Engineering Services and Willett Hofmann and Associates, will hold a public meeting at City Hall to reveal preliminary plans for the downtown streetscape project and solicit the public’s thoughts on the matter.

The public meeting will be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 121 W. Second St. A news release about the meeting, from Dixon Main Street, described the downtown as Dixon’s “cultural and commercial center.”

I think it’s an accurate description of the downtown. And if you think it is, too, I recommend you try to attend the meeting to voice your opinion or just to observe and be aware of what the downtown may look like in the near future.

In November, the City Council approved an agreement with the two engineering firms, paying them a combined $320,929.96. The total 10 1/2-block project could cost about $5 million.

Representatives from the firms have been around downtown surveying the area.

Wendler will handle the west side of the project, including Peoria Avenue from River Street to Third Street, First Street from Highland Avenue to Hennepin Avenue, and portions of Second Street between Highland Avenue and Hennepin Avenue.

Willett Hofmann will handle the east side of the project, including First Street from Hennepin Avenue to Crawford Avenue, and Ottawa Avenue from River Street to Second Street.

More public meetings will come, but the further into the process the firms get, the more focused on elements they will be.

Ahead of schedule

I’ve written a lot about the Prophetstown fire in the past 6 months. I was at the scene of the July 15 fire by about 7:30 a.m., at which point it had already been contained. Fire crews were just putting out a few remaining hot spots.

I wrote about how the town was healing and cleaning up and moving on in the weeks after the fire. I recently wrote about the 6-month anniversary of the fire and interviewed several people who were downtown that morning.

When I asked them to describe the scene, looking back at it 6 months removed, they used words like disbelief, hectic and chaotic. All accurate, in my opinion.

But there was another constant evaluation I got from people – the town would rebuild, and it was ahead of schedule.

I mentioned this in a previous article – about a month after the fire – and in the 6-month anniversary story. I interviewed professors at Northern Illinois University, and they said what the town was doing could put it way ahead of a reasonable rebuilding schedule.

Prophetstown Mayor Steve Swanson summed up just how far ahead of schedule the town was when I interviewed him recently.

“Two years ahead of where we could be,” he said.

That’s a long time. If all goes as planned, the town could have the first new building finished before other towns with similar fires even cleared the rubble, Swanson said.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Matt Mencarini covers government and happenings in Dixon. He can be reached at mmencarini@saukvalley.com or at 815-284-2224, ext. 229. Follow him on twitter: @MattMencarini.

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