* SIUE graduate John Simmons has made a fortune as a trial attorney. He’s used some of that money to build things like the Simmons Cancer Institute on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Springfield. His law firm also has an employee foundation that contributes to several charitable causes.
But he’s now taken on a new project. He wants to remake downtown Alton, which has been empty and moribund for years. Gov. Pritzker went to Alton yesterday to highlight the ambitious effort…
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday evening stood for a huddle of Alton city leaders and reporters gathered at the corner of Broadway and Henry, beaming with gratitude and excitement for the launch of AltonWorks, the $75M downtown revitalization investment plan courtesy of John and Jayne Simmons.
The governor was attending a ribbon cutting for the offices of AltonWorks, located at 601 E. Broadway. The Simmons’ have purchased more than 30 properties in the city’s downtown — many blighted — and hired a team of development experts to execute the largely unprecedented project. […]
Pritzker praised the plan’s focus on pedestrian-friendly landscapes and an emphasis on rooftop and riverfront development. An initial plan, first unveiled in May, indicated a total rebirth of downtown Alton as a “rooftop city” with picturesque views over the Mississippi for both residential and business spaces. Included are renovations of long-abandoned landmarks like the Grand Theater and Stratford Hotel buildings. The Simmons’ have snatched up nearly any property available in Alton’s downtown corridor. John Simmons earned much of the family’s wealth as an Alton-based trial attorney. […]
Jayne Simmons on Tuesday told The Telegraph that the AltonWorks project is early in Stage 1 as the team drafts a detailed master plan. Employees [20 so far] have been visible around downtown in recent weeks examining each property and doing maintenance as part of that process.
“We purchased over 30 properties, and some of them have office spaces, some have tenants, and a lot of them are empty, so we have to maintain those, and take care of them” she said. “We don’t want any of them continue to deteriorate.”
The effort is projected to create millions of dollars in investment into Alton through private investors, joint venture partners, historic tax credits, and other state funding sources for projects including public infrastructure, transit connectivity, workforce development, business attraction and relocation, and broadband infrastructure.
“We hope Alton will serve as a process ‘proof of concept’ for replicable and scalable demonstration of our commitment to downstate revitalization,” the company’s mission statement says.
“I want to thank John and Jayne Simmons for sharing their vision,” Pritzker said. “I very much want to be part of that vision. This is something we can do all across Southern and Central Illinois.
“Frankly, we should be doing this everywhere.”
I’ve been to that town several times and always thought it was a diamond in the rough. Hopefully, this will work.