This morning as I was listening to our local news radio station, I was sure that I’d heard something incorrectly. What I heard was this: “Alton is not a destination.”
When I hit the Internet, I saw that it was true. This was said at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole while discussing the upcoming plans to have a hotel in the downtown Alton area. An alderman was clearly frustrated when this was said, and replied that the person who said this feels negatively about Alton.
Folks, “not a destination” is not the kind of mindset that we need in this town.
After I dropped kids off at school today I drove through our “not a destination” of a small town, rich with history, brick roads, antique shops, the stunning Riverfront Amphitheater, the Great River Road leading to Grafton, the eagle watching, the loft buildings that hold a very special place in my heart, the restaurants, Milton School, Lincoln Douglas Square, where every year the huge Christmas tree goes up, Third Street’s charm, the unbelievable Riverbender Community Center, then up Henry Street, the amazing historic houses, Lucy Haskell’s playhouse (which just raised $50,000! This proves to me that we do care about this city!) house tours, garden tours, this summers farmers market, the Fourth of July fireworks and so much more ...but we aren’t a destination? I’m not buying this.
Is this mindset the reason we are trapped in a small river town with unbelievable potential that yes, is suffering through a recession, but seems to slowly, painfully take baby steps in the right direction, but when faced with the possibility of jobs and a downtown hotel instead of excitedly backing this project, some think, “why would anyone come here?” Change is good! Allowing this city to remain stagnant and fighting change is truly detrimental to Alton, and in my opinion, one of the reasons we aren’t progressing the way we could be.
Yep. We have some eyesores. Yep. We have a tremendous amount of work to do. I was lucky enough to watch and work with brave men and women who truly wanted to make change in Alton by building the lofts on Broadway. There are brave Altonians opening shops every morning, investing their time and money on business ventures. Hopefully more will step up and develop properties that have been empty for far too long. I’m going to believe that a hotel on our riverfront is another step toward what we can be here. Mark Twain wrote in his book “Life on the Mississippi” (1883): “About nightfall we passed the large and flourishing town of Alton, Illinois ...” Now, we may never be large by today’s standards, but we do have the ability to make this town flourish. We have much to be proud of here. We are a destination. We can become a better one.