La Salle Economic Development Director Curt Bedei said it’s good for the city to understand what the community is looking at, what they need and what they feel is useful for not only them but also the whole community.
“I’m excited about the results that we learned about (Tuesday),” he said. “Some of the gaps, things that people are interested in wanting to see happen. Obviously, they aren’t going to happen overnight.”
Tuesday marked the second of the planning sessions. The city’s goal is to understand better the community and its residents’ needs and/or wants over the next 10 years in the areas of quality of life, tourism and economic development.
This meeting focused on what residents believed are important for future projects that could impact the city’s tourism, quality of life and economic development.
Community and Economic Development Specialist Pam Schallhorn followed the same pattern as the last meeting and split the about 30 attendees into groups and had them work together to determine important future projects.
Each group nominated a leader/co-leader to present their ideas.
Dawn Hicks, a La Salle resident, who spoke for her group, said they talked about having more activities for families or kids such as a waterpark or rage room.
“I would love to see movies in the park being brought back,” she said. “That’s great, especially for families where money is very tight or for single parents.”
Hicks said her group also discussed La Salle’s downtown and its lack of development in business and residential properties.
“Finish the Maytag building and Hotel Kaskaskia,” she said. “I know that there have been issues with that ... there are no apartments downtown or we need to fix parking for the people who do live in upstairs apartments.”
Marcellus Gray and Mason Livingston spoke for their group and said they spoke about the lack of accessibility to healthcare in the area.
“After COVID for there to be no local access to health care – that’s terrible,” Livingston said. “This is a point right now, where admittedly we shouldn’t be taking away anything at all.”
“When hospitals have problems, we don’t have a place for people to go,” Gray said. “Just in general health care and mental health need to be a priority in establishing community health resources.”
Gray and Livingston said their group talked about affordability housing for most residents and the lack of accountability for landlords.
“Low rent is not affordable,” Gray said. “It is very hard to work a minimum wage job or whatever you’re making and try to pay your rent at the end of the month. When you have all these other things kids, bills, birthdays, Christmas. The housing in La Salle is bad.”
“There is no housing for the homeless for half of the year,” Livingston said. “There is a strong homeless population in the community and they don’t have anywhere to go for half a year. What are we doing for these people or anyone in the community that could become homeless?”
Luke Tomsha, founder of The Perfectly Flawed Foundation, who spoke for his group, said they spoke about the possibility of adding more green space to create bike path around downtown and the possibility of a marina.
“We talked about ... use of the river,” he said. We could come up with some sort of plan for a marina where people can put their boats similar to what you would see at Heritage Harbor.”
Tomsha said they talked about the diversity of the area and one way to celebrate that is through coordinated public art.
“I think public art goes a long way,” he said. “La Salle is unique. We have a very diverse group of people...You can really light up the city by building public art spaces and having it coordinate. We have a lot of great artists.”
Scott Pellican, a La Salle resident who was a co-leader for his group, talked about going green and biking to Rotary Park for birdwatching.
“I just discovered the new Prairie Park Path we have at Rotary Park,” he said. “I think the city could promote the bird watching we have out there. It’s set up so good already ... I’d like to see some signage of on the certain areas where the Little Vermillion River is on what type of birds there are.”
After the presentations, Schallhorn thanked everyone for their time and encouraged them to come to the next meeting ready to vote for their favorite ideas.
Bedei said the goal for the next meeting would be to culminate everything learned over the last two weeks, most importantly what is needed in the community.
“We’re going to list all of these ideas out,” he said. “Then everybody is going to get the opportunity to vote on those individually.”
The next session will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the Knights of Columbus, (second floor), 209 Gooding St. La Salle residents will discuss and select action items for inclusion in the city’s plan.
To register for the event visit https://registration.extension.illinois.edu/start/strategic-community-planning-for-lasalle-3-sessions. If you have questions about the planning process or if you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, contact Schallhorn at email@example.com.