GENOA – When Linda Underwood, Genoa Main Street, Inc. president, got up to welcome the large crowd of supporters gathered for the organization’s annual dinner, she was able to give a positive report.
“Nine new businesses, an improved streetscape and 12 months of successful events,” Underwood said. “I’d say it’s been a good year.”
Genoa Main Street has been working to improve downtown since 1996. Over the years, the city of 5,000 has established itself as a community welcoming to new businesses, residents and visitors.
“Downtown should be a successful business center, a place for the community to gather, and an attractive place to visit,” Main Street executive director Mim Evans said. “This past year saw progress on all three fronts.”
Downtown Genoa has a new pharmacy, antique store, furniture store, exercise studio, siding business and several office-based businesses. The new arrivals appreciate affordable space, the 10,000 cars per day that pass through downtown and an entrepreneur-friendly environment.
“Genoa Main Street, Inc. is part of a team that keeps downtown strong. The city invested in downtown with sidewalk improvements, benches and planters,” Evans said. “The city also provides free police support for downtown events. The chamber is very supportive, and many people don’t realize the fire department runs Genoa Days.”
Downtown Genoa has established itself as a year-round community center. The summer-through-fall Open Air Markets are the largest in the area, attracting vendors from across northern Illinois. In the winter months, people of all ages skate on the free outdoor ice rink.
“Private investment downtown increased in 2013,” Evans said. “Several building owners put on new roofs, tuckpointed and painted. The new owner of the pharmacy completed a major rehabilitation, inside and out.”
Looking ahead, the Genoa Public Library is scheduled to expand onto the vacant lot next to its existing building. Genoa Main Street, Inc. is taking applications for its small business incubator, Genoa Springboard, which provides quality space at affordable cost. With Amtrak service to Genoa on the horizon, a new train station is anticipated.
“While we have few vacancies, there are still opportunities for new businesses or investors to be a part of downtown Genoa,” Underwood said. “We have something special here, with a traditional small town that really works.”