We at Waukegan Main Street admit it. Downtowns are not easy to revitalize. But here are some facts about Waukegan’s downtown: three theaters are thriving and more new businesses and restaurants have opened their doors!
The Genesee Theater, Clockwise Theatre, and Three Brothers Theatre produced more shows last year than ever before. Wauk-n-Whiskey has opened its doors on Genesee Street and Rosatti’s is under construction at Grand and Sheridan, joining other popular restaurants and pubs. New businesses like Lake County Tech Hub, Liberty Tax, and Horizon Benefit Services are up and running.
Your vision of a vibrant downtown and lakefront is our purpose. Every day, WMS keeps that vision in the forefront of its plans and activities.
How does the Main Street work? We use the proven ap proaches and tools that every Main Street organization uses. That’s how we can successfully focus on economic development, small business appearance improvement, historic preservation, and promoting the downtown. Here’s just one success story:
University grads Josh and Caroline Beadle came to Waukegan with the dream of starting a new small theater company. They spotted the vacant space at 115 N. Genesee and hit it off with building owner Juli Weber, also owner of Little Fort Media, right next door.
Before long Three Brothers, a 50-seat black box theater, had become a reality. “For the first couple of years we couldn’t afford a marquee. People couldn’t read the posters we displayed and they couldn’t see into the lobby. In fact, the whole block was dark,” said Caroline.
A Waukegan Main Street SLAP Grant (sign, lighting, and appearance program) was the solution. Josh and Caroline worked with downtown architect firm, Design Studio C, to design and price out a lighted sign. Then they applied to the WMS Design committee for a 50-50 SLAP grant.
“The SLAP grant was incredibly helpful,” said Josh. “Our Three Brothers Theater sign illuminates for quite a distance on Genesee Street. Now we have a clear beacon welcoming all our patrons.”
Owner Juli Weber couldn’t be happier. “The more successful the theater is, the more solid my tenant is. Everyone on the street benefits.”
Main Street organizations know that attractive positional advertising draws business customers and restaurant and theater patrons. That’s why the WMS Economic Development Committee initiated the Downtown Kiosk Program. The first kiosk has been installed at the corner of Genesee and County streets, displaying the map of downtown and promoting downtown businesses and events. WMS plans to install three more kiosks throughout the Main Street district.
Building partnerships and engaging community stakeholders in the revitalization effort is another economic development tool. For the last two years, we worked with the Waukegan Chamber of Commerce to host the Criterium Bike Race in downtown Waukegan. WMS also partnered with the City to staff a tent for Scoop the Loop and promote monthly ArtWauks.
Year-round, downtown foot traffic has increased because of WMS events like the annual winter Holiday Wauk and the summer Wine and Art Stroll. We also sponsor the annual Lunch with the Mayor. This standing-room-only event provides businesses, nonprofits, and residents and the Mayor a unique way to interact.
Waukegan’s downtown and lakefront district faces a wide array of challenges and opportunities, and WMS is committed to be part of the solutions and successes.
In the coming year, WMS will focus on bringing more people and businesses to downtown and the lakefront. Communication is key. We have listened to our downtown businesses. Already we are partnering with landlords to clean up vacant storefronts. We will identify funding alternatives to implement beautification improvements. We know that arts and entertainment are a powerful combination for boosting economic development. That means we will partner with community groups to expand the array of cultural and social events in our downtown and lakefront.
Your support will bring even more success. When you donate to Waukegan Main Street, you share in our planning, projects, and successes—now and in the future. Whether you are a Main Street partner or if you’re new to WMS, please make a special year-end contribution. Your gift of $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 or more will go a long way toward supporting our work.
Did you know? Waukegan Main Street is not a city agency. WMS is a volunteer, community-supported organization. The largest portion of our funds come from generous community partners like you.
Please visit www.waukeganmainstreet.org to learn more about what we do. We are working so that you, and all of us, benefit by making positive, tangible differences for our downtown and lakefront.
Megan McKenna de Mejia
Arthur Cobb, Jr