HOOPESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — What started as a passion project, quickly became the catalyst for a new vision for the downtown.

Local leaders say, it’s something the community has bought into.

“The Lorraine project, when we started the project, it was really focusing on the Lorraine Theatre, but we realized that the Lorraine’s success relies on the downtown Hoopeston’s success, all of Hoopeston’s success, but downtown specifically,” explained Alex Houmes, a local alderman and vice president of the Save the Lorraine Foundation.

Houmes says downtown Hoppeston has seen increased investment.

Spurred by the revitalization of the Lorraine Theatre, a stretch of Main St. has also seen a boost with a coffee shop, a steak house set open and other retailers.  

But some projects were too challenging for a small business owner, which is why the foundation has stepped in.

“The Willdon building is another building, like the Lorraine, that is too big of a project for one person to take on,” explained Houmes. “So we put that underneath the foundation’s umbrella and utilized grant funding and our non-profit status to revitalize that building and let it be a space that people can use for business again.”

And the foundation isn’t done yet.

“We have to continue focusing on rehabilitating and saving the infrastructure in the buildings that we believe are good,” said Houmes. “Continuing to invest in that and save what we can and what can’t be save, what I’m gonna consider the trash, we have to move that out as much as possible.”

Houmes says the community is on board.

“Everyone supports the Lorraine project 100%,” he explained. “Everyone gets excited about the new businesses coming into town and doing a good job of supporting those new businesses even with the situation that we’re in now. “

Houmes says while progress has been made, there’s a lot of work left to be done.

However, he says the community is always looking for new partners and ideas to move Hoopeston forward.