MATTOON, Ill., (WCIA) — Thursday morning, community leaders broke ground in a vacant lot downtown Mattoon.
They’re working to turn what was once a disaster into something beautiful.
Shores Jewelry burned down on Broadway Avenue in 2019.
Now, organizations are transforming the space into a pocket park.
Alexander Benishek with Mattoon in Motion helped apply for a grant through T-Mobile months ago.
“We received about $50,000 to help push the development of this vacant space into a community pocket park,” he said.
They’re still finalizing definite plans, but with that money, they want to make it space for anyone to visit.
Benishek said one of the current renderings shows 1,500-1,700 square footage of event space.
“Covered pergolas, maybe some water features as well,” he said.
If all goes to plan, he said those features would be some of the most defining.
“By transforming this space into something beautiful, it helps that business, it helps that one, and every single one on Main Street here on Broadway Avenue,” he said.
The Mattoon Area YMCA is one of the organizations that’ll regularly use the park.
“We believe that there’s an opportunity for us to do things like a yoga class or outdoor activities,” Blake Fairchild, the Mattoon Area YMCA’s CEO, said.
He added that during COVID, many classes were held outside in their parking lot.
Now, they want to get kids involved as much as they can outside.
And overall, Benishek said, this project shows the town’s resilience.
“Bad things sometimes happen, but we as a community turned this into something great,” he said.
A timeline for the project is still in the works, but Benishek said they plan to host a ribbon cutting and open next September.