Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pranking with a purpose: About that Plainfield historic designation story

A view of downtown Plainfield, Illinois, courtesy of its website.

Steady readers of Plainfield Today will know that I have a prankish streak, and yesterday I pulled another -- but with a purpose.

The story on the designation of Plainfield's downtown on the National Register of Historic Places post in CLIPS (see here) referred -- as several folks noted -- not to Plainfield, New Jersey, but to Plainfield, Illinois.

The Illinois village is situated in Chicago's western suburbs and was originally settled in the 1820s. With a current population of 39,581, it is somewhat smaller than the Queen City. Of note is its transformation in the past twenty years from a sleepy village of fewer than 7,000 residents to a bustling community that projects a population of 50,000 by 2030.

There are several reasons the story caught my eye.

First, the Village had determined to pursue the strategy of historic designation for the downtown as part of an economic development and revitalization plan which the Village has pursued for over a decade.

Contrast this to Plainfield, where the North Avenue Historic District was designated as Plainfield's only commercial historic district more than thirty years ago, but little has been done to take advantage of the designation to leverage development. We can count ourselves lucky that the Historic Preservation Commission has at least been able to keep the area in a holding pattern awaiting better times. Hopefully, these are on the way.

The Village has evidently done a good job of presenting the advantages of federal tax credits of up to 20% for improvements that include not only facade recoveries, but also remodeling and updating interior and systems to meed code.

As Plainfield looks forward to a new administration that is committed to downtown development and redevelopment, perhaps we can also look forward not only to capitalizing on the North Avenue District, but consider the advantages of leveraging the renewal of Front Street -- where Urban Enterprise Zone funds were used for an old-fashioned streetscape makeover a number of years ago, and where the architectural mix includes everything from Victorian to Art Deco structures -- using the same sort of tools as our Illinois counterpart.

Apart from the historic designations and plans, the Village has shown a flair for using modern technology to help promote appreciation of the downtown's heritage. Besides developing the standard walking tour brochure and enhancing the Village's website with detailed information, each building in the newly designated historic district will hava a label with a QR code (those ubiquitous black and white coded squares that are popping up everywhere).

Using a smartphone, shoppers and visitors may take a photo of the QR code and be whisked to the Village website where they can check out the details of that particular building and its history. Neat!

So, I apologize for the prank, but hope it inspires readers to think about downtown Plainfield and its revitalization in new and creative ways, as well as suggesting to owners and developers a financial tool they may have previously overlooked.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

Are they gonna get rid of all the loud music ghetto stores downtown? I doubt it!!

Rob said...

well... Once the holy one Adrian Mapp is annointed I guess he can set the Democrats on the right path from their infernal internal money grab from the last 2-3 decades and finally put Plainfield first.. Hard to believe there was Jesus Christ and then Plainfield Democrats of Plainfield waited for Adrian Mapp to saunter on in and show them the light.. Whew... Downtown is saved, score one for Adrian Mapp .. Thanks for pointing out the wasted potential simply awaiting the arrival of " The Great Uniter", Dan.. Koumbaya anyone ???
Your repeated attempts to show SRB as the problem will only highlight Mapps failures for you and the rest of the party lemurs... because ONCE THE NEW ADMINISTRATION gets in... it's still dealing with the same tired party dogma garbage that's sitting in local politics... So blame SRB... and then when Adrian is in office and responds to the same leash tug as she did when she first got in office we'll await your excuse.. it's sad to see someone so obviously educated play party lap dog without an ounce of hesitation.. Jerry has got to be loving you right now.

Anonymous said...

Easy to plan such things when you have a population of 7000 people. Not so easy with 50000 already in place.

Anonymous said...

I walked through downtown Plainfield after Sunday's rally, looking at the transformation that has occurred in the last 50 years. it is sad to say, but commercial Plainfield lost its historic attributes in the 1960's when the push was for modernization. Hence, the Park-Madison destruction of the center of town and the fa├žade changes at street level that ruined any historic cityscape. A side by side view of Front Street with the street in Plainfield, Illinois, would be a picture that says a thousand words.