By CARL GREEN
Alton, IL – Successful attorney and longtime Labor supporter John Simmons and his wife Jayne recently launched AltonWorks, a $75 million plan to revitalize downtown Alton and create plenty of work close to home.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker turned up to join the ribbon-cutting event at the corner of Broadway and Henry on July 30.
The Simmonses have bought up more than 30 properties and are hiring developers to restore them, hopefully leading to new businesses, retailers, jobs and park space.
Jayne Simmons told the Alton Telegraph newspaper that their AltonWorks team of about 20 staffers is preparing a detailed master plan and has already been performing some maintenance work. Their location is 601 E. Broadway.
“We purchased over 30 properties, and some of them have office spaces, some have tenants, and a lot of them are empty, so we have to maintain those and take care of them,” she said. “We don’t want any of them to continue to deteriorate.”
The project will include both residential and office space and renovations of the Grand Theater and the Stratford Hotel, two landmark buildings, among others.
BY THE RIVER
Pritzker said the plans focus on pedestrian-friendly landscapes and emphasize rooftop and riverfront development to take advantage of the downtown’s location adjacent to the Mississippi River.
“The AltonWorks vision capitalizes on our state’s natural beauty,” he said. “Everybody in this nation should know about the beauty that is here in Alton.”
He added, “I want to thank John and Jayne Simmons for sharing their vision, and I very much want to be part of that vision. This is something we can do all across southern and central Illinois. Frankly, we should be doing this everywhere.”
Also lending their support were state Sen. Rachelle Aud Crowe (D-Glen Carbon) and state Rep. Monica Bristow (D-Godfrey), plus East Alton Mayor Joe Silkwood and Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormack.
John Simmons previously established an employee foundation that contributes to charitable causes and helped build the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University-Springfield.
He hopes AltonWorks will generate millions more in investments by private investors, joint venture partners and state sources such as historic tax credits or infrastructure, transit, workforce development and broadband infrastructure.
The project’s mission statement states: “We hope Alton will serve as a process ‘proof of concept’ for replicable and scalable demonstration of our commitment to downstate revitalization.”