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Joliet, Ill.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Norwood, Ohio.

Joliet, Ill. has restored and rededicated its fifth national registered historic place within a decade, Union Station.

"Union Station is an excellent addition to Joliet City Center's inventory of restored historic buildings," said City Manager John Mezera. "It joins company with four other Joliet architectural masterpieces also on the National Register of Historic Places--the Rialto Square Theatre, the old U.S. Post Office, Christ Episcopal Church and the Louis Joliet Hotel.

"These five structures, plus a half dozen other outstanding architectural attraction,s provide a tourist package that appeals to historic preservationists, railroad buffs, architectural enthusiasts and families wishing to introduce their children to the splendors of a bygone era.

"When riverboat gaming begins in Joliet later this year," added Mezera, "this fine collection of historic buildings, located in our City Center, will offer a surprising supplementary tourist attraction for such visitors."

Now the largest restored working railway station in suburban Chicago serving both commuter and Amtrak passengers, Union Station was built in 1912.

The walls are faced with Bedford Indiana limestone on the exterior and marble on many of the interior walls and on all of the floors. The ticket counter on the first floor features Belgian black marble.

The waiting room on the track level represents designs from the French Renaissance period. Its parabolic-shaped structure carries sound so well that a person talking in a normal voice at one end can be heard distinctly at the other, across a distance of 130 feet.

The restoration was a cooperative $6-million effort of the city and METRA commuter rail system. It was launched in 1988, with the U.S. Department of Transportation providing 85 percent of the project's funding and the state department of transportation the balance.

The city is currently negotiating with several developers to build-out interior retail space and market and manage the station's commercial development.

"With the expected development of quality dining and retail establishments within the station, the already busy Joliet Union Station should become one of the major destination points in the Chicago Southland region," said Ruth Calvert Fitzgerald, president and chief executive officer of the Will County Chamber of Commerce and the Joliet/Will County Center or Economic Development.

Charlotte, N.C. Action Line

Since March 2, citizens and employees of Charlotte, N.C. and Mecklenburg County have been able to offer suggestions about increasing productivity and saving money through a new feature of their telephone Action Line. Suggestions for making local government more efficient are forwarded to the appropriate departments for review.

Charlotte, N.C. Airport Remodeling

The Welcome Center at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, which serves more than 20 million travelers and visitors yearly, has received a facelift to make it more visible. Located in the baggage claim lobby, the center is staffed by Air Hosts, who provide paging services and general airport information, as well as information on area tourist attractions. The enlarged, remodeled center, open around-the-clock, now features lighted displays, more space for publications and world time clocks.

Charlotte, N.C. Silent Nights

Charlotte, N.C. disrupted the activities of drug dealers, significantly reduced the number of alcohol-related accidents and increased public awareness about holiday crimes during a campaign called Operation Silent Nights.

The program, which ran November 29 through January 5, was a cooperative effort among the Charlotte Police Department and county and state law enforcement agencies.

During the five-week period officers conducted 354 drug-related operations, which resulted in 392 arrests. They seized $147,355 in drugs, $104,648 in cash and assets and 102 weapons.

Officers devoted more than 3,000 hours to larceny-from-vehicle prevention, and a special task force cleared 40 such larceny cases. The number of larcenies committed in December was down 24.5 percent from November and 8.3 percent from December, 1990.

A DWI Task Force reported a 38 percent reduction in alcohol-related accidents in December compared to December, 1990 figures.

Chief D. R. Stone termed Operation Silent Nights a success, especially in terms of generating public involvement and support. "We actually had people gathering around singing Silent Night when we made some of the drug arrests," the chief reported.

Norwood uses plant closing as catalyst for positive change

Although many communities are alarmed by the recent announcement to close or consolidate 27 General Motors' and 100 United Technologies' plants, the situation may not be as bleak as it seems.

When G.M. closed its Camaro and Firebird assembly plant in 1987, the city of Norwood, Ohio (pop. 23,674) was confronted with the loss of 4,300 jobs and more than $2 million dollars in annual tax revenue.

The city has used the closing as a catalyst to improve its image and diversify its economy. Proof of the recovery process shows in the attitude of Norwood's citizens and leaders.

"It gave us a chance to completely redo our downtown area and rejuvenate the city," comments Mayor Joseph Sanker. Worried about the reuse potential of the G.M. plant, city officials got an important boost when G.M. agreed to demolish their old plant.

The rebuilding process is taking place in phases. The first phase, completed in 1991, involved the initial redevelopment of the G.M. plant site into a diversified business park. The first phase of Central Parke, already fully leased, houses 19 businesses providing more than, 1,100 jobs. Subsequent phases will replace even more of the jobs and revenue lost when G.M. closed.

Work on the second phase, consisting of construction of a retail strip and a flex building, will begin this year. Appropriately named, the flex building will be able to accommodate retail, distribution, consulting, and light manufacturing companies of various sizes.

Central Parke has not been the only success story. In 1990 Hamilton county, recognizing Norwood's rebirth, opened southwest Ohio's only business incubator in Norwood. The incubator will bring more entrepreneurial talent to the city and increase the survival rate of new business.

The Hamilton County Business Center helps high-tech start-up firms by providing affordable rent and a variety of other services at below market rates. Community Development Director Richard Dettmer anticipates that many of the 23 businesses currently housed in the incubator will take advantage of the community's improving business climate by remaining in Norwood after "graduation" from the incubator.

Norwood has also initiated an aggressive promotional campaign to spread the word of its transition. The campaign includes advertisements in area publications, brochures, and a video tape aimed at attracting new businesses.

Norwood's renaissance has been dramatic, but the transition has come at a cost. G.M.'s taxes represented 25 percent of the city's budget and 20% of the public school's budget. When the plant closed, Norwood was forced to lay off 40 (16%) of the city's employees, close one of Norwood's five elementary schools, and borrow money to remain solvent. City officials feel that the worst is behind them. "The tide has turned," noted Councilman William Krebs.

After seeing the opportunities, the city agrees it is better off without the plant. Before the closing, G.M. dominated both Norwood's economy and its image. Once seen as a blue-collar manufacturing town, G.M.'s departure has given Norwood a chance to begin again.

Evidence of this improved environment shows in the public's attitude toward their city. Residents returned all incumbents to office in the November elections, and housing prices are up 30 percent since the plant closing.
COPYRIGHT 1992 National League of Cities
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:City Ideas That Work
Author:Turner, Laura; Cunningham, Keith
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 27, 1992
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