Residents, business owners discuss future development plans for Cairo

Residents, business owners discuss future development plans for Cairo

CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - The city of Cairo, Illinois launched a planning process on Monday, April 28 that will involve citizens and stakeholders in helping shape the city's future.

The plan, funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity through federal Community Block Grant Funds, will focus on ways the city can create jobs, encourage development and increase the quality of life.

The project is being led by GCR Inc., a planning and economic development firm in New Orleans.

Take a walk around Cairo, you will see windows into it’s past, signs that this city use to be a much different one.

“This is a historical part of the world right here,” said Steve Denton, owner of Nu Diner for more than 35 years.

The people and location brought him here, but it’s getting harder to stay.

“A lot of people are dying off, some are just leaving,” he said.

He said new businesses will help attract others to the area and like him, could soon call Cairo home.

Montez Wilson is the city’s most recent business owner to open up shop along the river town. He opened his clothing store less than four months ago, bringing customers in from out of town.

“That’s what my goal is to do, making the community happy,” he said.

But he said that goal could be short lived if the bills keep climbing and profits stay the same.

“We need businesses; we need industry, new homes the whole gambit,” said Mayor Demetrius Coleman.

He said the developers will return Cairo back to its original greatness and the city will thrive once again.

“There is a brighter day ahead,” he said.

“This is an opportunity for Cairo citizens to take our city's future into their own hands by participating in this process. The result will be recommendations, potential resources and a shared vision to light the way for Cairo's redevelopment and growth,” Mayor Coleman said. “In addition to hosting public hearings, a local steering committee will work closely with the consultants and we thank them for answering the call to give of their time in this way.”

Steering committee members include:

  • Dr. Tim Bellamey - President, Shawnee College
  • James Dumas - Agent, State Farm Insurance
  • Anita Grace - Branch manager, First National Bank in Cairo
  • Fred Bernstein - CEO, Community Health & Emergency Services, Inc.
  • Darrell Shemwell - Owner, Shemwell BBQ
  • Gabriel Harris - Owner, G&L Clothing and school board member
  • Zayn Hollis - Student, Cairo High School
  • Monica Smith - Cairo Public Library
  • Mike Farrow - Retired, Shawnee Development Corp.
  • Suzy Holland - Cairo resident
  • John E. Price - Secretary/treasurer, Laborers Local 773

The consultants have already started reviewing past studies and collecting data, which they say will be an ongoing process. Three public forums are scheduled for June, August and September; plus focus groups of businesses, government officials and other segments of Cairo will meet in smaller groups. The final report is expected to be released in October.

To quickly collect information, the city of Cairo is hosting a volunteer workday in May where Cairo citizens can help by walking their neighborhood and writing down information about the buildings in them. A one-hour training session for volunteers will be offered. Volunteers would be asked to serve one eight-hour shift, or two four-hour shifts over two days. It is estimated that the walking survey will require at least four teams of two to three people each.

For more information or to volunteer for the walking survey, you can contact the city of Cairo.

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