What does the future hold for Belvidere? That was the million-dollar question Boone County citizens, officials and business owners were trying to determine. Although no one can predict the future, this stateline community is gearing up for some big changes.
It's known as the "City of Murals.” The Belvidere community is working to continue to make the beauty of those paintings around the city come to life. Belvidere is one of the fastest growing communities in the state. In fact, the Mayor predicts that when the special census is completed, Belvidere's population will hit 25,000.
Staggering growth means big changes. That's what a group of citizens, leaders, businesses and elected officials were discussing at a community growth forum Saturday.
Participants were split into several groups to take a look at the comprehensive land use plan adopted in 1999 and discuss strategies and keys to success in different areas, including transportation, education, quality of life, agriculture and commercial development.
Small business owner Elaine Huska was sitting at the downtown deterioration table engaged in talk of ways the city can revitalize the charm of the downtown district. One of things the downtown deterioration committee was talking about was transforming the downtown Belvidere into a historic district and providing tax incentives for local businesses.
Belvidere Mayor Fred Brereton says the community needs to capitalize on the growth. Now, with talks of a passenger rail service on the table, economic growth may be rolling in at full speed, so preparation is key.
Mayor Brereton says, “Passenger rail service will transition this whole region. It's the wave of the future. We had an opportunity to ride the rail last week and it was interesting to see. We're optimistic that it will happen. It's just a matter of time."
Elaine Huska moved back to Belvidere after 20 years of being away. Twenty years from now, Huska will likely see the city of murals a bit differently, the character of the city still intact, but significantly more people rejoicing in its beauty.