Renewed hope for Collins Street
Herald-News editorial April 6, 2012 10:16PM
Updated: May 9, 2012 9:47AM
A tired breeze whispers through the gravestones of an ancient cemetery these days on Collins Street.
When a symbolic street starts to die, a piece of the town can die with it.
Collins Street once was among the liveliest thoroughfares in Joliet, the home of a state prison and a massive steel mill. It was a street of a thousand dreams — hopeful ones in which families built their lives through honest toil, and broken ones as life goals were derailed because of criminal conduct. Commerce and corrections in one place.
But all that started to end 30 years ago when the 54-acre U.S. Steel plant shut its doors. A decade ago, the limestone fortress known as the Joliet Correctional Center did likewise. That moment marked a so-far irreversible turning point for Collins Street and, as much as civic ambition yearns for redemption, the old buildings tumbled into decay.
Every few years, as they did last month, Joliet leaders send out reports and gather for optimistic pronouncements that “something” good could happen anytime now to revitalize Collins Street — that once serious plans and money arrive, the street will return to its former glory.
In this pleasant dream state, the future of the old street will become some version of what it once was with new homes, retail and light-industrial businesses and maybe sports fields and a park.
As for us, we are happy to pass along such enthusiasm. We’re certainly not against dreams. As the song says, “if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
But year after year, the same forlorn buildings, rusting metal and the dirty water trickling down failing walls endure on Collins Street, as city leaders do. They see hope just down the street. We hope the city fathers are right.
Collins Street needs a savior, likely several of them. We wonder who will be willing to spend millions there. Who has the nerve and energy to redevelop what has become an urban cemetery?
While Joliet waits, the ghostly winds curl past the street’s gardens of stone, seeming to whisper as voices of the past. What is their message for the future?