Official Name of Public Space

Central Park, Downtown Jacksonville

Site Address

Central Park (intersection of State and Main Streets), Jacksonville, Illinois

How will your Levitt AMP [Your City] Music Series reflect the essence of the Levitt AMP Grant Awards?

Jacksonville’s culture and educational environment have always embraced the arts. Local symphony, orchestra, brass bands, dulcimer groups, acclaimed individual performers, and many genres enjoy enthusiastic audiences in Jacksonville. Even the speaker system included in the square restoration shares the joy of music daily. A free concert series will further expose listeners from all walks of life to the importance of music and how it enriches life, expresses emotion, and aids in learning and development. Having felt the devastating economic impact of a deteriorating public place and decades of embarrassment over Urban Renewal’s pitiful results, Jacksonville’s once-shunned historic downtown is now alive with celebratory triumph. Volunteers-turned-community-leaders toiled to transform downtown into a welcoming environment for art, food, and entertainment with small steps and incremental success. They changed the hearts and minds of naysayers while restoring lost hope and civic pride along with streets. Once the epitome of hopelessness and neglect, the heart of Jacksonville now blends art and music with business, creating a vibrant sustainable place to live, work, visit, and play. The Levitt-AMP concert series perfectly reflects the JMS vision, offering everyone the chance to continue celebrating what working together can accomplish in the very place that epitomizes community pride in Jacksonville. Gathering to rejoice a thriving downtown with music seems most fitting!

How will your town or city benefit from the Levitt AMP [Your City] Music Series?

Jacksonville Main Street believes that the arts mean business, and has proven that downtown and the arts augment one another. With the 2016 Levitt AMP Series application, JMS held that a concert series would perfectly underscore downtown's commitment to the arts by showing guests all that downtown had to experience, increasing its attractiveness to new businesses and customers alike. The results were more positive than anyone hoped! Over the 10 week Levitt AMP Series last summer, all businesses reported a significant bump in sales during a season that is notoriously slow for downtown restaurants, shops, and clubs. Out of town concert patrons enjoyed the ambiance and became avid shoppers, while more organizations realized the value in hosting activities downtown and planned their own events for the historic central business district. August even saw two new businesses open downtown, citing vibrant arts and eclectic crowds as critical factors. Revitalization is not a project with a beginning and an end, so Jacksonville Main Street employs a continual process with a comprehensive strategy and evolving objectives. Besides advocating development of a new performing arts center and heritage museum, JMS is planning a business incubator to help promote downtown to future businesses and customers. Continuing the Levitt AMP Concerts will play an important role in making downtown the business and entertainment location of choice with a "wow" factor that separates us from other places.

Describe the site where the free concerts will be held. Explain how the Levitt AMP [Your City] Music Series will play a role in enlivening the selected public space and surrounding areas.

Central Park is the ideal venue for a free concert series. Gorgeous rehabilitated buildings now filled with shops, restaurants, and lofts line the landscaped park providing the perfect setting for musical entertainment that will draw thousands downtown. Its central location in town and the state allow easy access for all. Weekly attendees will delight in the outdoor dining choices and unique shopping experiences as they savor the melodious performances and heritage tourism sights around Jacksonville’s historical and cultural hub. Not long ago, Central Park lay neglected, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and dangerous walkways. JMS volunteers teamed up with the City to transform downtown into a beautifully functional area that pays homage to its rich past with Illinois’ only Charters of Freedom Monument, Lincoln wayside exhibits, plus a Civil War Cannon and monument. The 2-acre park features a sound system and performance pergola facing a sloped grass area for casual viewing, great for community concerts with easily-accessible sidewalks and space for dancing. Sans fixed seating, guests are encouraged to bring blankets and chairs to enjoy the shows. Since restoring the Square, demands for more entertainment options downtown have grown. The Levitt-AMP concert series matches Jacksonville Main Street’s action plan, which relied on results from public re-visioning workshops hosted by a national consultant to clearly identify public music festivals in Central Park as a need.