WOOD RIVER - Downtown Wood River may be expanding with streetscape improvements around nearby businesses following a discussion between City Officials about a grant opportunity worth up to $2 million.

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At Monday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Steve Palen said there’s currently a “downtown grant” of up to $2 million on the table that he’d like to pursue for the city’s downtown area - however, he said the city may be better off asking for about half that amount.

“The max you can ask for is 2 million, but they’re only giving out 20 grants for the entire state,” Palen said. “My opinion is, if we ask for a project more around the $1 million mark, we may have more likelihood to be approved, but it’s competitive.”

While the grant would require 25% in matching funds regardless, Palen said the Wood River Business Alliance may be able to help supply those funds. He then asked city officials whether or not they’d like to pursue grant opportunities, and if so, whether to improve the existing downtown area or expand it.

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“I think there’s two choices: one is take what is kind of considered downtown now, from Old St. Louis Road to 2nd Street [and] improve it - lighting, the pavements, the parking lots in the back,” Palen said. “Or, as we’ve talked about in the past, expanding downtown all the way to 4th Street, so you include those businesses between 2nd and 4th - put in the decorative lighting, sidewalks, make the road similar to what it is in downtown.”

Councilmen Bill Dettmers and Scott Tweedy voiced their support for installing decorative lighting, sidewalks, and other streetscape improvements to make the area between 2nd and 4th Street feel more consistent with the rest of downtown Wood River. Dettmers added the new 4th Street boundary would be more logical given its alignment with an area TIF district.

Palen said the city’s prior streetscape projects - including “Phase One” from Old St. Louis Avenue to Wood River Avenue and “Phase Two” from Wood River Avenue to 2nd Street - will likely raise their chances of approval, as this could be seen as a Phase Three or “natural continuation” of those projects.

While no official action was taken on Monday, Councilman David Ayres said he’d like to see all proposed options presented “in print” before making a decision.

A full recording of the Wood River City Council meeting is available at the top of this story or on Riverbender.com/video. All other Wood River City Council meetings can be watched live or on demand on Riverbender.com/video, or on demand with your smart TV on the Riverbender.com ROKU channel and on the Riverbender.com YouTube channel.

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