Commuters in Belleville, Ill., now have a bright, vibrant pedestrian plaza with live greenery thanks to the REALTOR® Association of Southwestern Illinois (RASI). Working in partnership with Citizens for Modern Transit, AARP, the St. Clair County Transit District, and the City of Belleville, RASI helped to create a greenspace/arts plaza around the Belleville Transit Center for commuters to enjoy.
The original site was dilapidated and drab. “When we arrived late last year, we were faced with a lot of grey space,” said Kimberly Cella, executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit.
RASI and their team of collaborators worked with the theme “Art Grows in Belleville” to transform the concrete area between the bus bays and the MetroLink train entrance into an interactive, colorful, and engaging space. New custom bike racks now offer cycling commuters who wish to “park and ride” a green alternative. Brightly colored red-and-yellow shade structures provide shelter from the sun. New bright-blue benches expand seating options.
And all throughout the pedestrian plaza, there is eye-catching artwork and live greenery to engage the senses. A swirling, colorful mural leads from the crosswalk to the plaza. Artwork by award-winning painter and mixed media artist Genevieve Esson adorns the windows of the MetroLink entrance. Plants and permanent planters provided by RASI and a $5,000 NAR Placemaking Grant added a touch of nature to liven up the concrete space. RASI members also raised additional funds and participated in a community planting day to install the flowers and plants.
After months of hard work, the revitalized transit center was unveiled on June 26, 2022 with a celebration that included remarks by local officials and stakeholders, special recognition of local high school volunteers, and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event was capped off by a live musical festival featuring local bands.
The “Art Grows in Belleville” project is the second placemaking project RASI has done in collaboration with Citizens for Modern Transit, AARP, and St. Clair County Transit District. The first was a greenspace/arts plaza at the Emerson Park Metro Station in East St. Louis, Ill., in 2021. With help from a $5,000 NAR Placemaking Grant, RASI contributed pavement art to the project that told the story of jazz and the blues in East St. Louis. “The transformation at the Emerson Park Transit Center and now the Belleville Transit Center in St. Clair County have been really remarkable,” said Herb Simmons, Chair of St. Clair County Transit District’s Board of Trustees. “Aside from being visually appealing, each has helped to further foster community. We look forward to partnering on other transformations in the future.”
RASI staff and members also chose the Belleville project with the hope of assisting an underserved area. The transit site is predominantly used by minority communities for their commuting needs. “The goal of the project was to help with beautification and to make the site more welcoming,” said Ron Deedrick, Local Government Affairs Director for the Illinois REALTORS®. “These days more commuters are using mass transit to help with high fuel costs—which disproportionately affect minority communities. We wanted to help with renovation and make the site more attractive to commuters in the region.”