Downtown Highlights

Quick Overview

  • Downtown Ottawa has been transformed from a “concrete desert” with empty storefronts and crumbling buildings and no greenery at all to a beautiful and vibrant destination for unique shopping and dining. Check out “before and after” views in the Downtown Photo Gallery. 

 

  • This transformation began in 2009 with an aggressive streetscaping and beautification effort which has filled the downtown with many tree and plant beds, hanging baskets, planters and window boxes filled with blooming flowers.

 

 

  • Due in part to its downtown transformation, Ottawa has won national America In Bloom awards for:
    • Championships in its 2014 and 2017 population categories. 
    • Most Dynamic Transformation of a Downtown Streetscape
    • 2017 National Championship for Heritage Preservation, and the
  • American Horticulture Society’s Community Involvement Award.

  

  • Washington Park in downtown Ottawa is the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate in 1858 marked by original heroic sized bronze statues of Lincoln and Douglas.  The Park is now a National Historic District
  •  Virtually all of downtown is included in the Ottawa Historic Commercial District (156 qualifying structures) which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

  • Located within easy driving distance from the Chicago area. Just 80 miles from downtown Chicago.
  • Only seven miles from Starved Rock State Park which attracts 2.5 million visitors each year. Ottawa is known as the Gateway to Starved Rock Country.
  • Tourism is growing rapidly in Ottawa is tourism supported by the full service Ottawa Visitors Center  Tourism fuels the quickly growing downtown shopping and dining scene. 
  • The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway begins its nearly 300 mile journey through the Illinois River Valley in Ottawa.

 

  • Our economic growth has been fueled by incentives, including:
    • Federal Historic Tax Credits
    • Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District
    • Ottawa Enterprise Zone
    • Ottawa Façade Improvement Program
    • Ottawa Revolving Loan Fund.