As more seniors and empty nesters seek to reclaim the downtown lifestyle of their youth, small towns across America are experiencing a second chance at economic vitality.
"Urban blight long ago descended on Alton, as shops and factories closed. But the downtown experienced new activity in the 1970s, when dozens of antique shops opened in historic buildings, and again in the 1990s, when a casino was tied up to the riverbank, spurring more bars and restaurants. Most visitors today are day-trippers or come for the nightlife and gambling. The upstairs apartment at Tony's has been converted to a banquet room, and the restaurant has expanded into the old Young's Department Store.
Now people like the Vetimiglias are betting residential conversions will pump new life into old buildings in Alton, which is home to about 30,000 people. This spring they will move into Mississippi Landing, a 10-loft complex in the 1921 Mississippi Lime building, formerly the Illinois Terminal Railroad Building; one of their sons is buying a loft next door."