At the end of November we did a feature on the ghost town of Cairo, Illinois whose images of decay not only haunted us, but also many members of reddit’s community. The town became a buzz topic and creative spirits who hang out on the social news website started to come up with ideas that might help the town see a revival. This thread for Project Cairo is now filled with research, including a substantial amount of information about Ace of Cups, a not-for-profit coffee shop that closed this fall.
Ace of Cups
The owners of Ace of Cups had similar dreams of reviving Cairo, or at least creating a hip hangout for citizens and passersby to grab a cup of coffee, rummage through vintage clothes, read a book, or create some art. While it was open, the shop accepted donations (money, books, clothes) and was run by volunteers who generally stayed on for a month. Sadly, this just didn’t pay the bills and this fall, they were forced to shut their doors.
A Reddit Hostel?
After the building went up for sale for $19,000, some members of Project Cairo saw it as the ultimate space to create a reddit hostel. The thread shows some of these readers are dreamers, some are very logical, but together the redditers are problem solving, getting excited about ideas, and working toward collaborating on a shared goal and action plan
PROJECT CAIRO (from reddit)
Project Cairo is an idea to rebuild the heavily neglected and damaged city of Cairo, IL and turn it into a thriving Reddit real-life community. Cairo is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and is the southernmost town of Illinois.
For more check out the ProjectCairo Wiki.
Generous VN Community Members
Angel, one of the people who commented on our Cairo post, was incredibly keen to help out, and came up with a stream of creative ideas, and expressed a desire to collaborate with others in making a positive contribution.
“It would be a great economic experiment to perhaps salvage the metal, and some of that industrial machinery to save another town. Kind of like an organ transf er, for towns,” he suggested. “Also maybe creating a town size museum and returning that land to its natural origin. Or farmland, if we subsidize it, we can make it worth it for someone to use the land to perhaps feed people for free.”
“We should honor its ghost,” Angel added. “Without those towns at those periods our cities and society would be drastically different.”
From the Project Cairo wiki:
We are currently working out the specifics of a 5 year tiered plan that involves a non-profit grocery, a self sustaining agriculture community, local education and job training, promoting startup opportunities, and making real estate investments, among other things. Funding will primarily come from the reddit community in cooperation with the local population, but other options are being researched as well. The overall goal is to improve the economy of the city by starting local businesses and attracting a larger population. The project will also be properly documented in a number of ways for educational and commercial purposes.
If successful, the project can hopefully serve as an example and model for similar endeavors elsewhere, and provide knowledge for people on how to repeat the process. Other less serious but more entertaining reasons includes the fact that Cairo seems like a perfect place to set up a zombie invasion defense base; it feels a lot like playing a settlers/farming LARPG. It’s kind of like terraforming a planet and making it inhabitable, and it reminds people a lot of the thrilling settings of a post-apocalyptic survival scenario, and Silent Hill…
Creative Ideas to Help Cairo
Now on Reddit people are getting serious about making a difference in Cairo, offering to move there if need be to help the town prosper once more — or at least revive it a little.
Let’s Work Together!
At Visual News we’re looking for creative ideas to help out. We were recently inspired by photographer Dave Jordano who donated 100% of the profits from a series of photos to Ace of Cups. He included a brief backgrounder to entice people to give to, which included some powerful stats and a message of hope:
“Cairo has the highest unemployment in the state of Illinois and 60% of the children living there live under the poverty level, ranking it the 16th highest in the nation. The Ace of Cups is a refuge for a community in need by providing a used book and movie library, game room, crafts activities, open mike and poetry readings, free movie and bingo nights, live music events, and above all a safe haven for kids and teens to hang out in.”
Below: An aerial view of Cairo
The Canadian Version: Ocean Falls
Cairo isn’t the only place redditers want to revive. A similar initiative called The Ocean Falls Project aims to rebuild Ocean Falls in British Columbia, Canada, and “turn it into a thriving model of a modern sustainable community.”
We love the conscious power of online communities we’re seeing, and are eager to hear your thoughts on Project Cairo, and similar initiatives that inspire you, in the comments section below.