CHAMPAIGN — City officials hope a striping project on Washington Street in downtown Champaign will be a bridge for that area as new businesses take hold.
Varsity Striping Co. began work between Neil and Walnut streets on Monday. Workers will change parallel parking to diagonal parking and add seven spaces along the north side of Washington Street.
It is an initial step in helping to bridge the block north of Washington Street with the rest of downtown, and city officials think that area will be one of the next growth areas for Champaign's core.
"Those businesses have always been sort of isolated by a highly trafficked, busy street from the rest of downtown," said Planning and Development Director Bruce Knight.
Diagonal parking helps slow traffic and facilitate pedestrian crossing, Knight added.
CompleteCare Pharmacy opened on the first floor of the Hickory Building this year, making it the newest business on a budding block. It joined Simply Amish and the Preservation and Conservation Association's store as shops on the northern fringe of the downtown area.
"We believe one of the next growth areas will be pushing further north," Knight said, and bridging that block with the rest of the downtown is one of the first steps.
Knight said there are probably more projects down the line — curb bump-outs and sidewalk work among them — but the more extensive work is still a ways out.
"This was a simple, kind of low-cost way to take an initial step," Knight said.
Public works technician John Rose said the striping work is expected to be finished this week. It is part of a larger street striping project that will run the length of Washington Street to the railroad tracks.
City officials will follow up within the next few weeks to install new parking meters in front of the diagonal parking spaces. The existing meters have been bagged to eliminate confusion.