Part of former dry cleaners site could remain surface parking lot

Part of former dry cleaners site could remain surface parking lot

URBANA — Part of the former Denny's Dry Cleaners site in downtown Urbana could remain a surface parking lot for the foreseeable future if city council members this week agree to release a lien on the property.

Courier Cafe owner Allen Strong has been leasing the property at 115 and 119 N. Race St. for customer parking since the dry cleaners and an attached apartment building was demolished in 2011. If the city releases its lien on the properties, Strong plans to buy the asphalt-paved lots and continue using them for parking.

City council members will meet as the committee of the whole to discuss the plan at 7 p.m. today in the Urbana City Building, 400 S. Vine St.

The Denny's site includes five properties — 111 to 119 N. Race St. — and the city has maintained a lien on all five to recover the $204,000 it paid to tear down the old dry cleaners.

City officials took on the demolition project when the building became unsafe and the owners could not pay for the demolition.

If they release the lien on the two lots Strong plans to buy, the full lien would remain on the other three lots.

The Denny's site is contaminated — enough so that JSM Development put a planned redevelopment of the site "on hold" when it discovered it, according to city documents. An investigation revealed that "full redevelopment of the property would be cost prohibitive due to the presence of dry-cleaning solvents."

When the city demolished the building, workers paved the lot to prevent water from soaking into the ground and spreading the contamination. Shortly thereafter, Strong began using the lot for parking at the Courier Cafe.

He plans to continue when he buys two of the five Denny's lots, according to city documents. He also plans to beautify the area with landscaping and a mural on the north side of the Courier Cafe building, and he has agreed to grant the city an easement along the Boneyard Creek as it plans future creek beautification.

By releasing the lien, according to city documents, "the city is promoting activity in the area, strengthening two successful downtown businesses, and enabling a local, responsible property owner to take on maintenance of the property."

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