City, MTD seeking site for transit facility

City, MTD seeking site for transit facility

Project could include residential, retail development as well

URBANA — City and transit district officials are working together to find a spot in downtown Urbana for a transit facility, and they are hoping to partner with a private developer to maybe include residential or retail space, too.

Nothing concrete is in the plans yet, but Urbana and Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District planners want people to know they are looking together for a potential site or proposals from private developers in downtown Urbana.

The ultimate goal: an off-street transit facility, "similar to the Illinois Terminal transit facility, but not at that scale," said Libby Tyler, the city's community development director. Promoting infill development along the Broadway Avenue or Race Street corridors, officials say, makes things more efficient for all agencies.

"I think it would be fantastic because it introduces new, built developments," Tyler said. "We have some surface parking lots and under-utilized properties in the downtown. This would provide some infill."

That's at the center of MTD's interest, too.

"Beside the operational aspect, the additional goal for us is to encourage infill development," said Karl Gnadt, MTD Director of Market Development. "That makes it more efficient and effective for us to provide our services than if there's fringe development."

The plans now are very nebulous. What the development might include depends on private developers' proposals, and it is not something officials think will be turned around in even a year or two. The agreement between the city and the transit district, which will go to the Urbana City Council on Monday and the MTD board of trustees on May 28, is a five-year agreement.

"The timeline is so loose, I can't even really say there is a timeline," Gnadt said. "We're in the very, very early stages of this conversation. There are really even no concrete conceptual plans at this point."

Gnadt said it's more of a five- to 10-year project.

The idea goes beyond just a transit facility. Officials hope it might also include residential or commercial opportunities. That would be a boon for downtown Urbana and the MTD, officials say.

"You could argue that the Illinois Terminal did that for Champaign, for at least that part of downtown Champaign," Tyler said.

And more residential and commercial traffic in downtown Urbana would mean more ridership around that hub for the MTD. It could also help accomplish city and MTD goals of getting more people to commute in ways other than driving, Tyler said.

"Anything we can do to promote those values and those community choices we think will be beneficial," Tyler said. "The metrics show we're on the right track."

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