MTD, Urbana OK potential downtown project
The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board Wednesday OK'd an agreement with the city of Urbana that could lead to a redevelopment project in downtown Urbana.
The Urbana City Council has already approved the agreement, which MTD director Bill Volk described as "somewhat open-ended at this point."
The unspecified project would include a transfer facility for MTD buses and might potentially have residential, community/educational and other mixed uses, according to a memo to the MTD board.
"There's no specific project at this point," Volk said. "We will be working with the city as well as other interested parties in looking at potential sites."
The development would be somewhere within an area bounded by Illinois Street, University Avenue, Race Street and Vine Street. The area includes Lincoln Square Village, which opened 50 years ago as the first fully enclosed shopping mall in downstate Illinois.
Mike Royse of Champaign, who helped develop the One Main project in downtown Champaign, is a consultant to the MTD for the downtown Urbana project, Volk said.
"This would be mobility-enhanced development where you would increase activity to encourage more walking, more biking, more use of buses," Volk said.
"This is not going to happen in two months, four months, six months. We envision this is going to be a long-term effort," he said. "Redevelopment is not easy. It's much easier to go out on the edge of town and build something on those green spaces. But redeveloping the cores is expensive and requires some determination.
"You can see the benefits in downtown Champaign of what the redevelopment has meant here. We're hoping we can be a part of improving downtown Urbana and maybe doing something similar."
In other MTD board business Wednesday:
— It approved a separate agreement with the city of Champaign to have it provide general legal services for the next year at a cost of $20,000. Longtime MTD Corporation Counsel Jack Waaler is retiring; for the first phase of the contract, he will work with Champaign attorneys on MTD-related matters.
— It was told that lawmakers had not approved legislation sought by the MTD and other downstate transit systems to limit to inflation the annual increase in operating assistance. That means that the MTD still could get 10 percent more from the state for the year beginning July 1. Volk said it's possible the issue could be reopened in the Legislature's veto session after the November election.
— It learned that April ridership was almost 1.5 million passengers, or 7.2 percent above a year earlier. Ridership so far this year is 9.4 percent above a year ago.