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.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on May 28, 2014 at 6:05 pm
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If I were them, I'd make Race the western boundary, and keep Vine to the east.

Mike Howie wrote on May 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm
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Thank you for pointing that out. 

Mike Howie

online editor

itazurakko wrote on May 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Heh. Didn't you hear? These are the new buses that use wormhole travel...

 

Seriously though it's a good idea if they can make such a thing in the central area.  Already the area around Lincoln Square/Courthouse sort of functions as a terminal, and a proper terminal would be nice.

 

Heck, it's nice no longer transferring at Hill and Neil outside in Champaign, for that matter...

pattsi wrote on May 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Just a thought during the early stages of these conversations between Urbana and MTD--Since the county has land in this area, would it not be useful for the county to be part of this conversation before it gets too far along.
We are just beginning a jail planning process and funding a re-entry program. It seems that this might be a perfect mix for a major collaboration to benefit every citizen in the county, even think of moving county offices into the proposed space--county government and services are on the eastern edge of Urbana. It might also ease travel burdens to have social/community justice services that are spread all over the county within a centralized locations. The land and downtown jail are potential aspects of "thinking outside the box."