Top of the Morning, June 9, 2014

Top of the Morning, June 9, 2014

Two years after a pedestrian mall was built in downtown Champaign, a much larger shopping center opened less than 2 miles away.

One survives.

Market Place Mall opened north of Interstate 74's Neil Street interchange in the spring of 1976.

Not everyone was pleased.

The late Hiram Paley, then the mayor of Urbana, was worried. A report at the time said business at Urbana's enclosed shopping center, Lincoln Square, would drop by 20 percent after Market Place was in full operation.

"That's a mighty big chunk," Paley said in September 1975. "It'll hurt a lot of businessmen, and it'll hurt the city's revenue. We are concerned about downtown Urbana's going downhill. We don't want that to happen."

Across town, Champaign's city manager was more optimistic.

"Any activity of that sort is reflective of a positive economic thought," said Gene Miller, "and that, as a general indicator, is good. ... I feel the total, citywide effect will be positive."

And Paley's take wasn't entirely negative:

"It may also bring in additional people from outside our present trade area, some of whom may actually find their way in to downtown Urbana or downtown Champaign," he said.

Now, going on 40 years later, many of the original tenants are no longer there. Anchor stores have come and gone.

But Market Place was projected to produce $500,000 in sales taxes for Champaign, which annexed the property before the mall opened.

This year's property-tax bill for the whole place? About $1.88 million.

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