Champaign council OKs studies of proposed downtown redevelopment

Champaign council OKs studies of proposed downtown redevelopment

CHAMPAIGN — A downtown redevelopment project of unprecedented size took another step forward Tuesday night after the Champaign City Council approved preliminary studies on it.

The proposed $150 million mixed-used project, headed by developer Hans Grotelueschen, would modify the Illinois Terminal and surrounding area. It would include a hotel and conference center below high-rise apartments, an office building, parking structures, additional bays for MTD and intercity buses, increased Illinois Terminal office space and a $50 million sports facility with three sheets of ice for hockey and community skating.

Bruce Knight, the city's planning and development director, said this project could "kick-start" the city's new downtown fringe TIF district, which covers the project area, and enhance tourism.

In other business, the city council gave a unanimous initial thumbs-up Tuesday to a four-part financing plan for parts of three stormwater drainage projects that have a combined $54.6 million price tag.

The projects at hand are two phases of construction for the West Washington Street watershed, completing improvements to drainage in Boneyard Creek's north branch and property acquisition to aid with infrastructure improvements for the Garden Hills neighborhood.

In that order, according to city finance director Kay Nees, they cost $23.8 million, $25.9 million and $4.9 million.

The 4-year-old stormwater utility fee currently provides 30 percent of the revenue in the city's stormwater-management fund, and public works director Dennis Schmidt said it's only used for operation and maintenance fees.

Depending on a residential property's classification, Schmidt said the utility fee ranges from $4.94 to $13.64 per month. Nonresidential properties pay monthly fees of $5.42 per equivalent residential unit, which amounts to 3,478 square feet.

The newly proposed financing plan, which will be voted on once more by the council, received generally positive reaction from council members and the many citizens who publicly commented on it Tuesday night, with some tweaks proposed.

Courtney Kouzmanoff, a financial analyst for the city, said the four parts of the proposed plan are: two increases to the stormwater utility fee, a new financial policy, debt insurance and a program of credits and incentives.

— A 6 percent increase to the stormwater utility fee would start Jan. 1, 2019, with another 6 percent increase following on Jan. 1, 2021.

— City officials said the city council could benefit from a financial policy that has them reassess the stormwater utility fee every two years.

— The debt insurance plan includes a total of $29.6 million in General Obligation bonds over two fiscal years, $18.4 million in Illinois Environmental Protection Agency loans for the West Washington Street work and using $6.6 million from the stormwater management fund.

— The credit and incentives program includes nine options that range from $27 to $265 in incentives and 15 percent to 50 percent in credit. Kouzmanoff said the credits would be reoccurring, while the incentives would be one-time payments. The credits and incentives include rain barrels, rain garden and private detention maintenance.

This last part of the plan received a bit of skepticism.

"We can barely get 17 percent of people to go out and vote," said council member Tom Bruno. "So it may not be realistic."

Schmidt said the amount of residents currently using credits and incentives "is not a huge amount."

"I think the credits run around $60,000 annually, and we've done incentive payments of around $15,000 total," Schmidt said.

Council member Clarissa Nickerson Fourman noted that some people just won't be able to afford credits or incentives, no matter how small. She and some other council members suggested that the incentives be modified before the next council vote.

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Automan wrote on August 23, 2017 at 10:08 am
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Thanks Peter Fox, but no thanks.

champaign61821 wrote on August 23, 2017 at 10:08 am

The downtown proposal was submitted by Hans Grotelueschen. 

Automan wrote on August 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm
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Right, and Grotelueschen appears to have rejected Peter Fox's idea to build the skating rink next to the State Farm Center. 

catsrule wrote on August 23, 2017 at 10:08 am

The tallest building the rendition is less impressive than the one which appeared in a prior rendition, likely due to the imposition of the ridiculous ordinance limiting the height of high rises in Champaign. This ordinance satisfied biases and polemic arguments made by city planning staff during their testimony before the city council (i.e. such as the argument that restricting heights discourages the use of stilts" and statement by one planner who said he supported a limit of 17 floors in height as it "seems right" for Champaign). The ordinance is inconsistent with market demand which precipitated the recent building of Campustown high-rises and, I remit albeit anecdotally, what the majority of residents support. Planning staff will reference the legally required public notice which afforded a venue for public comment, but what they won't tell you is that these venues usually receive statistically insignificant numbers of responses and are biased based on how the notifications are written. The Green Street and Burnham high rises wouldn't have been built absent a public demand.

PSL wrote on August 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

I remember stilt buildings being cited as a reason to eliminate parking requirements, not to justify height limits

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Downtown is rife with crime.   if this is approved the City must approve additional police officers to patrol the downtown. That would mean an increase in the staff.  WHy would anyone go to downtown much past 9pm.  The risk of catching lead is too great.

Frank LLoyd Duany wrote on August 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Yo developers!  For the same $150 million, can't we get top quality urban architecture rather than more mediocrity (M#1, M#2)??  Hint:  You can!  Check out architectural firms outside of C-U to get your money's worth and a better product for our community.  :-)

catsrule wrote on August 23, 2017 at 1:08 pm

From the May 20, 2016 report to the City Council from Dorothy Ann David: "..Buildings raised on stilts above unscreened ground level parking are perceived to be less attractive than buildings that come all the way to the ground or at least screen parking in some way" and "...Regulating the bulk of buildings through height and setbacks may encourage developers to avoid placing buildings on stilts above surface parking..."  Planning staff know that buildings built with stilts can have screened or concealed parking, the bias is clearly to limit the height and size of buildings.  Campustown would benefit from and deserves a development like the Peora Twin Towers Place.  Given the popularity of recently built highrises as well as projected increases in UIUC enrollment and Champaign's populaton growth, the Campustown area can support a 30 plus floor project.