Champaign seeking public input on multiuse plaza downtown

Champaign seeking public input on multiuse plaza downtown

CHAMPAIGN — City planners need your help, in five words or less.

At hand is the parking lot at the corner of Neil and Washington streets downtown. It's being redeveloped into a multiuse plaza, and this is the latest call for public input during planning.

Planourplaza.com just launched an interactive feature asking "what's your vision" for an active downtown plaza, in five words or less.

Senior city planner Lacey Rains Lowe said the words should focus on ideas, notions and feelings. She said the space should be physical, cultural and behavioral — not just something eye-pleasing.

"People can say this is the feature I want, this is how I want to feel (in the plaza) or this is the activity I want to do in the space," Rains Lowe said. "We want this project to celebrate our unique identity, but we've got to find out what that is first."

Champaign is working with the Columbus, Ohio-based consulting firm MKSK on this city-owned lot outside the Orpheum Children's Museum. Rains Lowe said initial public input started being gathered this summer and should wrap up around the beginning of November.

Since the online feature recently launched, Rains Lowe said she hasn't looked through responses yet. These are some plaza ideas she said were repeatedly mentioned in other input sessions:

— A shaded outdoor workplace with chargers.

— An interactive water feature.

— Shaded outdoor seating areas.

— Greenery and landscaping.

At C-U Oktoberfest on Saturday, city representatives will be at the main tent to formally announce the five-word feature. For passers-by, Rains Lowe said there will be an activity involving five words of input.

Creative activities at public-gathering events, including C-U Days and Pridefest, have been a common input technique so far. At farmers markets, Rains Lowe said the city passes out coloring sheets for drawing an ideal plaza.

"Saying 'please come to our government input meeting' isn't as successful as taking the opportunity to people where they are," Rains Lowe said. "But we will do some input meetings, especially as we move forward."

Moving forward includes creating a draft design and bringing it back out for more public input, Rains Lowe said. And a full input survey will appear on the plaza's website in the future.

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dpelaf568 wrote on October 06, 2017 at 10:10 am

Park with grass and trees

dpelaf568 wrote on October 06, 2017 at 10:10 am

Park with grass and trees

pattsi wrote on October 06, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Parkng in downtown Champaign is getting more and more difficult for anyone with mobility issues. The ensuing conversation about this proposal and space needs to take into account the loss of more centrally located parking spaces. The parking deck is not convenient, unless, and maybe, if one uses a motorized wheel chair. There are no designated handicapped parking spaces on the street. Since downtown over the years has morphed away from being an area of interest for all ages, but for a select sub population with disregard for mobility issues, it might be useful to engage the members of the sub populations that .have mobility issues during the design process.

Here is a resource for designing cities for all  http://www.880cities.org/

Here is a second one   https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2012/01/8-80-problem-designing-cities-...

Feltrino wrote on October 06, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Agreed.  "A shaded outdoor workplace with chargers" will get much more use year 'round than say an accessible parking lot.  "An interactive water feature" will look nice November through April.  "Shaded outdoor seating areas" might help to brace users from the wind chill in the winter months.

Take away the parking and I may never go downtown. 

rsp wrote on October 06, 2017 at 4:10 pm

I think they need to start with how they plan for this to be used. Taking "features" and designing around them is backwards to me. What's the point of the plaza? One of the things they talked about was so people could just have a place to sit. Look how much space is given over to restaurants. Sometimes it makes it hard to get down the sidewalk. It would need to be separate from them. There is traffic so something to block the noise, landscaping, not more noise with water. Some artwork, not overwhelming. Interesting. They suggested events of some kind so room for that to set up. Seating areas, maybe not what is expected but functional. Large rocks can define areas and provide seating while looking natural.

Something that's about this area. Would be nice to know how much area they are talking about.

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