Marlin to Urbana residents: Let's hear your ideas for Lincoln Square

Marlin to Urbana residents: Let's hear your ideas for Lincoln Square

URBANA — If you have an idea for the future of Lincoln Square, Urbana Mayor Diane Marlin is all ears.

On Tuesday night, Marlin launched what she called a community-wide process to re-envision the complex situated at the heart of Urbana's downtown.

In 1964, Lincoln Square was built as one of the first fully enclosed shopping malls in Illinois.

Many longtime area residents remember peering into the mall's fish-filled aquarium, streaming into Carson Pirie Scott on Dollar Day or showing exhibits at the annual 4-H Club-O-Rama.

For another generation, the mall brings back memories of shopping at the Herberger's department store, picking up vegetables at the Common Ground Food Co-op and experiencing the beehive of activity at the Saturday Market at the Square.

"These days, some people are riding their bikes through the mall," Marlin said.

On Tuesday, Marlin told the city council it is time to re-envision Lincoln Square once more for the people of the 21st century.

"We want to think about what we want to see in this site across the street from the city building," Marlin said. "And we are going to start by listening to the community, what they like about it and what they don't like about it."

Inspired by what landscape architects, transportation planners and design professionals had to say about Lincoln Square as one of a handful of case studies at the Mayor's Institute on City Design in Indianapolis, Marlin said she became more determined than ever before to address the mall's future.

"I came away with the conviction that we should stop focusing on individual little pieces and focus on the whole thing: the big picture," Marlin said. "The city has an important stake in this. I want to make a space over there that works for the community."

Marlin said the professionals at the institute gave their recommendations for the future Lincoln Square:

— Any type of new vision for Lincoln Square, they said, should explore the connectivity between the university and the high school/middle school campus, Crystal Lake Park, the two hospital campuses and the mall's neighbors.

— Marlin said the professionals agreed, "You've got to liberate that hotel from the mall."

— The professionals suggested finding education, research, government, arts and entertainment uses for the site.

— There was a consensus that the property has too much surface parking, some of which might be replaced by a civic green or public plaza.

"This is very exciting," said Alderman Dennis Roberts. "Re-envisioning this is a tremendous idea. These things can revitalize the downtown."

"Malls are dying around the country," said Alderman Aaron Ammons. "What sort of things could be more vibrant to attract more people to the area?"

The next step will be a public visioning process, expected to run through at least May.

Urbana residents, city business owners, university students and people of all ages will have a chance to brainstorm their ideas and give their views on the site's future by way of social media, the internet and in person.

Armed with the ideas of the public at large, Marlin said the city can then begin the process of converting those dreams into reality.

"There is no plan right now. This is the beginning of a process," Marlin said.

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IlliniwekMerica wrote on January 17, 2018 at 10:01 am

Giant indoor go-kart track. GET IT DONE

selkie wrote on January 17, 2018 at 2:01 pm

It would be nice to see Lincoln Square renovated to be like ReTuna Återbruksgalleria [ReTuna Recycling Galleria] in Sweden, an eco-friendly mall of reclaimed goods. It is unlike any thrift place one would encounter here!
Yes, it might be difficult to get a project like this off the ground. But is something that would suit this community very well, I think.

welive wrote on January 17, 2018 at 6:01 pm

As a nearby property owner here are a couple good thoughts.

1 implode the whole thing including the dump Formerly known as Jumers.

2 level the whole block with TNT and open green street? Look at downtown champaign when they opened up Neil st?.

Any other thought besides start fresh would be just a waste of more money.

This place has suked up enough of my tax money.