Champaign residents air concerns with plans for Neil Street corridor

Champaign residents air concerns with plans for Neil Street corridor

CHAMPAIGN — City planners on Wednesday addressed continued resident confusion about Champaign's Neil Street corridor renovation planning.

The corridor stretches from Interstate 74 to downtown Champaign and was approved for a $100,000 face-lift by the Champaign City Council in June. City staff and Ratio Architects are now preparing the project design, but the actual physical changes will take several years.

Input gathering on the design started last fall, and three drafts of looks for the corridor were released recently.

The city's planning and development director, Bruce Knight, had to reassure attendees of Wednesday's Plan Commission meeting that there aren't plans to tear down their homes, although some drafts say otherwise.

"(The drafts) are general, big picture," Knight said. "We're not proposing any specific takings of anybody's properties."

In response to that confusion, attendee Rick Weibl said, "This is a residential neighborhood. If you want to make it a commercial district, then be upfront about that."

Knight also addressed attendees who said their comments from the initial public input sessions weren't included in the draft designs.

"Yes, these three scenarios don't address all of the comments provided," Knight said. "We'll craft a preferred alternative on all of these comments, and there will be another crack at it."

It was already in the city's plan to use feedback on the three drafts and formulate a new design, Ratio's Lesley Roth said. That's slated to happen in March, with a final council vote on the new design in April.

But some attendees said that's moving too fast.

"This needs more input," Dawn Blackman said. Neil Street "has a neighborhood and community — it's unfair to use it just as a corridor."

Senior city planner Jeff Marino said if there's public dissatisfaction with the narrowed-down design in March, the council vote could be pushed.

Most of the meeting attendees said this project shouldn't disturb the integrity and character of neighborhoods surrounding Neil Street. Instead, they said, it should address neighborhood safety concerns, including speed limits, bus stops, road quality and crosswalks.

"It's easy to look at this information and think a plan is forthcoming soon, but it's intended to stimulate comment," plan commissioner Don Elmore said to attendees. "If you want to say you have a community, then that's what we'll hear."

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thisandthat wrote on January 19, 2018 at 12:01 pm

I have to ask why this author is so biased for the city and developers by always siding with them?  The neighborhood residents are not confused.  As a neighbor stated, 'We are informed and aware.  We are concerned about the gaps in the ideas, the unintended consequences in the designs and some failure to be responsive to the feedback. We are not confused."