Urbana seeking developers for vacant downtown block

Urbana seeking developers for vacant downtown block

URBANA — The city is hoping the third time’s the charm for a property it’s owned since 2011.

Urbana issued a request for proposals Thursday for the block north of its City Building and across from the federal courthouse, previously occupied by Urbana True Tires.

Mayor Diane Marlin said there’s already been interest in the site.

“I’m optimistic based on the interest we’ve had” from potential developers, Marlin said.

The city bought the tire shop’s property at 202 S. Vine St. in 2011 for $400,000, completing its purchase of the block, and continued to lease it until 2014. Altogether, the city spent about $950,000 to buy the properties on that block.

After two previous plans fell through, Urbana is now hoping developers can turn that block into a residential mixed-use, multi-story residential or high-density townhouse development, though all proposals will be considered.

“To keep our downtown vibrant, we want to have more residential density near our downtown,” said Brandon Boys, the city’s economic development manager. “We’re excited. There’s a lot of good things happening downtown. It’s a great place to live with a walkable, livable downtown.”

Boys said Urbana doesn’t have a specific price in mind, and any sale would need to be approved by the city council.

The block is within a tax increment financing district and an enterprise zone, so incentives would be available for potential developers, Boys said.

Developers have until April 16 to submit proposals.

This is the third time the city has tried to redevelop this 1.75-acre site, bounded by Elm Street on the north, Green Streets on the South, Urbana Avenue on the east and Vine Street on the west.

In 2011, Urbana developed plans for a six-story, $84 million “Metro Centre” that never came to fruition.

In 2016, Indianapolis-based TWG Development planned to build a four-story, $30 million complex with 190 apartments and commercial space on the first floor.

“They opted not to move forward with that project,” said Boys, noting that TWG is still investing in Urbana with a multimillion-dollar renovation of Aspen Court.

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