Neil Street corridor on the road to a revamp

Neil Street corridor on the road to a revamp

CHAMPAIGN — Multi-use trails. A bike path. More trees.

These are some of the features that made the cut in the city's new Neil Street corridor renovation plan, an effort to spruce up one of the most frequented parts of Champaign — the section that runs from Interstate 74 to downtown.

One part beautification project, one part safety initiative, the plan unveiled this week is set to be discussed in-depth at a March 29 public hearing. From there, it will be tweaked as needed and sent to Champaign's plan commission and city council for review.

Plans for the renovation, which was approved last year, will be implemented long term over the next several years. Ratio Architects is spearheading the project.

In a report from city staff, the design selected from among three finalists is summarized as "neighborhood-focused, walkable and pedestrian-oriented."

It notes that the city owns four vacant lots — on the east side of Neil near Bradley Avenue and adjacent to Hazel Park — that it can enhance.

Design features include the following, according to the report:

— Improving the intersection where drivers exit from I-74 onto the corridor.

— Widening the parkway and having street trees throughout most of the corridor.

— Adding Neil Street access to Hazel Park.

— Reducing curb cuts and promoting rear alley access through most of the corridor, on the side a block away from Hickory Street.

— Creating multi-use trail space.

— Commercial land use in lots by the I-74 exit.

— Adding mid-block crosswalks near the beginning and end of the corridor.

Things that won't change are homes that border the corridor from Edgebrook Drive to Eureka Street. They're marked in the report as an area where existing residential uses are preserved.

Jeff Marino, a city senior planner for land development, said increased safety is a big priority for this design — and that there may be some trade-offs to achieving it.

"There could be ... longer waits at certain times like rush hour," Marino said, regarding drivers in the corridor.

Instead of going straight to trimming speed limits, Marino said the hope is to reduce driver speeds with elements in the corridor's design.

"Reducing the number of lanes, reducing lane widths and then adding crosswalks, streetlights, street trees ... those are physical cues for people to slow down," Marino said.

Specifically, the design includes going from four traffic lanes to three for a bulk of the corridor, in addition to making the two-way traffic between Columbia Avenue and Washington Street into a one-way southbound.

"Three lanes will potentially improve safety and ... slow down traffic while allowing the same amount of traffic volume to go through the corridor," Marino said.

Also included in the report are two multi-use trails and a bike path that all intersect with the corridor at different points.

Marino estimates that the final city council vote to approve a design plan will happen in early May. But he said it could take longer, depending on how many changes are proposed by the public or throughout the review process.

The March 29 public hearing will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Herriott's Rents, Tents and Events, 1420 N. Neil St.

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Lostinspace wrote on March 17, 2018 at 10:03 am

In order to make the approach more appeaaling,I hope they include some architectural standards, at least for new or newly purchased properties.

Reducton of commercial signage would also be be an inexpensive way to improve the look.

On to Curtis and Prospect.

shanksmare wrote on March 17, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Oh great just when downtown has come back to life from being pedestrian friendly, with that so called Mall, Champaign is going to go and stifle traffic flow on Neil street, so it can be pedestrian friendly. ata boy Champaign

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