85 people representing 40 groups give input on Lincoln Square's future

85 people representing 40 groups give input on Lincoln Square's future

URBANA — Representatives from around 40 local organizations gathered at Lincoln Square Mall on Tuesday to discuss how the area can be revitalized.

The Lincoln Square area is 16 acres bordered by Race, Vine, Illinois and Elm Streets. It includes the mall and Landmark Hotel, which are privately owned, along with city-owned public parking lots.

Tuesday's meeting drew around 85 people from area businesses, engineering groups, brokers, realtors, law firms, small businesses, contractors, homebuilders, banks and developers. There were also attendees from groups including Visit Champaign County and the Champaign County Economic Development Corp. and its Small Business Development Center.

To kick the meeting off, Mayor Diane Marlin addressed hardships that the area is hoping to overcome. The Landmark Hotel is closed and for sale after an unsuccessful renovation attempt, followed by an unsuccessful auction. The mall is dealing with the effects of online shopping and losing Health Alliance Medical Plans, a large office-space tenant that moved to the new Carle at the Fields development in southwest Champaign.

But one reason to revitalize the area, Marlin argued, is that the Multimodal Corridor Enhancement Project will rebuild Green Street — which feeds into Lincoln Square — between Race and Lincoln Avenue. That will better connect Lincoln Square to the University of Illinois.

"Green Street will literally be depositing people at the doorstep of Lincoln Square," Marlin said. "This spot will become the gateway to our downtown for most out-of-town visitors."

Lincoln Square Mall owner Jim Webster said he wants the mall to adapt to changing shopping patterns and be a flexible environment. He noted that economic factors will be weighed as ideas for changing the mall come in.

To generate revitalization ideas, the meeting attendees listed great public places they've been to and various characteristics that they want the area to have. Then they marked up maps of the area with specific improvements they would make.

The city-led Lincoln Square revitalization effort is in its input-gathering phase. City staff will analyze Tuesday's input and similar input being gathered from the public and all of the city's boards and commissions. Public input is also being gathered online with a survey on the "What's in Your Square?" page on the city's website.

Marlin has said that any eventual changes to Lincoln Square will take place over several years.