'Yards' group heads to D.C. to lobby for federal grants for project

'Yards' group heads to D.C. to lobby for federal grants for project

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After pitching the Champaign City Council on the plan for "The Yards" development in the southern part of downtown, local officials traveled to the nation's capital to secure federal funding for the estimated $200 million project.

The group, including Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Managing Director Karl Gnadt and University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman, has been meeting with transit officials, policy advisers and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville.

"The group left Champaign Wednesday morning and returns Friday morning. The meetings have been positive and productive," said Lisa Meid, spokeswoman for the MTD. "MTD is particularly grateful for Congressman Davis' strong support of The Yards project."

The Yards could include an expansion of the Illinois Terminal, parking decks, 100-plus apartments, another downtown hotel, convention space and an arena for a potential Division I hockey team.

It would use land south of the existing terminal and the Inman Hotel between Neil and Walnut streets and the railroad tracks.

The project was presented to the city council Tuesday, and in response to questions about funding, Gnadt said it will depend on whether it receives two federal grants totaling $25 million for which MTD has applied.

So off to Washington the group went.

"They're there to help the MTD and support them in their attempt to obtain federal grants," said Kent Brown, spokesman for the UI's Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Along with Whitman and Gnadt, the group includes MTD grants manager Jane Sullivan, Champaign County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Carly McCrory, Champaign Planning and Development Director Bruce Knight and the project's developer, Hans Grotelueschen.

They've been meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration, as well as policy advisers to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Davis, and the transportation aide to Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.

The city council will continue discussing the project over the next few months, with a presentation on finances coming this October or November and another in December to present draft agreements.