MTD Yards meeting2.jpg

Renderings of The Yards, a proposed development in downtown Champaign, presented to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board on Monday, April 15, 2019.

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CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District received a $17.275 million federal grant Tuesday to expand its Illinois Terminal, which is part of the larger $250 million project in downtown Champaign known as The Yards.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will cover most of the $25 million MTD's board had been planning to spend on the terminal expansion, Managing Director Karl Gnadt said.

“This is big time,” he said.

The money is coming from the Transportation Department’s Bus and Bus Facilities Grant program, which Gnadt said MTD applied for toward the end of the summer.

It also applied for a federal BUILD grant, but Gnadt said the MTD didn’t receive that.

The Transportation Department announced the Wednesday to U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Gnadt said, and they let him know earlier today.

“It kind of came out of the blue for us,” Gnadt said. “We never know when the announcements are going to be made. It was a very pleasant surprise today to get this. We’re so appreciative of all the congressional support we got.”

The grant was announced to the public by Davis, whom Gnadt said supported both of the grant applications.

“He did more than just write a letter. He really worked this particular project,” Gnadt said. “I know he placed phone calls to the Secretary of Transportation and talked with officials at the Department of Transportation.”

He also praised Durbin and Duckworth.

“I know they were very supportive,” he said.

With the funding, MTD wants to renovate and expand the Illinois Terminal, expand its bus platforms, build a parking garage and help pay for the office and retail component of The Yards.

The Yards, which is being developed by Core Spaces, also includes a 175-room hotel, convention space, and possibly an ice arena for a Division I Illini hockey team.

Gnadt said its too early to say when construction will begin or finish; officials have earlier estimated it could begin in 2020 and end in 2023.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Gnadt said.

The MTD still needs to reach a final agreement with Core Spaces and an inter-governmental agreement with the city of Champaign, which has put together a $35 million incentive package for The Yards.

There also still needs to be an environmental assessment, Gnadt said, as well as architectural and engineering work that will be used to develop a detailed budget.

“We’re planning to move ahead as quickly as possible,” Gnadt said.