Urbana project planning for a better Boneyard


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URBANA – Allen Strong said he's been waiting 20 years for the city of Urbana to catch up to his vision for the Boneyard Creek.

Strong, owner of Silvercreek Restaurant and the Courier Cafe, said current suggestions for improvements "should be wonderful."

The project will deal with deteriorating infrastructure and at the same time work in green space, bicycle and pedestrian paths and public gathering spots, said Gale Jamison, assistant city engineer and project coordinator.

The plans would encourage pedestrian access to the area, Jamison said. The idea is to enhance the physical appearance of the creek, he said.

"We did a master plan in 2008 that showed major improvements," he said. "It's pretty significant improvements. It's going to be a real nice project."

City council goals include continued implementation of the Boneyard Creek Master Plan, including coordination with private property owners who own redevelopment properties.

The city master plan calls for redevelopment projects to "energize the downtown" and create better connections between the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

The Race Street bridge over the Boneyard Creek was scheduled for replacement due to its poor condition, Jamison said. There has been much discussion of incorporating public art into the bridge design. Artwork or stonework might be located on either side of the bridge or decorative railings or columns might be used, he said.

"We can actually make the bridge an amenity," Jamison said. "There will be a path along the stream."

Pathways and sidewalks are generally planned for along the stream, 3 feet above the low-flow channel.

There will also be one "gathering area" west of Race Street and another east of Race Street along the creek. Plans also call for a new surface on the wood railroad trestle, Jamison said.

He emphasized that the plans are not a flood-control project.

The city will host one or two more public meetings to talk about the plans, Jamison said.

The next steps will be to create a three-dimensional model of proposed design elements.

Through the rest of 2010, city officials will work with property owners and utilities and state regulation agencies and prepare a plan for the city council to consider. In 2011, the project will move into the design and land acquisition stage and planners will prepare specifications. Bids will be sought in early 2012 and construction should be done that year.

Strong opened Silvercreek at the site of a lumber mill near the creek. He said the only area for growth of downtown Urbana is "along that corridor" on Race Street.

Strong said he was interested in the city plans because of needed improvements, including the bridge and widening the street and creating bike and pedestrian paths.

"There is enough momentum now that I think they will get something done," Strong said. "My interest is improving the infrastructure and, at the same time, creating more green space and more reason for people coming to the area."