In this week's mailbag we dismiss a 40-year local legend, go back to 1855 when Urbana tried to annex Champaign, find out about several local construction and redevelopment projects, explain the reason the intersection of Windsor & First is the way it is and hear from the newly elected Champaign County recorder.
Dan Fogelberg's old girlfriend
"I heard Dan Fogelberg's 'Same Old Lang Syne' on the radio the other day. He was local and I've heard that song references several Champaign-Urbana landmarks: the grocery store where he meets his old flame is the old Eisner on Green & Neil and the liquor store where they buy beer is the old Barnett's (or Piccadilly's?) on First Street. My question: Who is the woman? Is there a local, age-appropriate, blue-eyed wife of an architect, slightly clumsy with her purse, who is Dan Fogelberg's secret crush?"
"With the holidays coming up, this seemed like good timing for a question about a classic holiday song."
I'm sorry to burst a longstanding local legend but the melancholy Fogelberg classic isn't about a chance meeting at the old Eisner-Osco at Green & Neil. (That building, now a CVS, just marked its 50th birthday). Nor is a local liquor store involved, nor a local woman.
Fogelberg, who did attend the University of Illinois, was a native of Peoria and that is where the encounter took place, with a past girlfriend from Peoria Woodruff High School (which is no longer a high school).
Jill Anderson, also a member of the Woodruff class of 1969, was the girl. The reunion took place at a convenience store in Peoria, probably in 1975. The song came five years later.
Fogelberg died of prostate cancer in 2007 at the age of 56. The backstory of the song became public days later in a column by Phil Luciano of the Peoria Journal Star.
"What was the plane flying over Champaign on Saturday, November 7th tailing a sign ... and what did the sign say? I could see at the corner of Neil and Windsor and along the 4th Street extension on campus, but could not read what it said."
It said, "Champaign Campustown Target Is Now Open." The sign promoted the store at 603 E. Green St.
Country club wells
"I never read much in The News-Gazette about the drilling of a water well for the Champaign Country Club. In some communities private wells are not allowed or are still required to pay a fee for the use of underground water. Can you shed any light on what transpired for the country club to get this permit from the city of Champaign?"
Champaign city officials said that the city is not the issuer or inspector of wells in the city, that that task goes to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
"The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has an ordinance for the construction and modification of water wells, construction of closed loop wells, the sealing of abandoned wells, and the inspection of potable water supplies and their components and closed loop well systems (An Ordinance Establishing a Potable Water Supply Program Ordinance No. 2016-01-01)," said Jim Roberts, director of environmental health at CUPHD. "Champaign County has a corresponding ordinance for the same systems for the Champaign County jurisdiction. A permit and inspection fee are charged, however, there is no charge for using the ground water."
The country club has at least three private wells, according to the Illinois State Geological Survey database.
New recorder's salary
"Congratulations to Mike Ingram — and to Champaign County taxpayers — who are about to save a bundle for electing a recorder who plans to get rid of the office. Given how that was his whole platform for running, would I be correct in assuming Mr. Ingram forgo the $89,816 salary that comes with the position immediately after being sworn in? Seems only right. On behalf of taxpayers, thank you, Mr. Ingram."
"We'll be assessing everything as we go, and working with the staff to see what they think is working well and what isn't as we prepare the office for not having an elected department head," said Ingram. "From my research and discussions with other counties, a two-year time frame is what most of them worked under, but I think that's more a representation of working within election cycles.
"I'd like to get things done more quickly, which could include something similar to what Joe Tirio did in McHenry County where he signed paperwork keeping the title but renouncing his salary (once everything is set for transition). Until then, there are several options on the table, including drafting similar paperwork to go to half time if warranted."
Third time the charm?
"What business repurposing the old Gander Mountain/Circuit City building by Lowe’s?"
Champaign Building Safety Supervisor Randy Smith said there are two permits issued for 2006 N. Prospect Ave., which was formerly Gander Mountain.
"The first permit is for general work to create the space. The second permit is a tenant fit-out which lists the occupant as Burlington," he said.
The building owner is listed as AEI Property Corp. of St. Paul, Minn. Burlington Stores Inc. in Burlington, N.J., is listed as the tenant.
A Burlington spokesperson emailed the following statement:
"Thank you for your interest in Burlington Stores. We are excited to open a new store in Champaign, IL at 2006 N. Prospect Ave. Our new store will offer area residents with job opportunities as well as provide great values and fantastic bargains on merchandise for the entire family and home. As more information becomes available, we will be happy to share."
Burlington Stores, once known as Burlington Coat Factory, operated 739 stores (which included 11 temporarily closed stores) as of the end of the second quarter of Fiscal 2020, in 45 states and Puerto Rico. Its stores offer merchandise at up to 60 percent off other retailers' prices, including apparel, beauty products, footwear, accessories, home, toys and gifts.
"There is activity in the building on University Avenue in Urbana that has been the home of several restaurants in the past. What's up?"
A building permit was issued in August for an interior buildout for a restaurant at the location at 407 W. University Ave. That site has been several restaurants in the past including Miko and Red Wheel.
Luxury Holdings CU, LLC, is listed as the applicant for the building permit. Its manager is Michael Nguyen of Champaign.
Nguyen said this week that work is going on inside the building.
"At this time we're not going to say what's going in there yet," he said.
New plasma center
"What is going in at the site on North Lincoln Avenue that used to be a nursing home?"
The former 2.6-acre site of the Helia Healthcare nursing home will be a Kedplasma USA plasma collection facility. In presentations last year to city officials, Kedplasma said the facility would have 42 plasma donation beds and 25 to 30 staff on-site at any one time. An average of 140 to 150 people would be expected to donate plasma per day.
The facility is listed as a $2.7 million development.
Old water company site
"At Bradley & Lincoln in Urbana used to be water reservoirs, I believe they were called. It's now filled. Why? And is there a plan for something to happen there?"
That location at 1101 W. Bradley Ave. used to be the site of several wells operated by the Illinois American Water Co.
In January, it was purchased by Campus Housing Investments LLC of Lodi, Calif., and DKS Properties, Inc. of Bloomington.
Michael Carouba is listed as the chief operating officer of Campus Housing Investments. He also is a founding partner and the COO of LandPro Development Group LLC. There he is responsible for identifying development opportunities in university markets throughout the United States.
The president of DKS is David K. Stark of Bloomington, the owner of Stark Excavating.
The city of Urbana hasn't received any building plans for the site, said Lorrie Pearson, director of community development services.
Dim spots in the park
"Why don't the lights go all the way around the sidewalks at Hessel Park? The corners of the park seem to have been left out."
"The lights throughout Hessel Park were installed long before the new path was added," said Champaign Park District Executive Director Joe DeLuce. "Our staff is going to evaluate how we can reduce the dark areas along the path over the next few months."
"What's with the red and white stripes on the outside walls of KFC? Pretty cool."
The bold red and white stripes are not supposed to remind you of Indiana University basketball's candy-striped warmup pants, but that's what I see.
They are supposed to remind you of the red and white stripes on buckets of KFC chicken and are to produce a festive, carnival feeling, the company said.
Urbana's failed expansion
"I am rather new to the area, and as an amateur historian I have become interested in the feuding between Champaign and Urbana that goes back to the 1850s. I am most interested in finding out why Urbana's first attempt to incorporate was rejected (after the railroad line was placed two miles west) apparently by a small group of unsavory characters from the Depot. Do you have any information on why such the idea was rejected and who the major players behind that rejection might have been? Were they angry, jealous, envious, of Col. Busey? Was it just plain spite for no good reason?
"Or perhaps you can direct me to the authoritative local historians that could direct me to some answers. This whole issue intrigues me, especially since I too have been wondering why such a reasonable idea of incorporation has apparently not seemed so to the people here."
There are a couple of resources that detail at least part of the story about Urbana's futile effort to annex and expand its boundaries westward to what was known in 1855 as the Depot, later to become West Urbana and then Champaign.
One is J.O. Cunningham's 1905, "The History of Champaign County," and the other is Dan McCollum's 2005 "Essays on the Historical Geography of Champaign County."
Neither those sources nor contemporary newspaper accounts in the Urbana Union (whose editor was J.O. Cunningham) identified the opponents.
"In January 1855, with the concurrence of the Illinois Central Railroad," Cunningham wrote in his history, "then as now largely interested in the future of this point, a bill was introduced in the General Assembly, then in session, for the incorporation of the 'City of Urbana,' which bill named as the territory to be embraced within the new municipality not only the territory now embraced in Urbana but also the territory now within the city of Champaign or the larger part of it.
"No sooner had the news of the contemplated legislation reached this locality then the few the resident of the Depot,' as Champaign was then called, raised a storm of opposition and sent a representative to Springfield by the slow mail-stage then making two trips a week, charged with the duty of strangling the infant city.
"The opposition succeeded so far as to fix the center north and south line of Sections 7 and 18 as the west line of Ubana, thus leaving all territory west of the line free to be organized later into another municipality."
The unnamed opponents, Cunningham wrote, are the reason the community is two cities (and two school districts and two park districts and two police departments, etc.) instead of one.
"It is easy to see now that had the few residents who had settled in the new town permitted the charter, as introduced, to become law, there would have been but one town; tickets on the Illinois Central Railroad would have been sold to Urbana, as in the beginning, and the western part, from its much greater number of inhabitants, would have controlled in all measures," he wrote in 1905.
Perhaps John C. Baddeley was one of the opponents. He had good reason to support separate towns because he was appointed the first postmaster of what was called West Urbana.
"A good move and a good appointment say we," wrote the Union (Cunningham) in May 1855. "The increasing business and population of that point render an office really essential to its convenience and prosperity."
Baddeley appears to have begun the 165-year tradition of duplicative government administration in Champaign-Urbana.
McCollum's book said that West Urbana was incorporated under the statutes in April 1857 and that five trustees soon were elected to oversee its business. Among them was Baddeley; J.T. Couch, who operated a lumberyard; and A.M. Whitney, a justice of the peace. The others were E.G. McCan and J.J. Sutton.
Are they the villains? Maybe, but we don't know for certain.
"Has the city of Champaign recently considered adding crosswalk paint and signage to Grandview Drive at the intersection of Elm Boulevard on the north border of Hessel Park? Given the number of cars that zip around the park and the pedestrians and cyclists I often see scrambling out of harm's way, it would appear to be a great spot to alert drivers."
"Establishing a painted crosswalk would not be as simple as that, it would require the need to collaborate with the Champaign Park District," said Kris Koester, spokesman for the Champaign Public Works Department. "For a crosswalk to be installed, there would need to be an ADA compliant ramp on the park side of the crossing and a sidewalk connection to the internal sidewalk network of the park. The city of Champaign would also need to update the ramp to the north.
"Given the location of the sidewalk to the north and how it lines up with the driveway at the park, any crosswalk would need to be shifted to the west, in a location similar to what you would see at an intersection. Given the street is oil and chip with some semblance of a ditch, it would require us to work through a design study to determine the location that works the best for this particular situation. The work would likely involve constructing sidewalk around the northwest corner to the crossing point. This work is not currently in the city's 10 year Capital Improvement Plan, but we will make note of it."
"Why does the intersection at First and Windsor require westbound and eastbound traffic to flow separately? Are there any plans to change this? The allotted time at the intersection also feels disproportionate considering the lesser amount of traffic flowing down First Street."
In a past mailbag question it was noted that this intersection was configured in the late 1980s before it became part of the city of Champaign.
As use of Windsor Road and South First Street increased there were several crashes at the intersection in the early 1990s. Turns were determined to be a factor so the recommendation was to split phase the intersection to alleviate the safety issues. That is the current approach.
"While we have identified this intersection needs to be improved with the addition of east-west turn lanes and turn arrows, it has to compete with all of the other capital improvements for limited funding. It is not currently in the 10-year CIP so there are no current plans," said Koester.
"If you add east and west time it exceeds the First Street time. First Street northbound has additional time in the morning peak to deal with traffic from Carrie Busey School heading north.
"When school is in person northbound backs up significantly and was a constant source of complaints. Even though Unit 4 was remote this fall, we did not adjust timings at this intersection or other locations."
Not following the rules
"Eateries/bars such as Jupiters downtown, Esquire, Boomerang's, Crane Alley have all stopped indoor service and/or have closed per the governor's and C-U Public Health District orders.
"However, Clark Bar remains open. On Saturday, their main and lower level indoor bars were open with many unmasked and closely packed. Yesterday (Wednesday) their kitchen was open for normal indoor food and drink service.
"What is the explanation for this? How come the mayor (and liquor has has not suspended their liquor license?"
A story Friday's News-Gazette by Deb Pressey explained the dilemma local health officials face: trying to contain the virus without further harming bars and restaurants, particularly those that abide by health rules.
""Health district Environmental Health Director Jim Roberts said the district has received 36 complaints about restaurant and bars not complying with Tier 1 restrictions or using outdoor tents incorrectly for serving.
"That includes three in Urbana, 17 in Champaign and 16 in the county, he said.
"His department is trying to come up with ways indoor service can be done more safely, Roberts said.
"Enforcement hasn't been pursued for staff safety reasons, according to Roberts.
"Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen said a higher number of restaurants in the community have complied with Tier 1 restrictions and refrained from serving indoors than those that haven't.
"And while some are flouting the rules, she said, 'many restaurants have done everything we've asked of them.'
"'We have a group of people who, not only are they suffering economically, but their employees are, and the community is if we ultimately lose their businesses, but they have continued to comply,' she said."
Another Tuscola Outlet Shop
"You were recently asked about stores still open at the Tuscola mall and you failed to mention Christopher & Banks women's clothing. Just wanted to let you know."
Another clothing drive
"VFW 630 is holding a coat and blanket drive for the homeless. Please help us by dropping off your gently used or new blankets or adult-sized coats at the Post at 1303 E. Main St., Urbana, between 11 a.m. and 10 pm. If you cannot make it to the dropoff location or if have questions call me at 217-202-5533"