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Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).

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Plenty of unhappy people this week who want more and clearer street signage, more sidewalks, improved pavement markings, more shops at Carle at the Fields, improved landscaping at the Savoy Post Office, more inventory at the Savoy Walmart and prettier retention ponds.

Elsewhere, health care, education and economic systems are collapsing in Afghanistan.

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Carle at the Fields update

"I wondered if you had any updates on projects being built around Carle at the Fields. A Starbucks or Dunkin' in the area would be fantastic."

Shannon Collins, who handles commercial properties for Green Street Realty, said she has been "actively working to try to get a user like Dunkin or Starbucks, but haven't been able to get them to commit."

But Overtime Nutrition, which serves energy drinks, shakes, coffees and juice shots, opened a few weeks ago and Rugged Outdoors will be opening in October, Collins reported.

Modern Family Dinner, which offers prepared meals for pickup that you can order in advance, will open later this fall, as will mortgage company Flat Branch Home Loans.

"So, we are almost completely leased for the commercial spaces," said Collins.

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Atkins Golf Club in Urbana, formerly known as Stone Creek, is receiving a facelift the University of Illinois golf program prepares to take over when renovations are done.

Restaurant at Atkins course

"Early in the summer there was an article in the paper about a restaurant opening at Atkins Golf Course, possibly in August. I haven't heard any more about that. Is that going to happen this fall?"

"We do still plan on having the restaurant at Atkins Golf Club open this fall. We will be better positioned to provide additional details by the end of October regarding the opening date, restaurant name, menu, etc.," said Jackie Szymoniak, assistant athletic director for golf operations at the University of Illinois, The university's division of intercollegiate athletics owns the golf course property in Urbana.

Windsor Road update

"What’s the latest on the concrete cracking on Windsor Road in Urbana. Did Stark ever get paid final payout?"

The case, City of Urbana v Stark Excavating Inc., is ongoing. It was filed in 2018 and looks pretty certain to go into 2022. It is currently in the discovery phase with both sides gathering information, evidence and testimony.

North Prospect retention ponds

"The retention ponds along North Prospect Avenue are in a deplorable state. Wonderful idea to build them, and the geese are quite content. But who/what is responsible for maintenance? Target and the other area retailers would be likely candidates. First impression and all that."

The first three ponds along the east side of Prospect Avenue belong to different retail property owners: Lowe's Companies of Mooresville, N.C.; Target Corp. of Minneapolis; and CTC Retail LLC of Fairfax, Va.

North Prospect site

"What is going in on the lot north of Captain D's (at 1409 N. Prospect Ave., Champaign)?"

The future development, which is owned by 1413 N. Prospect Property LLC, and whose manager is Sunil Modi, is known as a "vanilla box" strip mall. That means it will have four walls and heating, ventilation and air conditioning and can be fit to just about anything.

One of the suites, though, is set aside for a video gambling facility.

Farther North Prospect site

"What's going on at the old Cost Cutters shop on North Prospect Avenue?"

Champaign's building safety division is reviewing plans for a Little Caesar's Pizza at 2018 N. Prospect.

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Construction along North Mattis

"What is the new construction going on across from Alexander Lumber and the new overpass on North Mattis Avenue."

All of that construction work is related to the enormous I-74/I-57 interchange reconstruction that the state of Illinois has undertaken.

The third of four interchange-related projects broke ground last month. With a total cost of  $125.8 million and a completion date in 2023, this project will completely reconfigure and replace the traditional cloverleaf interchange 11 new bridge structures, including two flyover structures in the middle of the interchange and new ramp pavements.

This will improve traffic flow, efficiency and safety by eliminating conflict points and reducing turning movements.

The area you wrote about — west of Mattis Avenue and Alexander Lumber — will be the location of one of the "flyovers," taking westbound I-74 traffic to southbound I-57.

Working with developers

"With all the apartment buildings springing forth on every available square inch of land, can you tell us who the local urban planners are who work with developers? Do any of the developers work with the university professionals to design urban spaces that appeal to families? The architecture department at UI is a tremendous resource. There are some old apartment/condo buildings near downtown that are approaching 100 years old and they blend in beautifully to the neighborhoods and attract residents with long term goals for living in the neighborhood. Surely someone 100 years ago gave thought to the landscape and quality of living with green space included?"

"Most private development projects in Champaign and Urbana provide landscaping and open space as prescribed in the zoning ordinances of the respective cities," said Rob Kowalski, assistant planning and development director for the city of Champaign and a former planner in Urbana.

"City planners ensure that those standards are met in new development when those plans are submitted for review. This is the most common mechanism for ensuring that new development has trees, shrubs and fencing that make them compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.

"One great example of where a developer consulted with the University of Illinois Extension service would be the property owned and managed by Royse + Brinkmeyer Apartments at 611 W. Healey Street in Champaign. In this example, Royse + Brinkmeyer Apartments provided garden plots for their tenants as an amenity, but it also serves as a source of open space within the neighborhood.

"It's experimental but has attracted a lot of interest and has been very much welcomed by the tenants as they get to know their neighbors while also growing fresh fruits and vegetables for themselves. It could become a model for other developments in the future."

Property lines

"How does one find out their exact property line within the city limits of Champaign? A neighbor has recently planted bushes on what we believe is our property, but we don't want to address the issue until we have confirmation in hand of the property line between us."

"To find the exact property line location, the owner would need to contact a private engineering company to have a survey of the property completed. The city does not have staff that perform surveys," said Tim Spear of the Champaign neighborhood services department.

"For those that are interested in general property line locations in the city of Champaign. The city has an online map that shows the general locations of property lines. The map can be accessed here.

For those who live outside the city, Spear suggested these maps.

Savoy Post Office

"Why is there no pride in the appearance of the entrances to the Savoy Post Office? It has been a jungle of weeds all summer and nobody appears to be able to force their hand in cleaning up this eyesore. I’ve been told that village ordinances don’t apply since it is a federal property."

It is federal property, owned by the U.S. Postal Service, Great Lakes Facility, in Chicago.

Savoy Postmaster Zach Hannon knows your pain. He's been hearing about this for months and has been trying to cut through the postal service bureaucracy to get something done. In fact he finally — after a few months — got a contract for janitorial services at the Savoy facility.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to get this thing resolved in October," said Hannon. "That's my hope. We've been following up on this for four months."

On the other hand, just across U.S. 45 and along the Canadian National Railroad tracks, there are plenty of weeds, prairie grasses and wildflowers. No one complains about them.

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Green Street lane striping

"The lane striping on parts of the MCORE project (noticed Green Street most) started wearing off shortly after it was completed and now can hardly be seen in places. Are there plans to re-stripe it and does the original striping company have any obligation to re-do the work that didn't last? It looks like they used water paints."

"In general, pavement markings on concrete streets have a life span of somewhere between three and five years," said Kris Koester of Champaign's public works department. "The MCORE markings along Green Street were installed in 2018 and are now about three years old and showing the typical wear and tear of pavement markings on concrete, what is typically not seen is when the markings start to chip or break apart.

"These markings will likely be re-marked in the next few years as part of the annual pavement marking contract. While concrete has many good qualities, especially in handling heavy vehicles like trucks and buses, it poses challenges when it comes to the durability of pavement markings. "Conversely, markings on asphalt last longer but the asphalt pavement does not perform as well on streets with significant bus or large vehicle traffic.

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Sidewalk needed

"I'm wanting to inquire about getting connecting sidewalks from Hessel Boulevard going to Randolph street. One complete block is missing a walkway on ether side. I believe completing those walkways will allow for better access for pedestrians trying to get the bus stop that is really close by."

"The city of Champaign will make note of this location for future considerations in capital planning. There are a few challenges to this block — both sides are higher than street level and the east side has multiple trees, power poles, and brush present," said Koester. "Installing a sidewalk in this location will require a substantial amount of work in people's yards or tree removal depending on which side the sidewalk is installed.

"The costs associated with this work are not currently available in the capital improvement fund or sidewalk gap funding. In 2022, sidewalk ramp improvements will be made along State Street and Randolph Street which should help pedestrian access in this area."

Prospect Avenue stoplights

"I am sure that whoever controls the traffic light timing in the city is doing the best they can, but there is a real problem at the intersection of North Prospect Avenue and Marketview Drive during afternoon rush hour and at certain times on weekends. When traffic gets backed up, drivers on southbound Prospect often creep into the intersection when their light is green but the way isn’t clear, and then they are stuck there, blocking Marketview traffic, when their light turns red and the Marketview light turns green.

"If these drivers would simply remember what they were taught in driver’s education class, and not enter any clogged intersection until there is room for them to pull forward without blocking side traffic if they get stuck there, there wouldn’t be a problem. Is this something that our city might consider doing, at least for a little while, to see whether people can be taught to change their habits?"

and

One-way signage

"My unsolicited opinion on this subject isn't worth much. As a 42-year resident who works on campus, I find the signage of one way streets in Chambana to be subpar. Our one-way streets may be 'properly signed' according to the (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), but I feel the nature of our community suggests merit in going beyond the minimally required signage. It's not just move-in weekend, but it's new, inexperienced, and infrequent drivers coming from around the globe, parents and alumni visiting campus for football games or other events. At a minimum, I would recommend additional signage at key intersections with high levels of traffic – say, Springfield and Sixth, Green and Sixth."

From Kris Koester:

"Adequate signage, markings and signals (where appropriate) are present throughout the Champaign-Urbana community. As police are available, enforcement of the laws are conducted. Some of the state of Illinois Rules of the Road point the responsibility for properly operating a motor vehicle to the driver of the vehicle, including:

"— Traffic signals and pavement markings must be obeyed unless a police or traffic control officer directs otherwise

— Controlling the vehicle by obeying all traffic signs, controls devices, rights of way, lane markings and properly using turn signals.

— A driver must obey all traffic laws and be prepared to react to other drivers and driving conditions.

— It is important for a driver to obey the orders of police officers, firefighters, highway authority officials or uniformed adult school crossing guards who are directing traffic or performing their official duties."

Stoplight awry

"The stoplight at the intersection of Mattis and Anthony seems to be off in the morning. When the light turns green for traffic going north and south on Mattis it will only stay green for 10 seconds before turning red even though there are no cars sitting at the red light on Anthony Drive. Is there an issue with this stoplight after the reconstruction of the Mattis Avenue bridge over I-74?"

"This is left over from the timing from the Mattis Avenue bridge reconstruction and the ongoing work around the area. When complete, the timings will be reset. We will check in with the project manager to get a timeline," said Koester.

Hot September?

"Was this the hottest September ever or the one with most days in the 80s or greater?"

It was tied for the 16th-warmest September on record with an average temperature of 70.3 degrees.

There were five days of 90 degrees or above and 16 days of 80 degrees or above.

The warmest September was in 1933 when there were six 90-plus days and 18 80-plus days.

Former Chase Bank demolition

Demolition of the old theater/Chase Bank building on the corner of Springfield and Mattis in Champaign on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.

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Chase Bank site (again)

"(Last) Saturday's Mailbag mentioned that no demo permit had been pulled for the old theater/bank at Springfield and Mattis. A small crew is there and the east facade is being pulled off at this moment.

GMS Management of Illinois, the owners of Country Fair Shopping Center, applied for a building permit on Friday afternoon, said Randy Smith, building safety supervisor for the city of Champaign. That's around the same time the mailbag went live online.

The city hasn't seen any plans or permit applications for new construction on the site, he said.

The old bank building began life in February 1967 as the Fox Country Fair Theatre. It had 848 seats and cost about $500,000 to build. The first movie shown there was a Disney film, "Monkeys Go Home," with Dean Jones, Yvette Mimieux and Maurice Chevalier.

Ten years later the theater was converted to the new home of the American National Bank.

Savoy Walmart

"Is the Walmart in Savoy closing? The grocery side in particular looks like they aren't getting any deliveries. Dairy products are missing. What's going on?"

The Savoy Walmart isn't closing, said Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Nolan.

Nor is any other grocery store that is experiencing disruptions in its supply chains. It's the way of the world in a global pandemic economy. It's also one of the reasons restaurants aren't reopening as quickly as some customers would like. Get used to it, folks.

"The supply chain is stressed right now and it's been stressed for 17 months," said Chris Testa, president of United Natural Foods, which has a warehouse in Urbana.

Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, acknowledged problems earlier this month at a global retailing conference.

"I do think these challenges will be worked through,” McMillon said. “I do think supply chains move. The supply chain, where it is today, is different than it was in previous generations. I think we’ll see shifts that will continue to occur.”

Early Memorial Stadium plans

A sketch from 1921 of what plans for Memorial Stadium in Champaign looked like.

Memorial Stadium

"The plans for the Memorial Stadium show a large tower at the north end of the field. Was this tower ever built? What was the name or purpose of the stadium?"

Original plans for Memorial Stadium were quite grandiose, with a 250-foot bell tower, a Greek theater and a reflecting pool with fountains. One early drawing showed a mammoth stadium with three decks. A newspaper account said it would be more beautiful than “the new home of the New York American League baseball team,” Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923.

When it was dedicated 97 years ago this month, Memorial Stadium had no bell towers, Greek theater or reflecting pools. But it did have mighty columns inscribed with the names of 189 University of Illinois students and alumni who died in World War I.

"It's going to be the finest structure in the world," said  Illinois football coach Robert Zuppke. "It will be more than a stadium or a coliseum or anything of that sort. We are going to build something that will always stand as the most fitting honor to the soldiers that can be found."

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Pavement dip

"The southbound lane on Illinois 130 at 600 North (in Champaign County) seems to have a sinkhole under the pavement. It has been patched a few times but one must still ride the shoulder on the right to avoid the bump. Is it going to be fixed for good anytime soon?"

In the vast universe of roadway potholes and dips, this one barely warrants a mention.

"Our Operations Supervisor I responsible for this area inspected the location mentioned in the email on Sept. 22. There is a slight dip in the left hand wheel track," said Kensil Garnett, Region 3 engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "The Champaign team section dura patched this area in the fall of 2020. The emulsion/rock has settled and pushed. In the near future we will mill and fill the area in question which should fix the issue."

"Champaign, Illinois"

"In reference to the song Champaign, Illinois, in your column Sept 25, this is what my parents told me when I was a teenager, in the 1970s. They said that Carl Perkins was booked to sing at the Assembly Hall and he asked Bob Dylan to write him a song. They were big fans of Dylan, and also liked Carl Perkins."

 

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