‘Illini’ remains word on the street in Champaign

“Illini” will continue to be the word on the street in Champaign for the next 10 years, as decided Tuesday night by the city council.

In honor of the University and its connection to the City of Champaign, members of the Champaign City Council passed a resolution that renews the status of Kirby Avenue – from Mattis Avenue to Champaign’s eastern city limits – as “Illini Boulevard” at their Tuesday regular meeting in the City Building.

Originally approved on July 5, 2000, “Illini Boulevard” was the first honorary street name approved by the Champaign City Council. According to a report from the city manager to the city council, all honorary street names must be renewed after 10 years.

The original and renewal applications were submitted by Kyle Robeson of Champaign, who listed “To instill public pride through name recognition,” as one of the reasons for his request.

Robeson, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting and a July 13 study session, in which members approved of drafting the resolution, said the city owes the University much credit for its success.

“The only reason we’re here is two reasons,” he said before Tuesday’s meeting. “One was the railroad, which was the early part, and then the second part was they put the University here.”

Robeson has connections to both the University and the city of Champaign.

He earned his glider, single engine and twin engine ratings from the University’s flight school before later enrolling in Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

His grandfather, F.K. Robeson, founded Robeson’s Department Store, a business that lasted for 116 years. The business, whose store was located in downtown Champaign beginning in 1920, was run by Kyle Robeson for 35 years until it closed in 1990.

“To me, Illini Boulevard was a natural,” he said.

The $1,610 in city funds necessary to replace the signs – $115 for each of the 14 signs along Kirby Avenue – will come out of the public works department’s budget, but Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt has said this money will not be spent anytime soon.

“We’ve looked at the signs,” Schmidt said during the July study session. “They’re all in pretty good shape.”

Since 2000, the city has approved of 29 honorary street names, including two this year.

During the previous study session, Council Member Deborah Feinen inquired if the process of designating honorary street names could be streamlined to take up less time, but Council Member Thomas Bruno said he thought the 10-year rule and council review was important.

“I kind of think that the idea of the 10-year sunset rule is that the new city council, 10 years later, can reexamine whether we want to buy into another 10 years of this,” Bruno said. “I’d rather it not be automatic, but that we look at each one individually and decide maybe that 10 year honor was appropriate and that it ought not be indefinite.”