Urbana City Council discusses Philo Road report, action plan

By Charles Menchaca

The Urbana City Council heard a presentation Monday night on revitalizing the Philo Road area.

John Regetz, economic development division manager, presented the actions taken and the results of a study conducted to determine the economic impacts of the Philo Road Business District.

Regetz said there have been nationwide market shifts towards super-sized retail stores that resulted in the closing of area stores, such as Kmart and Jerry’s IGA.

Regetz discussed some results of a market survey conducted in the area. According to the survey, 86 percent of those that responded shop in the business district more than once a week and 69 percent said they would shop in the area after the new Wal-Mart store opens.

“Loyalty was a strong factor,” Regetz said. “Basic and niche businesses continue to

succeed there.”

But survey respondents also said the business district’s appearances need to be improved, in addition to having new businesses available.

Regetz introduced the Philo Road Action Plan to address the issues in the study. The Action Plan has a total of eight items, including retaining existing businesses, beautifying the district and providing marketing assistance for businesses.

A number of actions were completed already, such as improving welcome signs for the area and marketing existing buildings, Regetz said.

Regetz also discussed the possibilities of making the area a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district, but he said the tax base would have to improve significantly before the city can consider the change. TIF districts can provide funding for commercial projects within individual districts.

Alderman Joseph Whelan described the report as “excellent.”

“It’s possible to take an ugly duckling and turn it into a swan,” Whelan said of the business district.

Regetz said other aspects of the plan will continue to be completed during the next few years.