C-U faces growth spurt

Travis Austin

Travis Austin

By Stephanie Taylor

A street like Green Street has turned into one that you might find in Chicago or the Northwest suburbs. It has become home of modern franchises with Noodles and Co. and Chipotle’s artistic, IKEA-like environment, Potbelly’s wood decor, and the ever-familiar sign of another Starbucks that has somehow found it’s way to Central Illinois.

The redesigning of Green Street is just one development that has contributed to Champaign County’s year of record-breaking growth. Not only have the county’s urban scenes exploded with new businesses, but there have also been numerous new residential annexations, which helped contribute to the growth of the county.

The city of Champaign alone has spent twice as much money on construction this year as they did in 2004, said Gary Boman, building safety supervisor for the city of Champaign. In 2004, about $110 million was spent on construction for the city; this record was smashed by 2005’s $212 million expenditure.

The city of Urbana has also poured millions of dollars into construction this year. Ryan Brault, redevelopment specialist of the Economic Development Division of Urbana, said the city has spent around $39 million more this year on construction than last year.

Colleen Braun, assistant to the city manager of Champaign for development, pointed out some of the key areas of high development in Champaign County for this year.

“The construction of the One Main Building is underway at the corner of Main and Neil (streets),” Braun said. “The new project should be completed in two years and will contain a residential unit, restaurant, some retail stores and office space.”

There is also potential for another building similar to the One Main being built across the street, she said.

In addition to the franchises on Green Street, the Illini Media Building, the parent company of the Daily Illini, is being constructed in Campustown.

North Champaign is also seeing development with new retail centers that will be added near the Market Place Mall.

“One of these lifestyle center concepts consists of three new stores, Coldwater Creek, Ann Taylor Loft and J. Jill,” Braun said.

Furniture Row will also be opening in Champaign fairly soon. This four-store chain is being built across the Wal-Mart Superstore in Champaign, she said.

Rob Kowalski, assistant planning director for the city of Champaign, said the major areas of new residential construction for the county included southwest and west Champaign and North Prospect Road.

“In southwest Champaign there are Ironwood, Trails of Brittany, and Cherry Hills subdivisions,” Kowalski said. “The area of North Prospect (Road) has Ashland Park and west Champaign has Sawgrass and Boulder Ridge residential complexes.”

Southeast Urbana has also experienced a residential increase as a result of retail development, most notably the Wal-Mart Superstore.

Jeanne Gustafson, executive director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation said the creation of W. Newell & Co., located north of Champaign, has created many job opportunities.

“This 155-square-foot produce warehouse and distribution (center) has created over 100 new jobs,” Gustafson said.

Over the past ten years the city of Mahomet has nearly doubled its population, Gustafson said.

“Small towns such as Philo and St. Joseph have grown because of the impact of people coming into the Champaign/Urbana area,” Kowalski said.

There are a number of new projects underway for the future. Kowalski said an important one will be the construction of an interchange off of I-57 at Curtis Road that will be completed in 2007.

“The construction of a new interchange will bring development demand in the area,” he said.

Braun agreed that “the new interchange will draw interest out to the southwest Champaign community.”

Residential plans for Campustown include a renovated 18-story building located on Fourth Street and Springfield Avenue, Kowalski said. In the spring this building, once known as the old Burnam Hospital, will be transformed into an apartment complex with a grocery store on the bottom floor.

In light of all of this new development in Champaign County, the economy still continues to remain stable and grows at a moderate rate, Braun said.

“The presence of the University helps make Champaign County’s economy stable,” she said. ” The University is our largest employer and offers cultural events that help attract people to the community that helps the county’s growth all together.”