Group may ‘spruce up’ downtown Champaign under Quinn plan

By Beth Gilomen

A scene reminiscent of Walt Disney World’s Main Street U.S.A could invade Champaign’s downtown district as part of Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn’s Main Street Illinois program.

The Champaign City Council heard a proposal from the Champaign Downtown Association at their meeting Tuesday night.

The Council gave the association permission to submit their application to Main Street Illinois and promised $35,000 per year in funding for three years.

The association cited several reasons for applying to the program. Participation in the group is lacking and currently, it is not legally organized, leaving it with funding issues.

Lois Wacholtz, president of Christopher’s Fine Jewelry Design, 124 N. Neil St., acted as a spokeswoman for the association. She said that despite the group’s successes, she sees that there is the potential for much more development in the area. That potential cannot be achieved without better organization and funding, she said.

The Main Street program would provide the community with a prescribed structure and course of action for the Champaign Downtown Association. It would also give the association access to grant programs to help them achieve their goal of rejuvenating the area.

Illinois Main Street is a community revitalization program that promotes historic preservation and economic development of the state’s traditional business districts, according to the program’s Web site.

Through a four step system, the program will help enhance the physical appearance of the business district. It will also work toward strengthening economic developments in the area.

Additionally, if the group were to be accepted into the Main Street Illinois program, it would become a charitable organization, meaning that it could accept monetary donations to become self-sustaining.

At-large councilman Tom Bruno requested that the group consider creating a cohesive vision for the district. He said he would like to see signage and other decorative details that better represent the area than the borish Illinois Department of Transportation-issued “Business District” sign.

“We’re more than a business district and certainly more than a faded green sign,” Carol Timms, a volunteer for the association said.