Urbana looks at options for beautification of Philo Road

By Phil Collins

Urbana City Council discussed options for the beautification of Philo Road between Florida Avenue and Windsor Road. The staff had prepared a list of eight ideas that could be pursued, given approval and funding by the City Council. The Council motioned that the staff should come back with a more concrete plan for the road, with the assistance of a consultant.

There was no argument over the concept that something should be done to improve the stretch of Philo Road, where national businesses such as Meijer are looking to expand.

“When I drive down that corridor and look, one of the ugliest things besides the expanse of asphalt are the power lines,” Councilman Brandon Bowersox said.

The discussion centered on which of the ideas should be pursued and considered for funding. The first idea on the list may have been the most popular among the council: decreasing four lanes to three on Philo Road between Florida Avenue and Colorado Avenue, and possibly adding a bicycle lane.

Another idea receiving support would be to irrigate and landscape the parkways between Colorado Avenue and Windsor Road, possibly taking on a prairie landscaping theme.

“Landscaping in the parkway might be the most convenient and could be installed this summer,” Concilman Dennis Roberts said.

Artwork, lighting, improving sidewalks and a possible mini-park were also discussed.

“I think lighting is important and has to be decorative … I think the downtown globes that are lower that shine down on the sidewalk are (more appropriate),” Bowersox said.

Councilman Charlie Smyth was adamant about ascertaining a specific vision for the area, which could be helpful to present to developers. He suggested that the Council identify the most useful components and budget them over the next three years.

“It’s surely better to have the presentation of a concept and then we can evaluate it,” Roberts said.

The staff mentioned that some of the ideas would need a professional consultant to come in and provide more specific details.

The issue will be discussed again at the next Urbana City Council meeting in two weeks.

There was some argument over the approval of an ordinance amending Urbana’s current zoning ordinance, which would create the possibility of “Neighborhood Conservation Districts.” The ordinance itself would not enact a specific Neighborhood Conservation District, but would set up the process for the public to do so. The idea seeks to prevent old structures from being torn down and replaced with structures that do not maintain Urbana’s style.

Council members found the language of the ordinance ambiguous and motioned to look at it again in two weeks in clearer language.