City votes to build businesses, homes to boost economy

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council moved forward with a project they believe will benefit economy and overall quality of life in the city, unanimously approving the Curtis Road Interchange Plan.

The development project, which has been in the works for seven months now, includes residential, small business and corporate districts along Interstate 57 immediately north and south of Curtis Road, according to a report given to the council.

“We understand that it’s a rural area right now, and there are people who wish it didn’t change,” said Bruce Knight, planning director for the city. “The reality is, it’s going to change.”

Teska Associates, Inc. was hired to study the area, which covers a total of 640 acres, to decide what type of zoning would be best suited for the development.

The actual interchange where Curtis Road meets Interstate 57 will be done by early 2008, said Lee Brown, president of Teska Associates, Inc., but development will be a long process.

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“You won’t likely see businesses or homes being built for the next two or three years,” Brown said.

Brown compared the future development to the area located near North Neil Street and Prospect Avenue, which he said took nearly 30 years to develop.

“We are not anticipating the development will take place overnight,” Brown said. “That would be the worst case scenario.”

At-large council member Tom Bruno said that while he likes the plan set out for area, the council must “be mindful of the (current) landowners’ rights” and consider what the landowners feel would be best for their community.

In its current state, the plan calls for “tall, highly visible and attractive” high-rises adjacent to the highway, small offices and retail services and residential homes.

Champaign resident Traci Nally said she feels it’s important to respect the natural landscape in one of the city’s most contoured areas.

“I know the development’s inevitable,” Nally said. “But I think we need to appreciate the bit of topography we have in our town.”

Brown said that at its finish, the developed area should be unique.

“It’s not necessarily trying to compete with downtown (Champaign) or compete with North Prospect (Avenue),” Brown said. “But it’s going to be its own special place.”