Plan in works to beautify Green Street, minimize divide

By Eric Heisig

Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan has been in Champaign since 1976. They have not gone anywhere in the 32 years, but now it is like the Campustown location at 108 E. Green Street barely exists.

“When I tell people I work at Garcia’s, they ask ‘Where is that?'” said Belinda Brouette, shifts manager for the restaurant. “Any time I do the bookkeeping, it looks like we are barely surviving.”

Garcia’s is located between Fourth and First streets on Green, an area the city has recently put on the schedule as part of the Capital Improvement Plan.

The plan is designed to prioritize and fund various construction and maintenance projects around the city of Champaign.

Under the plan, the area of Green Street between Fourth and First streets has been earmarked for work for the years 2010 and 2011, said City Planner T.J. Blakeman.

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During the next 10 years, the plan will cost approximately $227 million.

This will be the second time Campustown will go through a beautification process on Green Street to improve the area’s image. The first area was completed in August 2002, with the streetscape on Green Street between Wright and Fourth streets.

Similar projects have also been done on Sixth Street between both Green and John streets and Green and Healey streets.

Blakeman said that due to the streetscape and maintenance, business picked up because it was a more attractive area.

“The streets looked a lot better, and it was a lot better of a business environment,” Blakeman said. “We would like to think the streetscape helped to spur some of the development we have had down there.”

Michael La Due, District 2 Council member and employee at Jon’s Pipe Shop, said he has seen traffic in the area pick up since cleaning up the area.

“The businesses have been benefitting from it,” La Due said. “I now see a lot of family people walking around here on weekends.”

Now, however, it is a matter of getting the funding for it. Blakeman said that in 2002.

The streetscape and maintenance that took place on Green Street was a $7 million project, which property owners in the area helped pay.

“We created a special services area, which created a district on the map where the owners would pay a higher property tax,” he said. “That money went toward the streetscape.”

Blakeman said that this time around the project will hopefully be funded by a similar program.

The work is estimated at more than $6.6 million.

In addition to being part of the Capital Improvement Plan, the beautification of Green Street is part of the University District Action Plan, which lists a number of suggested projects around Campustown.

Still, while the area between Wright and Fourth streets have improved business over the years, not everyone is convinced that having maintenance and renovations is a good thing.

“I don’t know if extending it out to First and Neil (streets) is a smart idea,” said Frank Calabrese, member of the Illinois Student Senate and recent appointee of the University District Advisory Board, which suggests projects to the Champaign City Council. “I think it would be smarter to make it fatter, not narrower.”

Calabrese said developing out that far may spread the area too thin, and that the city should be trying to develop in areas with old buildings, such as on Wright Street.

Calabrese is also running as the Republican candidate for the 103rd District in the Illinois House.

However, Brouette said she believes any improvement to the streets and sidewalks on Green Street would definitely help Garcia’s struggling business.

“I think it would make accessibility a bit better, which would affect business,” Brouette said. “With more trees and better sidewalks, it would draw more people over to us.”