Urbana to see beginning of Cunningham beautification

By Crystal Kang

Cunningham Avenue in Urbana can expect drastic renovations in a matter of years.

A landscape architect from Claire Bennett Associates Inc., in Indianapolis presented the final concepts and design plans impacting the Cunningham Avenue Beautification Project at the Urbana City Council meeting Monday night.

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After a year and a half of preliminary meetings among the city residents, business owners, land developers and the city council, the project has been approved.

“(With this project), businesses can gain a lot of visibility,” said CBA Landscape Architect Stefan Luebke. “It has the opportunity to bring back retail niches.”

Luebke added that Cunningham Avenue is one of the primary entrances into Urbana and is the front doorstep to the world. Some of the updates that contribute to beautifying this long stretch of roadway is creating bike paths on both sides of the five-lane highways and using greenery to add color to the street scene.

Ward 1 Alderman Charlie Smyth said he was concerned about roundabouts breaking down during dense rush hours. This could affect bicyclists who use the bike paths.

Luebke said there’s enough room to accommodate for the bicyclists with five feet on each side of the five lane roads.

The theme, Progress from the Prairie, is centered on Urbana’s movement away from its agrarian past to a contemporary urban town.

“The population of Urbana is growing,” Luebke said. “There’s about 40,000 residents in Urbana. The mean average age (in Urbana) is 24 to 25, whereas in Illinois it’s 36.”

Although Urbana has three main entrances, Urbana Redevelopment Specialist Ryan Brault said Cunningham Avenue is the first priority.

“We’re going to prioritize on areas where the TIF funds go,” said Brault. “How the TIF 4 funding increases overtime will depend on how much revenue comes out of the new projects. This becomes the impetus for the (development of the) rest of the city.”