Champaign takes on restoration project despite traffic issues

By Amanda Liberatore

The city of Champaign, in combination with the Public Works Department, is carrying out a brick restoration project on the Champaign City Building.

“Seventy-two years of corrosion is wearing down on the bricks and on the lintel that supports the bricks,” said Dennis Schmidt, director of public works.

Contractors attempted to get rid of corrosion on the bricks in 1987, when a third story to the building was added. However, this addition was never scaled properly, and as a result, water has been seeping into the second floor of the building and cracking the brick. This poses a potential safety issue for the people who use the building each day.

“We intend to replace corroded and deteriorated parts of the building, all while preserving it as a national historic landmark,” Schmidt said.

Preparation for the project began in June 2008. The design for the new project has been completed and bid prices has been opened up.

John Frauenhoffer, president of Frauenhoffer and Associates which is contracting the project, said he hopes the project will begin by March 1 and should be completed by Nov. 30.

The contractors and members of the Public Works Department have decided to offer incentive payments for early completion of the project. Schmidt said that the last thing that they would want is a hold up in the community, transportation wise, as a result of project delay.

“We will be closing lanes on Neil Street, Walnut Street, University Avenue and Chester Street until project completion,” said Schmidt. “If the lanes are still closed by Nov. 30, then there is a fee of $1,300 in liquidated damages.”

Traffic control is already in place on University Avenue in preparation for the project.

Garbage trucks will be allowed to pass through the barricades on these streets, but delivery vehicles and private vehicles will not be allowed to pass.

After they receive permission from the Historic Preservation Commission, the contractors will lower the parapet wall on the second story of the building. In addition, they will also brush up the limestone that has discolored over time.

Concern has been expressed over the fact that a lot is going on downtown in April, and some have even brought up the possibility of fewer lane closures.

Schmidt said that with the tight schedule, it would be very unlikely that they could minimize closures. If the project is delayed, it could potentially last two seasons.

The city council agreed on implementing the project, and many of the members have expressed their gratitude towards Frauenhoffer and Associates.

“This is part of the city’s continuing commitment to downtown,” said At-Large Councilwoman Deborah Feinen. “We need to bite the bullet, carry out the project in the margin of time that we were given and continue to invest in the quality of our city’s historical landmarks.”