Council to preserve historic feel

By Crystal Kang

The Urbana City Council supported an ordinance Tuesday night that would help the city maintain a uniform historic appearance throughout the block of campus to the west of Lincoln Avenue and non-campus buildings and residences along Lincoln Avenue to the east.

Urbana Associate Planner Rebecca Bird said the Plan Commission will specifically review major structural changes to properties that would imperil the aesthetic nature of the historic area. Home owners and temporary residents will still hold jurisdiction over making minor changes to the appearance of their property.

Ward 1 Alderman Charlie Smyth said the University’s architectural influences expand to Lincoln Avenue. The historic appearance has a phenomenal impact on whether students, faculty and staff find historic Urbana an attractive neighborhood that embraces its past yet keeps itself up-to-date.

“This is a great tool,” said Ward 5 Alderman Dennis Roberts. “There’s going to be a high interest in (historic) east Urbana. We have very old residents. We’re very sensitive because we have older buildings. We’re very excited about the future.”

Ward 3 Alderman Robert Lewis asked if there was any way to bypass having the additional layer of design review and keep the discussion within the local district.

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    Bird reassured the council that it isn’t unusual to have one board that administers to a specific neighborhood. She added that this specified neighborhood has a Plan Commission specifically to settle questions and complaints neighbors have with observing drastic changes in other people’s property in the historic part of Urbana along Lincoln and Busey Avenue. The area under design review include Illinois, Nevada and Iowa streets, which are all blocks that run east and west between Lincoln and Busey Avenue.

    “To me, what we’re doing in design review is providing positive (impetus) for development and allow for careful development,” Smyth said.