Local businesses welcome University Ave. construction

Champaign’s East Side Streetscape Project might have benefits for businesses along University Ave., according to proprietors who have had front row seats to the on-going construction that began July 7.

“You couldn’t even see the concrete at some parts of the sidewalk,” Bret Elam, an employee of Prime Time Pizza, said, referring to the grass that had overgrown the cracked sidewalk parallel to University Avenue.

Tony Vandeventer, development section engineer, said Cross Construction, of Urbana was contracted for the estimated $1.6 million East Side Streetscape Project, and that the entire project must be completed by Oct. 31.

According to the City of Champaign’s Web site, the project will involve the removal and replacement of existing curbs, sidewalks and drive approaches along the south side of University Avenue between Third and Wright Streets.

Vandeventer said he doesn’t remember the last time construction was done on that part of University Avenue.

“I think (the sidewalks, curbs, drive approaches) were in poor condition,” Vandeveter said.

The construction seems to be a welcome change, one that Elam said has done little to affect the businesses along University Avenue.

“It has been a little inconvenient with the (right east bound lane) closed, but they’ve been good at keeping at least one entrance open,” Elam said.

Nada Cagle, co-owner of Pampered Pet Center located between Wright and Sixth Streets, said for a week, her customers had to park at Car X and Marathon, the businesses located on either side of her shop.

“We borrowed parking temporarily,” Cagle said. “It’s nice to have good neighbors.”

But despite the parking inconvenience, Cagle was glad to have the University Avenue improvements.

“It’s a big improvement to what it was before,” Cagle said. “We’re definitely happy it’s done.”

To notify businesses and residents of approaching construction, Vandeventer said the city sent city representatives door to door as well as mailing postcards.

He also said that a minimum of one traffic lane is closed for this kind of project. He also said the city monitors the flow of traffic and that Illinois Department of Transportation standards are applied.

“For the most part, (lanes) are staying open,” Vandeventer said. “If possible, we build drive approaches half at a time.”

Vandeventer said the city is aware of the increased traffic returning students will bring to the community this fall, but that it should not affect construction.

“We work a block at a time,” he said.

Elam, who moved to Champaign in 1992, said University Avenue desperately needed work back then.

“That road has been in bad shape for a long time,” Elam said.

But the road won’t see work until later this fall.

Dave Clark, assistant city engineer, transportation section, said once the East Side Streetscape project is finished, University Avenue will be milled and paved this fall.

“When you build a house, the carpet is the last thing to go in,” Clark said.