Urbana finishes section of Boneyard Creek between Griggs Street and Broadway Avenue

The City of Urbana recently completed the $7.9 million Boneyard Creek Improvements Project, bringing a new pathway, bridge, local art and more to a section of the creek between Griggs Street and Broadway Avenue.

By Walbert Castillo

Two years and $7.9 million dollars later, the City of Urbana is celebrating the completion of the first section of improvements to Boneyard Creek.

The community gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov. 21 held to commemorate the completion of the Boneyard Creek Improvements Project, which redeveloped parts of the creek between Griggs Street and Broadway Avenue.

The city has plans to develop five different sections of the creek, spanning from Founders Park in the west to the intersection of Vine Street and University Avenue in the east.

The recently completed project, section three, covers a distance of approximately 800 feet and is located in the middle of the four other sections.

Alderman Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, said the bridge at Race and Griggs streets across Boneyard Creek needed to be replaced and Race Street needed roadwork and street beautification.

Not only does the $7.9 million project include a new bridge at Boneyard, but also roadwork and beautification to the surrounding area.

The project provided an eight-foot-wide pathway for bicyclists and pedestrians, art sculptures that depict the history of life forms found underneath the creek, over 20,000 native plants that will sprout in the springtime, an irrigation system to help decontaminate the water supply and redeveloped animal habitats, said Brad Bennett, assistant city engineer and project manager for the Boneyard Creek Improvements Project.

“On the north side of the channel, we planted a lot of native vegetation, more so like a prairie mix to provide habitats for animals such as woodchucks, squirrels and ducks; the south side is more park-like with more trees and shrubs planted alongside the creek,” Bennett said.

The construction part of the project was the most difficult, Bennett said, because the city had to work around a railroad that involved a multitude of permits, which took time. Bennett said the project encountered complications with construction near the railroad portion as well as several utility issues, involving the movement of fiber-optic cables underground.

The initial planning stages of the project started in 2008, said Alderman Dennis Roberts, Ward 5. However, construction did not start until 2012.

The construction project impacted local property owners surrounding the area due to streets being closed, Bennett said. He expressed his gratitude to them for their patience and support for the project.

Because this was a tax increment financing, or TIF, project, Mayor Laurel Prussing said any increases in the value of development will be sent back to the TIF district.

“This is an area that needed redevelopment, we thought that beautifying the creek would be a huge incentive for new businesses and residential construction,” Prussing said.

The money raised toward the project was paid by taxes from the properties surrounding the area, rather than the general revenue collected by the whole city, Bennett said.

Aldermen Symth and Roberts said they hope the recent completion of improvements to the center of Boneyard Creek will drive the city to begin redevelopment of the other four sections in the near future. Specifically, Roberts hopes improvements will begin with section one on the western side of the creek near Founder’s Park.

Walbert can be reached at [email protected]