Green Street Renovation Project a welcome change to Campustown

Fourteen years ago, a collaboration between the community and the University set off an ambitious construction project that led to the Green Street we know today. In that time, the street’s transformation remained between Wright and Fourth streets, but, in January, the Green Street Renovation Project will push onward toward Neil Street. 

Heading west past 309 E. Green and the construction of the monolithic skyscraper at 308-312 E. Green St., the sidewalks and streets fall to severe disrepair. The urban landscape that gives Wright to Fourth streets its character is nowhere to be found. Still, several businesses including Papa John’s and Chopstix have continued operations out there. 

The renovation project hopes to remedy the streets and provide for more businesses to thrive in Campustown. It also aims to provide a more cohesive urban design that will, we hope, attract students to venture out there.

To be successful, the area needs to maintain the density of businesses now found on the eastern part of Green Street, of course, but the attention paid to the details will be important, too. 

The sidewalks need to have ample space for outdoor cafes, like those found in front of Starbucks and Potbelly or those outside of Café Kopi and Esquire in downtown Champaign. The success of those spaces is that they are one with the sidewalks and not cordoned off behind planters, dividers or fences. Pedestrians must be able to walk comfortably around them, but a slightly congested feel is more attractive. 

When planters and ledges are constructed, as much of them as possible should be built to provide seating, too. Planters should have ledges wide enough and low enough for people to sit on so that they can enjoy a beverage they purchased inside one of the stores nearby. 

Because Wright to Fourth streets contains virtually no places to chain up a bike (except for a few bike racks on the street corners and the fences between the sidewalks and the streets), city planners should factor in a biking infrastructure. As the weather warms up, biking becomes a popular choice for student travel. 

Artists should take note, too. Public art draw the public to a place, especially if the art is interactive like the Chicago bean (the Cloud Gate, if you know it by that little-used name), the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park or the soon-to-be-installed Roger Ebert sculpture in front of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign. 

The renovation project will be a welcome change to Campustown and, if executed well, could continue to provide jobs for community members and students alike and could blend downtown Champaign and campus. We have high hopes for the success of the project because students want to and will use the space.