What’s possible for vacant spaces in downtown Urbana buildings? New group forms to explore options

Bill Lackey/Staff
Bill Lackey/Staff

A new committee formed in Urbana is looking at Bellevue as a model for how to fill vacant downtown buildings and attract new business and residents to Champaign County.

The group, called Moving Downtown Forward, hosted its first meeting at a downtown Urbana artist’s studio Wednesday night. The group includes developers, local government officials and Champaign County business owners, said Marcia Bailey, economic development director for the Champaign Economic Partnership.

Several of the first-floor office spaces in downtown Urbana are occupied with businesses and restaurants, Bailey said. But like many cities, it’s been a challenge finding investors willing to take risks and rehab other spaces on the second and third floors of many of the city’s historic buildings.

“We don’t market what we have,” Bailey said. “We’re slow appreciating what we have and telling people about it.”

The group’s goal will be to work with potential residents and business owners, and look for ways to streamline the process to redevelop some of the city’s historic downtown buildings, she said.