Illinois Public Media News
Urbana's city council will further explore the idea of a seven-story downtown development that would include retail space, offices, and condominiums.
Champaign developer Gary Olsen now estimates the cost at a little over $80-million. Monday night's 5-0 vote by the city council meant no firm commitment, but directed Urbana's legal staff to prepare a document, saying Olsen can market his Vine Street Metro Centre idea to investors.
The plan looks to have four total levels of office space, retail on the first floor, and nearly 30 condominiums on two others. Two levels of parking would be underground, and town homes would be in a smaller building to the east. Alderman Charlie Smyth called the project ambitious, telling Olsen he is 'moving forward in spite of the economy.'
It's one the developer believes will turn around.
"The United States will slowly get out of this," Olsen said. "That's what I'm counting on. It will be a much better situation when this building is dedicated - maybe in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of our beautiful shopping center. It probably needs some help, too".
Lincoln Square Village is across the street from the proposed site, and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014. Mayor Laurel Prussing said the size of the proposal concerns her, but wants to take the time to get the proper amount of public input.
"It's our land, and we're going to be very much involved in what's the proper scale," she said. "What's economically viable? You're never going to get a perfect answer, but you get to a better answer by having a lot of discussion about it and involving a lot of people. And if there's investors that are willing to do it at a certain scale, that tells you something right there."
Olsen said such a site would appeal to non-profit groups, and lawyers, who could walk to the nearby federal and county courthouses.
The plan is to locate in Urbana's Tax Increment Financing District, and also where Goodyear Tire holds a lease on the property. So if the project moves forward, it's unlikely any construction would take place in 2012. Olsen's plan also includes a separate building of town homes to the east.
The city council expects to revisit the Metro Centre idea next month.
(Drawing courtesy of Olsen and Associates)
Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll put together a panel to review the state's pension system following a newspaper's investigations.
Quinn made the announcement Monday following a series of stories by the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV.
In a story published Sunday, the Tribune reported that dozens of employees of private groups qualify for public pensions through Illinois State University even when they don't work on campus. In October the newspaper reported that two lobbyists with no teaching experience were allowed to count past years as union employees toward state teacher pensions after substitute teaching for only one day.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Quinn says the panel will be led by a senior adviser and will suggest changes to prevent abuses of the pension system.
(With additional reporting from Illinois Public Radio)
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk is endorsing Mitt Romney for president.
Kirk said Monday that the former Massachusetts governor knows how to work with Democrats and independents. The Illinois senator touts Romney's work as the head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Kirk said Romney would cut spending, promote economic growth and repeal the health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama. Kirk told reporters Monday that Republicans need to pick the right candidate to beat Obama.
He said his endorsement could be a factor for Romney in Illinois.
"Because it looks like we will have a pretty big battle for the Republican primary across many states," Kirk said. "We're now going to have a battle in Illinois. Illinois normally had a primary that was too late. But this year I think the voice of Illinois voters is going to matter."
He argued that Illinois will matter in the race for the Republican nomination even though its primary is not until March 20. Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford says Romney's campaign is working hard in the state.
Romney donated to Kirk's campaign during his successful run for Senate last year.
Urbana's City Council gets its first chance Monday night to hear about a proposed six-story mixed use development designed to be a 'stimulus' for downtown.
Champaign architect Gary Olsen said his Metro Centre on South Vine Street would use a retro style of development, and compliment buildings like the Champaign County Courthouse. The development would include condominiums, commercial retail, restaurants, as well as parking space. A second building to its east would consist of townhouses.
Olsen said he is open to ideas for businesses the public wants to see in Urbana.
"We're encouraging anyone in the Champaign County area who has a wonderful boutique they love in Chicago, or a sports place that they have found in Indianapolis they would like to replicate here," he said. "We're not just looking for restaurants, we're looking for a lot of commercial retail use of the first-floor level."
Olsen responded to a request for proposal from the city, after it purchased property on the square block across from the federal courthouse downtown. Urbana holds a lease on the Goodyear Tire shop on South Vine, and will negotiate to relocate that business.
There is no action expected at Monday's initial presentation, but Olsen hopes construction can completed by 2014, which would coincide with Lincoln Square Village's 50th anniversary.
The Urbana City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the city building.
Illinois authorities investigating the deaths of a family in the small farming community of Emington say the mother shot her three children and live-in boyfriend before killing herself.
The murder-suicide Friday afternoon claimed the lives of 30-year-old Sara McMeen, 29-year-old Daniel Warren and McMeen's three children: 8-year-old Skyler Lemke, 7-year-old Ian Lemke and 10-month-old Maggie Warren.
Authorities previously declined to identify the shooter, although a neighbor told The Associated Press she saw McMeen shoot her baby in the family's backyard.
Livingston County Sheriff Martin Meredith said Monday that authorities found McMeen and the three children outside the home and Daniel Warren inside. Autopsy results show all five died of gunshot wounds.
Authorities are looking for anyone who spoke to McMeen or Daniel Warren before the shootings.
The Vermilion County Coroner has identified the man who was fatally shot Sunday night at a Danville public housing complex as 25-year old Latrell Smith.
Doug Miller, deputy director of Danville police, said a resident of an apartment in the Fair Oaks public housing complex arrived at 6 p.m. Sunday, finding the victim with a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center.
Miller says the man who found Smith lives at that apartment, but is not a relative of his. It wasn't immediately clear if Smith lived at that apartment. Miller says detectives are talking to relatives and anyone else who knew Smith in hopes of finding out what happened.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
A judge says Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White must face trial on criminal charges including voter fraud that could lead to his removal from office.
Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation on Monday spurned White's motion to dismiss the seven felony counts. His ruling says an Indiana Recount Commission ruling upholding White's 2010 election has no bearing on the court case and there's no legal authority limiting a prosecution of White.
The Republican won election despite accusations he lied about where he lived in the 2010 primary so he could continue collecting his salary from the Fishers Town Council. A Marion County judge is expected to rule soon on a civil lawsuit by Democrats that seeks to have White declared ineligible for office because he allegedly committed voter fraud.
Fans of the U of I women's volleyball team came to Willard Airport Sunday to welcome the team back home, the day after their NCAA national title loss to UCLA on Saturday.
That loss capped a year in which the Illini team had the most wins since 1992, their first NCAA semifinal appearance since 1988, and their first championship game ever. A tired Michelle Bartsch couldn't pick a particular moment of the season that stood out for her. But Bartsch, who was named to the All-Tournament Team along with fellow Illini players Colleen Ward and Annie Luhrsen, says she remembers when she first realized she was on a team ready to compete for the championship. Bartsch says she knew it last January, when they first started training for the season.
"I switched positions", explains Bartsch. "We had people filling different roles. And I know that we had a team that could go really far. And with our freshmen coming in, it kind of solidified. Our freshmen are awesome, and they make us better every day in practice."
Coach Kevin Hambly agrees, saying that they had a great recruiting class with a lot of talent this season, and players who came expecting to compete for the national championship.
But if the players were charges up, so were the fans. Hambly says their response this season has been overwhelming.
"We sold out more matches this year than we have in the past", says Hambly. "And our attendance went way up. But what I think more important was just the amount of support from the community just walking around town, and the amount of emails and calls and everything. It's been overwhelming."
As for Michelle Bartsch, she plans to take the spring semester off to play volleyball professionally. But Hambly says the senior will be back at Illinois in the fall as part of the coaching staff.
Illinois's first trip to the NCAA finals in women's volleyball ended in defeat Saturday night. The UCLA Bruins won the match in four sets (25-23, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16) at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Coach Kevin Hambly says the Bruins played hard, and made the plays they needed to make at key moments, especially in the fourth and deciding set.
As for his own team, Hambly said, "I've never been around a group of people that were more committed to each other, more committed to the process, and more committed to just being, not just great volleyball players, but great people. It's truly been a pleasure to work with this group."
It was the final game for senior Colleen Ward, who earned First Team All-American honors earlier in the week. Afterwards, an emotional Ward fought back tears as she looked back on her time with the Illini.
"I couldn't have picked a better team, better coaches, betters support from my fans", said Ward. "I'm really thankful for what we had here and what we accomplished this year. I'm really proud of my team."
Illinois won the 2nd set by two points, and lost the 3rd by two points. Ward said it was difficult coming out of that close third-set loss into the final set. Michelle Bartsch had seven kills in the first set and seven more in the third, en route to a match high 22 kills on the night. Rachel Kidder had a team high 20 kills for the Bruins. Illinois finished the season with a record of 32-5.
The Illini's Ward, Bartsch and junior setter Annie Luhrsen were named to the All-Tournament Team. Luhrsen had 47 assists and six kills.
A fan welcome reception was planned for Sunday for the Illini volleyball team at Flightstar at Willard Airport --- the team was expected to return around 12:15 PM.
Unlike other schools, The Fighting Illini volleyball team can boast that most of its players come from Illinois.
For example, Penn State won four straight national championships before this year. But that's largely due its recruiting beyond the border of Pennsylvania.
Heading into Saturday night's title match, Fighting Illini coach Kevin Hambly doesn't feel he needs to go too far to lure high-quality volleyball players.
"We're fortunate that the University of Illinois is close proximity to some very good recruiting bases," he said. "Ohio, the Chicago area, the St. Louis area, and Indianapolis. Most kids, especially with the nature of how early recruiting is going, want to stay closer to home."
Illinois will take on UCLA at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The Fighting Illini are attempting to win their first national title in women's volleyball.
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