Champaign Council Endorses Storefront Plan

Story by Jeff Bossert

A storefront improvement plan has cleared its first hurdle before the Champaign City Council. 

In Tuesday night’s study session, council members unanimously backed the plan to provide matching grant dollars to those in pre-1940 structures in Tax Increment Financing districts downtown and on East University Avenue.

City Planner T.J. Blakeman says the city is in danger of losing the TIF funds if the storefront program doesn’t start up soon.  He says the idea is to enhance the outward look of buildings, and bring in more retail.   

"We want to find ways to open some of these openings back up, restore the facades, and in some cases, bring them back to their original apperance, and some cases, simply to a more traditional standard."

But William Jones, who owns Rose and Taylor Barber Shop and Beauty Salon on North First Street, says the TIF funds should be extended to minority-owned businesses on 1st street, and the Midtown neighborhood.  

Council member Will Kyles supported the storefront program, but agreed that other TIF funds should be reviewed.

"What we don't want is someone to go through downtown, and say 'wow, this looks great', and for someone to go through Campustown, and say 'this is awesome,' and then they come to Midtown, and say 'whoa, what happened here," he said.  "You know, so we want to make sure all of the areas are taken care of equally." 

Don Elmore, the co-owner of Jane Addams Book Shop downtown, called the plan a ‘perfect package’ for his business, and he hopes to help preserve the architectural and aesthetic integrity downtown.  

But at least one owner is concerned about cost.  Austin’s Sportswear owner Autumn Bates says she wants to know more, but isn’t interested in essentially re-building to redo the storefront.

The owners of building could receive up to $10-thousand in matching dollars.  Half of it would cover work on the ground floor, with 25-percent going towards upper floors.

Story source: WILL