CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Since August, a major sewer project has made its way down Springfield Avenue in Champaign. The overhaul has left one local business, DIGS, with some challenges.
New pipelines are being installed between 2nd Street and Neil Street. City officials said the system near 2nd Street and Springfield Avenue was near capacity. There is a new hotel and conference center coming to downtown Champaign causing the system to be overwhelmed.
The closing of Springfield Avenue may be causing headaches for people who use it to get through University of Illinois’ congested campus, but it’s also causing a local business extra stress.
DIGS is a shop on Springfield Avenue that sells antique and vintage-inspired items. It opened in August when four local antique dealers and furniture artists decided to combine their talents and open a shop.
“We just thought that Champaign needed more of an upscale-type, boutique-type shopping experience,” Co-Owner Joy Davis said. “We love what we do, but we know that drive-by traffic is going to be very helpful for this business.”
When the City of Champaign started work on the sewer system outside of DIGS between Neil Avenue and White Street, Davis said she noticed a change in customer traffic immediately.
“When they first closed it down, it dropped off just completely, almost completely,” she said. “So, we right away started making signs — we made those in-house — and, you know, really emphasizing things on social media.”
Public Works Manager Kris Koester said the sewer work was unavoidable. The city’s planned “Yards Project” will bring a convention center and hotel, among other amenities, to 11 acres of downtown’s south side.
Koester said it would put pressure on an already strained system.
“We took a look at what that project might do and did some studies on it and saw that our current sanitary sewer capacity was near its limit,” he said.
Davis said work started about a week after DIGS opened in August. Now, she’s worried about losing sales during the busiest shopping time of the year.
“Christmas, you know, big sales season coming up here,” she said, “and we might be missing out on that.”
DIGS will miss out on some Black Friday sales, but she’s holding out hope the road will be open for the holidays.
“It’s about five phases. It’s all one project, but it’s five phases,” Koester said. “We’ll be wrapped up with this current project, which is along Springfield [Avenue], by December.
Koester said after this current phase of construction ends in December, it’ll pick back up once spring starts. He said Springfield Avenue will be open during the break, and the remaining phases will take place on other parts of the avenue.
Davis said while it wasn’t the ideal time for DIGS to open, she knows her business will get through this rough patch.
“We’re still happy and doing what we love,” she said.