RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — Big changes are on the way to one area of Rantoul. Improvements that officials said have been in the works for months.
Tuesday night, the Village Board is meeting to approve an engineering agreement. That way, a group can come in, take surveys and start getting ready for construction.
Before the new lights, sidewalks and greenery are added above ground, crews will have to replace a few things below ground such as water mains and storm sewers. No matter what it takes, Chris Milliken, Rantoul’s urban planning manager, and Eric Thompson, a nearby restaurant owner, said they’re ready to see a change.
“There would be a small amphitheater, a small water feature, some walls, a sitting area, a sound system,” Milliken said.
A project he said all community members will benefit from.
“People are gonna be employed downtown, but, most of the community at some point or another is visiting downtown either for an event or for business,” Milliken added.
He said right now, there are no trees downtown and very little landscaping. So, he hopes the additions that are a part of the $4.8 million project will encourage more people to spend more time in the 4-block area.
Thompson is hopeful for the same. He owns “ET’s” on Sangamon Avenue downtown.
“Whether there’s more retail or even more restaurants, just making it more of a destination,” Thompson said.
Milliken wants the same and thinks the improvements can help draw in more businesses.
“Right now, there’s a number of vacancies down in that area,” Milliken said. “Certainly a couple of those are for sale and I think those property owners, seeing these improvements coming to the streetscaping, are very much interested in improving their buildings.”
Thompson’s excited about expanded sidewalks because that can help him grow his business.
“It’s going to be much more user-friendly for outdoor dining and just being outdoors in that atmosphere,” he said.
That’s exactly what Milliken was envisioning.
“I’m looking at the uniqueness aspect, entry arches, perhaps a plane feature, the amphitheater aspect of that plaza there, I think those are things that are really gonna make it uniquely Rantoul and downtown Rantoul.”
The money for the project would come from the Rebuild Illinois Capital Program grant and the city’s ARPA funds. Milliken said they hope to start the underground infrastructure work later this year and finish streetscaping by 2025.