CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Many towns across the state of Illinois will start to see changes to their downtown areas, including Champaign.
It’s part of the Rebuild Illinois capital program. On Monday, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced a $106 million grant that will help revitalize 50 different downtown areas throughout the state.
Dr. Bill Youngerman owns three buildings on Main Street in downtown Champaign that are part of a historic district. He applied for the grant in January and was awarded $3 million. Now, he’s working with consultant Alan Nudo on the plans.
The redesign will include new storefronts, apartments and a parking garage for tenants. Nudo said this is a unique project.
“We think that this needs some identification to the public,” Nudo said. Where the historic center starts, and where it ends. Signage and plaques on the buildings to identify what the building’s use was long time ago.”
Joseph Kuhn’s Men’s Store is one of the buildings being renovated. Nudo said it is the oldest department store in the state and Gordon Tracey, the store’s manager, grew up in Champaign.
“I think anything that is done, and especially in restoring the buildings instead of tearing them down and building new ones, is a plus,” Tracey said.
Some visitors feel the same way. One person said he’s glad to see the historic buildings preserved.
Rob Kowalski with the City of Champaign’s Planning and Developing Department said this will help the downtown grow.
“Coming out of COVID, it’s really important for us to get these kinds of projects where we can restore our buildings, provide new businesses and new opportunities,” Kowalski said.
He also hopes to make downtown a 24/7 destination that will draw in many different people.
“Someone who’s living, someone who’s working, someone who’s just visiting,” Kowalski said. “And that’s what this project has the potential to do.”
Five years ago, Youngerman and Nudo worked together to renovate Champaign’s Black Dog restaurant. Now, Nudo said they are excited to bring more change.
“Everything that we do helps others,” Nudo said. “Everything we do helps other real estate people that are involved in this project outside of our project.”
A timeline for the project has not been set. The next steps include working with the City of Champaign to set up additional plans.
The City of Rantoul also received $3 million to renovate portions of their downtown. Danville, Taylorville and Mattoon received portions of the grant as well.