“Basically, we wanted to put something together that was of value to multiple layers of our community,” said committee member and property owner Jamon Sellman in a welcome statement. “What we call ourselves is Moving Downtown Forward. And if you look at the committee members, we have a real mixed bag, which we believe is a very positive thing. We have property owners, we have building officials, we have zoning officials, we have the CEP represented, so we have multiple sectors … We’re trying to bring more living, more playing downtown so that we have walking traffic that is wanting to spend their money downtown and therefore we all thrive.”
Sellman said the committee’s goals include attracting new residents to downtown Urbana, assisting public and private development projects, providing information and resources to assist all types of downtown stakeholders and partnering with the city of Urbana.
Other committee members include city Zoning Officer Adam Moore, city Community Development Manager Doug Crabill, county Building Regulations Director Dana Booghier, architect Sarah Mackert and multiple property owners.
“In terms of strategy, you want to start early, and you want to go into things without any surprises so that you can avoid as much stress as possible,” said Mackert.
“I will say that developers are high risk, high reward for a reason, but if you have vision and passion I think you can really accomplish a lot.”
Developer Jason Duff presented examples of business owners who invested in the city of Bellefontaine and explained how similar investors may lead to a vibrant downtown Urbana. He also suggested putting up street signs that would direct pedestrians to less prominent businesses within the downtown area.
Communities partnering together
“In my mind, if we could make it uniform through the villages and the city of Urbana and partner with what Bellefontaine has already done … I attended the St. Paris Village Council meeting on Monday and they are putting signs up exactly like Bellefontaine,” said Bailey.
“They went up today, so they’ll have them for the (Champaign County Preservation Alliance) Home and Garden Tour … why not do that in Champaign County and Logan County so that we all have that same pattern so when a visitor comes in they know automatically these are way-finding signs and this is how I’m going to find businesses, restaurants and whatever I’m looking for. It may sound like a minor thing but it’s not, not when you don’t know where you’re going.”
“Sometimes, even if things have been done the same way for 20 years in this town, I hope that there’s some innovators in this room who will say ‘you know what, we’re going to take our town back,’” Duff said.
“‘No longer will we play by these rules. We’re going to take our town back because it’s the right thing to do.’” The meeting closed with a panel taking questions from attendees.
The next meeting of the Moving Downtown Forward committee is scheduled for July 19.
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304