Once again, the Champaign County Preservation Alliance has assumed a leadership role in making the historic core of Urbana a welcoming and attractive environment for both residents and visitors. When the board of the Champaign County Preservation Alliance learned that work on Phase II of the Legacy Park project had stalled for lack of the necessary funds, they decided to be an agent for change. Early this summer CCPA issued a challenge to area businesses to continue the work of turning the vacant lot at 20 Monument Square from an eyesore to an attractive focal point.
Recognizing that the Legacy Park project could play a key role in insuring a vital downtown, the Champaign County Preservation Alliance established a $5,000 fund and agreed to match, dollar for dollar, donations from area businesses. The Peoples Savings Bank and Security National Bank have both made generous responses to this challenge. These funds revitalized the languishing project and made it possible for the construction of Legacy Park to move forward.
Since the spring of 2000 when the former Main News Stand building was demolished, the lot at the corner of South Main Street and Monument Square had been an ugly gravel covered wasteland in the heart of downtown Urbana. In recent years, Monument Square District developed a phased plan to turn the vacant lot into a community asset. MSD worked with the City of Urbana on the legal and design aspects of the plan. The project got underway using volunteer labor and private donations from a wide variety of businesses, financial institutions, organizations and individuals. This initial phase included excavation, infrastructure foundation work, the installation of brick pavers and the purchase of the columns.
Area residents wondered what was planned for the series of concrete squares in the brick pavement. However, MSD needed additional funding to purchase the heavy cedar lumber to complete the cross members of the pergola. As part of its ongoing commitment to downtown Urbana, the Champaign County Preservation Alliance set aside a special fund and issued a dollar for dollar matching grant challenge. The Peoples Savings Bank and Security National Bank have already made generous commitments. Several other local businesses have been approached to help complete the challenge. As a result, more than twenty columns and a network of beams have been raised to form a beautiful pergola which will enable the space to be used as a meeting place and information point for the community. It is hoped that much of the work for this phase will be completed in time for the 7th annual Simon Kenton Chili Cook Off and Hoopla Parade on September 26th.
The construction has been supervised by CCPA Past President Rich Colvin who also serves on the board of the Monument Square District. Colvin is very much “hands on” when it comes to historic preservation. His creative skills and vision have given downtown Urbana both the Scioto Inn and the newly restored Carter House. True to form, Rich was in the thick of things this past week, cutting the timbers and hoisting them on to the columns. Rich and Mark Neer with the crew from Neer Restoration braved 90 plus degree temperatures to help turn Legacy Park from a dream to reality.
The current challenge grant is just one example of CCPA’s ongoing commitment to downtown Urbana. In 2014, CCPA issued a similar challenge grant to help the GrandWorks Foundation raise funds for the preservation of the Gloria Theater. Over the past several years, the Preservation Alliance has funded a number of façade grants to assist local businesses in maintaining and highlighting the architecture of historic structures.
Urbana Loft Tour
Last year CCPA also organized the Urban Loft Tour which gave visitors the opportunity to view the amazing upper spaces behind the historic facades of downtown Urbana. The Preservation Alliance will once again host the Urban Loft Tour on Saturday, November 7th from 10 a.m. to 3 pm. The Tour will feature a wide variety of architectural spaces in downtown Urbana. Visitors are reminded that stair climbing will be necessary to view the Tour.
For more information on the Urban Loft Tour check the CCPA website: http://www.urbanahomeandgardentour.com/urban-loft-tour.html or call 1-800-791-6010. Tickets for the tour will be $15 in advance and $17 on the day of the event. Advance sale tickets will be available at the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and local financial institutions beginning October 5th. The Urban Loft Tour is timed to coincide with MSD’s annual Holiday Open House event.
Information for this story submitted by Anne Mayer on behalf of the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.