Smile Politely

Good on you, Urbana

Soon, my four-year-long tenure in Urbana will come to a close, and I’ll trade the quiet brick streets of U-Town for the volume and bustle of Champaign — a decision I didn’t come to lightly. Urbana possesses a certain amount of progressive charm, and while it makes an absolutely fine place to call home, Champaign simply has more going on for me. The rise of downtown Champaign over the past 20 years has been remarkable, attracting more traffic than downtown Urbana.

Please don’t get me wrong; I love Urbana. It’s just much more quiet — and while Downtown Urbana is starting to become more lively, it could always use a little more in terms of sustainable and independent development.

Just today, it was announced that Cafeteria & Co. and [co][lab] founder Matt Cho will be receiving an extra $345,000 in TIF funding from the City of Urbana to develop a new market along the Boneyard Creek in Downtown Urbana. According to The News-Gazette, the market will be called “Broadway Market,” and will feature “an indoor space with a cafe, bakery, dining hall, beer hall, coffee roaster and retail space.” The building is an old warehouse, and as such, construction will be focused on renovation of existing space instead of constructing an entirely new building.

After spending time this summer at Union Market in Washington, D.C. — a project that seems nearly identical to Broadway Market – I can see the massive appeal. A mixture of all of these kinds of commercial development in one place is great, but made even greater by the proximity to Downtown Urbana. Additionally, the new project will provide an estimated 40 jobs to the local economy, a number that certainly can’t hurt.

Combine this new space with the Urbana staples of Black Dog, Error Records and Pizza M/Flying Machine and suddenly Downtown Urbana seems to be peppered with awesome businesses — most of them fairly young in age.

I also applaud the City of Urbana, for allowing funding for this space to be renovated. A crucial component to thriving downtown atmospheres is a healthy mix of sustainable attractions — and Broadway Market certainly seems to fit the bill.  Given Cho’s track record of [co][lab], which provides workspace to entrepreneurs and start-ups, and Cafeteria & Co., which has rapidly become one of the best study spots in town, I’m not entirely sure there’s a better man for the job. It makes me proud to have resided in a city where the government values development on the cutting edge instead of the bland strip malls that cover the edges of town.

No one can really predict how Broadway Market will turn out — or if it will have that large of an effect on Downtown Urbana, but the potential alone is exciting to say the least, especially with the local government’s blessing. Maybe Downtown Urbana will become something that can rival Downtown Champaign’s bustle in the future, or maybe it won’t. Either way, this is a step in the right direction for Urbana.

(Photo of downtown Urbana courtesy of Daniel Schwen, Photo of Cafeteria & Co. courtesy of

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