Stratton Criticizes Urbana Boneyard Plan
By Jim Meadows
The multimillion dollar project to beautify the Boneyard Creek in downtown Urbana is not money well-spent, according to mayoral candidate Les Stratton.
On Wednesday morning, the retired city employee took reporters down to where the Boneyard flows underneath Broadway. There, work has begun on a public pathway and park that follows the Boneyard west to Griggs Street. The project is funded by Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenue.
Stratton said that without a firm commitment by existing or potential businesses to invest in downtown Urbana. The cost of the project is too much for what he said will be limited benefits.
“The five-million that’s being used for the Boneyard mini-park should have been used to market the four development sites described in the Downtown Markwt Study, and attract viable businesses for them," said Stratton. "This money should have been targeted for infrastructure improvements that businesses need, site preparation and other incentives, that will bring businesses in, and make a vital downtown.”
Stratton said he only supports another, less expensive component of the Boneyard project that would improve streetscapes on Race Street and Broadway near the Boneyard.
But Mayor Laurel Prussing denies Stratton’s argument. She said there is plenty of support from local businesses for the Boneyard improvements --- and that there is a track record of success with waterway parks in other cities, including Charlotte, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
"Cities that beautify their waterways see tremendous business development as a result," said Prussing. "And it’s going to make the Downtown more of a destination. So that’s why we’re doing it."
Stratton and Prussing are opponents in the Feb. 26 Democratic mayoral primary in Urbana. The winner will face Republican candidate Rex Bradfield in the April election.