In January of 2012, the city learned that they had won a $675,000
grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic
Opportunity. The CDAP Flexible Opportunity grant was given to the
city with stipulations that the money be used for three purposes:
Develop an overall downtown revitalization plan, fund building
demolition and code compliance work within the downtown area, and
fund facade improvements that are historically accurate and
The grant also came with a local match stipulation, and the city
of Lincoln was required to add $100,000 to the grant for a total of
$775,000 to be spent.
The city appointed a steering committee to move forward with
accomplishing these goals, with a deadline of December 2013 for all
the work to be done and all the funds spent.
Tuesday evening, Doolin told the council that in realizing the
funding could not all be spent by the deadline, the committee had
requested and received an extension from DCEO. The city now has
until Sept. 30, 2014, to use all the grant funding or the money not
used will have to be given back to the state.
Doolin offered a recap of how the grant money has been used to
date. The first portion of the grant requirement was to develop a
plan for revitalization. Doolin said that plan has been completed at
a cost of approximately $388,000. He said the work done with these
dollars included many studies performed by experts in specific
fields such as parking studies, traffic studies, historic
preservation studies, broadband infrastructure studies and much
more, as well as developing a written plan using the information
Doolin said what is left of the grant plus city match is
He explained that one component of the grant was to use a large
portion of the funding for demolition of properties in the downtown
area. Doolin expressed that this was somewhat of a challenge because
fortunately, the city does not have many buildings in the downtown
area that warrant demolition. However, they did find one.
Doolin said the committee was recommending that approximately
$40,000 be spent to demolish the building at 217 S. Sangamon St. The
cost would be divided, with the grant paying $36,000 and the city
The property in question has been a troubled property in the city
for several years. Located next door to the old Alexander Lumber
building, an exterior wall of the building began to crumble in
December of 2008, and over a several-hour period, much of the wall
went tumbling down near the parking lot of Alexander's.
The building had been empty for some time prior to that, and in
the opinion of the city zoning officer at that time, Les Last, was
uninhabitable. The building was consequently condemned. The property
owner, Mark Gates, took no action to demolish or refurbish the
building, and there was not enough money within the city coffers to
do anything about the large, crumbling structure.
Tuesday night, Doolin said the grant funds would carry the lion's
chare of the cost, and the city would be able to do away with one
more problem property in the city. To do this, the city could put
the property in the fast-track demolition program, and within 60 to
90 days of approval from the council, the building could come down.
Doolin stressed that this would help the city and also fulfill
the grant requirement, and thus the committee was recommending that
the council approve the demolition.
Next, Doolin said the committee was ready to recommend that one
block of the downtown square be redesigned, based on a streetscape
plan put together by the committee. The committee would like to do a
complete design upgrade of the 500 block of Pulaski Street.
In addition, they want to do a wraparound on each end of the
block, taking the new streetscape just past the old Oasis building
on the west side, and just past Bock Realtors on the east side. This
would also include work on both sides of the intersections. The plan
includes building the sidewalk area out into the intersection so
that pedestrians can prepare to cross traffic without actually being
in the line of traffic as they are now.
Doolin told the council that one big advantage to doing this
block was that it would provide a "living model" of what the city
hopes to accomplish for the entire downtown area. He said doing so
would help increase public support of the downtown projects and
would also be beneficial in obtaining future grants.
He said the city has missed out on a few grants because they
don't have a project physically started, so getting one block
underway would improve the odds of getting grant funding for other
streetscapes in the future.
Doolin also explained why Pulaski Street was chosen as the
starting point. He said the sidewalks along that area are in bad
shape and in need of replacement. He also said that in the downtown
area, that block does not have the elevation changes that some of
the others do. In other words, the sidewalk is closer to street
level. In addition, that part of the downtown area experiences
strong sewer odors that infiltrate the area businesses. Part of the
plan would include sewer work to remedy this.
He also told the council that when the committee submitted this
street to DCEO for their required approval, it was one the state
agency really liked as the first project because of the Oasis and
the Arcade, which both generated a lot of foot traffic in the city.
Finally, Doolin said the source for lighting throughout the
downtown area was in that region, which would make it easier for the
tie-ins the project would require.
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Bruce Carmitchel asked about the Oasis. DCEO had approved the
project before the Oasis fire. Carmitchel wondered if the state
would still support this as the first project with the Oasis
gone. Doolin said the state had not been informed that the Oasis
was gone, but at this point he didn't feel like that would
matter to DCEO. He noted that now that it has been approved,
making a change with DCEO would be very difficult.
Doolin said that with the city's approval, the two recommended
projects, demolition of 217 S. Sangamon and a new streetscape for
Pulaski Street, both could be completed by the DCEO deadline. He
stressed that if for no other reason, it was very important that the
city use the money in the grant, and this would do that.
However, the drawback to the plan is that it will not only use
the approximately $386,000 remaining, it will also require an
additional $200,000 that is not currently in the city's budget.
Doolin said he realized this was all very complicated, but the
bottom line is, to complete the streetscape plan, there are
components that the DCEO grant will not pay for. The grant will pay
nothing for engineering costs associated with the design. It will
not pay for street lighting, and it will not pay for the decorative
components such as benches, trees or planters.
Doolin said the city would have to find $57,000 to pay the
engineering costs and another $148,000 to pay for the non-funded
components of the plan. He recapped that those components would be
lighting, light posts, the sewer repair, trees, planters and
Doolin talked about the logic of this, saying that in order to do
the new sidewalks, the existing lighting would have to come out, and
then be put back in. DCEO will not pay for that. He said the
committee believes it would be silly to start the project and not
finish it completely.
He also told the council one of the big drawbacks in the cost is
the fact that it is only one block. He said construction costs are
higher on small projects. He noted that if the city had the money to
do several blocks at a time, which they don't, the overall cost of
construction would be less.
During discussion, the question came up as to what was included
in the lighting portion. Doolin said it was street lighting and
lighting at intersections; it did not include traffic control
It was also questioned whether the city had to commit to doing
the sections right off Pulaski on South Kickapoo and McLean streets.
Doolin said they did not.
The committee was making the recommendation for the side streets
in order to fully use all the grant money. He said the committee was
going to recommend that the city approve the "whole pie," but that
if the costs got out of hand, they could revisit the plan and do
away with the work on the two side streets.
Doolin said the committee's official recommendation was that the
city commit to spending all the grant funds, $302,000; spending the
balance of its required match, $79,500; then spend the additional
$57,000 for engineering; and finally, commit to another $148,000 to
complete the decorative and lighting component of the plan.
Doolin told the council that the committee needs the city's
commitment so it can move forward with the plan. He added that if
the city wants to look at a different block, that would cause delays
in the process and probably cause the city to lose the balance of
Doolin also told the council the dollars that were needed
immediately would be the $57,000 for engineering. The $148,000 would
be needed later.
Melody Anderson asked if there had been any conversation as to
where the $148,000 would come from. Marty Neitzel, who is on the
steering committee with Doolin and Lanterman, said the discussion
had included taking the money from the capital improvement funds.
It should be noted that in implementing the utility tax for the
city of Lincoln, Mayor Keith Snyder's original plan called for
dollars for downtown revitalization. The plan included issuing a $2
million bond with annual payments of $250,000, all paid by utility
Kathy Horn wondered if CEDS could help with funding for a project
like this. Doolin said that was a possibility and that an
application could be submitted through them.
It was also discussed that the city has applied for a $2 million
grant through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program.
Darren Forgy of Prairie Engineers and also a member of the steering
committee said the ITEP grant application would cover streetscape
work on 10 downtown blocks associated with Broadway Street. He noted
that in that grant the city's match would be $500,000.
Bruce Carmitchel asked if area businesses would have to bear any
costs in this project. Doolin said where they might have to
contribute would be in creating ADA-compliant entryways into their
own businesses. The city is required to make the sidewalks
accessible, but the building owners are responsible for making their
As the discussion began to wind down, Snyder asked if the
committee's recommendations could be placed on next week's agenda.
Neitzel said yes, to put it on. She also noted that if the council
is not ready to vote come Monday, it can be tabled to a future
[By NILA SMITH]