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               LINCOLN SQUARE MALL: URBANA, IL

George R. Carlisle's Commentary:

Posted April 9, 2005 (user submitted August 10, 2004 and November 22, 2004)

Lincoln Square was one of the first downtown fully enclosed malls in the United States. It was built in 1963-1964. (I am trying to find more exact dates on history). At the time, Carson Pirie Scott & Co. was the anchor store. It had a number of more local mom and pop operations. Carriage Lane featured an antique carriage, which still sits in the enclosed hallway, but its seat cushion has rotted away. There was a Thistle Shop, which had a lot of novelties etc. There were several clothing boutiques and the T G & Y store, superseding the former Scotts Five and Ten that was once on Main Street in Urbana, but where a parking deck now stands.

There were some sculptures of animals. One of a bear in bronze, is no longer in Urbana. The others are still around but elsewhere; a marble horse is at the Phillipps Center of Urbana Park District, and the whale has been converted into a fountain at Crystal Lake Park Swimming Pool.

There were hexagonal aquariums in the main concourse, but these have long since disappeared.

There used to be two photographs of "Before" and "After" in the redevelopment of the nine square-block area, bounded by Vine, Elm, Race, and Illinois Streets. Those are gone. Outbuildings surviving at the time were the former Urbana First United Methodist Church, still standing and active at Race and Green Streets. Its old parsonage immediately to south was demolished. Across High Street, a stub entering parking area of mall, is still the Howard Apartments, an old building.

The Eisner's grocery was an outlot building at Illinois and Broadway. That has been razed in early 1990's after its successor store, Diana Foods, closed. The Community Recycling Center dropoff site across street was also removed when recycling services were provided curbside and with toters in apartment buildings, provided under contract by City of Urbana when a recycling tax was levied.

In early 1990's in the northeast portion of parking lot, the Federal Courthouse was constructed. The southeast part of lot from Vine Street south of Green Street stub to Illinois Street, is the Market at the Square, a large and popular Farmer's Market with arts and crafts and musicians, every Saturday morning from Mid-May through November.

Now, the anchor Store, later a Herberger's and Bergner's, is closed since about 1999. The space is vacant but used occasionally for special events. The former TG&Y space si elased by Urbana Park District for an indoor miniatire golf course.

The Fannie May Candy store finally closed in 2003 when parent company went bankrupt. Now, the space is used for sale of a few candies, bottled drinks, coffee and newspapers and magazines. Fannie May had been the last original store in its original location.

The food Court is now vacant. The Lox Stock and Bagel folded quite soem time ago. Enzo's Pizza closed this summer. Senior Citizens still sit at the tables and drink coffee from the former Fannie May store.The court was buildt abutting the former Urbana Lincoln Hotel, later Jumer's Castle Lodge and now Historic Lincoln Hotel.

The Former baskin's Apparel store has been mostly vacant but hosts some seasonal businesses and charitable sales. Michelle's Bridal Shop, its main store in a former liquor store across street at Vine and Illinois Streets, has a satellite M2 open only during Prom season and closing about Memorial Day. The space has been used for a fundraising used record and stereo sale for the local Public Radio Station WILL, and has had charitable children's sales near Christmas.

Brownfield Sports opened up with Illinois and Chicago Bears T-shirts and sports memorabilia, when the Chicago Bears played at Memorial Stadium pending renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago. International Galleries with artwork and paintings and photography on consignment, moved to a new location within mall, formerly a record store. Art mart is where the Carriage Lane and Thistle Shop once were. It has upscale cookware and decorations and features a classic toy section and gourmet foods. Andi's hallmark Shop still manages to hang on.

Brunswick has pool tables and assocated equipment.

Mr. John's School of Cosmetology is in west end, once Walden Bookstore, Record Service, (now-defunct local record dealer, starting out as student buying club in 1969), and once a Rexall Drug store when the mall first opened. A dance studio was at east end, but recently has moved to a freestanding building in Savoy, Illinois, a suburb, larger quarters and nearer most of its clientele.

Milo's restaurant is on east end, with later-added outside entrance along east side of mall, facing the Federal Courthouse.

A new Chinese restaurant is on south side, in a former Joanne's Fabric Store, and had newly added windows and door opening to south side of mall. There is patio space inside as well.

The mall has a number of community events in its concourse space on weekends, which attract crowds. There is a mall-walkers' group sponsored by a local hospital. Many seniors and others use the mall for exercise walking, but it is often dead during weekdays and in evenings.

The balciony level has a complex of law offices. The basement has McCandless Photography Studio, and Insurance Agency, The Reading Group, and for a while some Champaign County Offcies while courthouse was under construction and renovation. Restrooms are down there as well, which makes it less convenient for users. There is a hydraulic elevator connecting the three levels.

Efforts are under way to try to redevelop mall, but competition with the strip along North prospect Avenue in Champaign with many of the chain stores and Wal-Mart and meijers makes it difficult. Lincoln Square is some distance from the Interstate Highways. Market Place Mall in Champaign is just off Interstate 74 so has most of the shopping in the area.

Lincoln Square needs help. Go to www.city.urbana.il.us for further information.

It is a Class Two mall in its present condition. The building is generally in good condition, but some paint has worn off stair rails down to basement and other areas are a bit shabby. The roof leaks and ceiling tiles are missing and stained in places.

There was talk of a new trolley system in Champaign Urbana with Lincoln Square possibly being a hub, but that project is on hold indefinitely due to lack if funds and community support.

We hope that Lincoln Square can be redeveloped and made viable once again.

Update 11/22/2004

The City of Urbana has unveiled plans to redevelop Lincoln Square into a multi-use office, retail and residential facility. There are plans for 25 apartments and/or condominiums on top floor, with atrium garden and skylights. There is to be large office space for Carle Foundation Hospital Health Alliance HMO, and Cardinal Fitness on first floor. Restrooms will be on first floor, heretofore in basement. There will be lighted hallway for community events, as in present High Court along former Broadway avenue. Milo's restaurant will expand and be open as early as 6 a.m. for breakfast. The food court, now vacant, should attract new tenants. Already one is trying to lease space vacated by Enzo's Pizza.

Already, demolition and remodeling of former Bergner's space on ground floor and first floor is under way for Spring 2005 occupancy by Health Alliance and Cardinal Fitness.

There will be new windows on outside, an atrium at southeast corner, formerly a loading dock, and many new elevators and other improvements.

Parking will have private and covered rental spaces for tenants of residential units.

Elsewhere in Downtown Urbana, a Stratford apartment and business complex is starting to be built where a former cooperative apartment of same name was. The building was crumbling and condemned by City of Urbana, and was razed in 1999.

Demolition of eyesore former Helmick Lumber Mill and expansion of Silver creek restuarant across Race Street is to be completed by October 2005. Cleanup of seldom-used railroad and removal of no longer needed telegraph poles is under way. The line ends in east Urbana but still serves two local industries.

Update 04/14/2005

Cardinal Fitness fitness center opened in March, 2005 and is a popular excecise site. That should bring business to the Mall. Now, they call it a "village," as it will soon have apartments upstairs in a few years.

The Farmers Market will be held outside in parking lot every Saturday May 14 to mid-November. They may be continued markeyts inside until the Holidays.

Brownfield Sports got a good shot in arm with Illinois Centennial winning basketball 37-2 season. Too bad we could not beat North Carolina in Championship game, but the team had never before won so many games in a season! They lost to Ohio State only once, the last game of regular season, by one point, 64-65.

There were many T-shirts and other memorabilia related to the basketball team. They said orange was practically the "uniform" of Champaign- Urbana!

Health Alliance HMO is remdoeling and will occupy most of the former Bergner's space. A part is now the cardinal Fitness Center.

Other shops plan to move in, but it will be more of a multi-use facility. Restrooms are planend in a now-vacant storefront onmain floor. The old ones in basement with 1960's vintage Crane fixtures, will be closed to public. Milo's restaurant, accessible on outside at northeast corner, is popular with Champaign County Courthouse and federal Courthouse employees.

There is a revival fo downtown, but more offices than retail. A new Stratford center is being built with shops on ground floor and condominia above. it replaces a crumbling coop apartment of same name that was condemend and demolished in 1999 (The same day, cincideantally, Illinois football team beat Ohio State at Columbus 46-20 and went to beat Virginia 63-21 in MicronPC.com Bowl).

Silver creek Restaurant at 402 North Race, is to demolish a former lumber mill across street and build a new coffee shop and banquet center.

Links:

www.city.urbana.il.us - City's web site includes plans for renewal
www.lincolnsquarevillage.com - New Redevelopment Web Site










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