What started as a class project, soon grew into a drastically different plan for Green Street that students and community members have rallied around.
A group of students saw a problem with the way Green Street is currently situated and hoped they could find a better solution. Nahree Ki, one of the creators of the project and graduate student in marketing, said safety and efficiency are two of the main issues the team saw as a problem on the street.
The students’ issues with the design of Green Street include congestion the cars cause as they search for parking, time delays for pedestrians to walk across streets and the lack of bike lanes, causing congestion in the traffic lanes.
The suggested plan includes blocking off Green Street from Wright to Fourth streets. The change would turn the space into a walkway with room for pedestrians and bicyclers to move about safely and freely.
A large focus of the project was designing the area in between the buildings, which allows businesses to use the space for outdoor seating, along with hosting events, such as concerts and farmer’s markets.
The group would like to see Green Street become a welcoming and friendly space where students can spend their time and to promote businesses in the area.
“We believe that this will make it much more welcoming, as somewhere you want to go and enjoy the space instead of trying to avoid it because of all the chaos,” said Brittany Hopper, graduate student in marketing and one of the project creators.
The project was created for the class, Engineering 333: Creativity, Innovation and Vision, a class focused on helping students think of new ways to solve problems in their communities, said Mayank Jain, one of the creators and sophomore in Engineering.
The assignment was to find a problem on campus or in the student’s lives and to come up with a solution to fix it, he said.
Jain said there is a similar promenade in Madison, Wisconsin, where the University of Wisconsin-Madison is located, and it was a great inspiration for the Green St. design.
“At first there were six people who signed the petition because there are six members in our group, but after that it just blew up,” Ki said.
The team was surprised by the amount of community support, and they did not expect their petition to “blow up” like this.
The plan immediately started gaining attention after it was posted on the group’s website and on social media following the class presentation. Hopper said the community response has showed her that people do recognize that Green Street is a problem and that people want to do something about it.
“It would create a lot more active space for pedestrians, it’s an open space,” Nathan Cox, graduate student in FAA, said, “It is appropriate for the college town campus area to have an open pedestrian mall area because there is already a huge demand of walkers.”
At press time, the petition had 783 supporter signatures.
Some petition signers have voiced their support for the project online. Tyler Jackson from Champaign said, “I’ve almost been hit by a car numerous times on Green St.”
Another Champaign resident, Lorri Coey said, “I’m a pedestrian and a biker. We give cars all the benefits, none of the hassle. It’s time to make a change.”
Ki said the class’ teaching assistant is working to connect the team with officials who could help their plan become a reality. Cox said they hope to continue this plan if there is support from the community, but it will be difficult because four of the six project members are graduating in May.
While there has been community support, Hopper said she knows there would be opposition as well. She said it will take many resources to make this plan a reality, one of the major hindrances she foresees.
“It evokes a lot of strong opinions, I think, some very positive but some very negative,” Hopper said. “It is a big investment and I don’t think everyone will be as easily convinced as we are.”
But regardless of how the project ends up, the team said they are proud of their work and are assured they can make a difference.
“It validates our convictions that a problem area can be turned into an opportunity that will positively affect our neighborhood,” Ki said.
Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.