West Urbana Recognized as a Great Neighborhood

The next time you visit Carle Park in Urbana, stop by the south entrance at the intersection of Carle and Indiana Avenues to see the newly installed plaque recognizing West Urbana as one of the Great Neighborhoods in America. In 2007, the American Planning Association selected West Urbana as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods in America in recognition of the neighborhood's sustainable design; high number of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit commuters; inviting neighborhood spaces; and community focus on enhancing quality of life.

On any given day in West Urbana, it's not unusual to see scores of residents walking and biking to work and school. The neighborhood's walkways, narrow streets, and picturesque shade trees and landscaping make it desirable for foot traffic and contribute to the sense of place found here. Nearly 25% of commuters here do not use a car — about triple the national average. The neighborhood's design encourages foot travel. A discontinuous grid pattern with T-intersections in key places to discourage cut-through vehicle traffic provides connectivity and easy navigability. Mature trees form a canopy over narrow streets while some streets and sidewalks feature restored brick. Historic, globe-style streetlamps and front porches combine to create an inviting streetscape for residents, who often stop to chat with neighbors.

In addition to its great walkability and accessibility to downtown Urbana and the University of Illinois campus, the neighborhood was recognized for its important historic, civic, and recreational features. Among these is the lovingly restored and expanded Leal Elementary School built by the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935 and Urbana High School, built in 1914 and designed by Urbana’s favorite architect, Joseph W. Royer. The plaque can be found in Carle Park, which was originally platted in 1906 and is home to a tree walk, a historic pavilion, and a Laredo Taft sculpture of Abraham Lincoln entitled“Lincoln the Lawyer”. The neighborhood also encompasses the Urbana Free Library. Founded in 1874 and recently expanded, the library has one of the highest usage rates in the nation.

The American Planning Association was also impressed by the diversity of household composition in the neighborhood and by its great tradition of civic engagement in neighborhood planning efforts, including Urbana’s Downtown to Campus Plan and 2005 Comprehensive Plan. The neighborhood is home to the City’s oldest neighborhood organization, the West Urbana Neighborhood Association, which provides an active forum for residents to stay informed and to interact on issues of importance to the neighborhood.

The City of Urbana collaborated with the Urbana Park District and the West Urbana Neighborhood Association to purchase and install the Great Neighborhoods plaque in Carle Park. For more information about the Great Neighborhoods program, visit the American Planning Association’s website at www.planning.org/greatplaces/neighborhoods/2007/westurbana.htm.