Like many other communities, historic preservation in Urbana began as a grass roots effort of its citizens who were dedicated to the cause, and by the 1990s many structures in Urbana had received recognition at the National level. The community lacked a local preservation ordinance for the designation of landmarks and districts, however. It was realized that without a local ordinance, the community would have little control over the redevelopment of the most historic properties and that opportunities to offer incentives to preserve historic structures were also limited.
In 1994, the City of Urbana undertook the task of developing a Historic Preservation Plan and Ordinance. The drafting of the plan and ordinance was a monumental job and generated significant interest from both preservationists as well as property owners concerned that the new ordinance would place an additional layer of restrictions on their property. Consistent with most communities, Urbana’s ordinance allows individuals to nominate structures for historic landmark status that they do not own. If the owner of the property does not consent to the nomination, a super majority vote is needed but nevertheless is still attainable. This method differs from most conventional types of zoning requests where the proposal must be either submitted by the property owner or with the consent of the owner. Nevertheless, it was felt that the overall need for the preservation of the community resources represented a significant public benefit.