Moving the market: Rantoul farmers market to move to Sangamon Avenue

RANTOUL — This summer’s farmers market will move around the corner from its previous location.

Formerly held in the vacant lot that at one time held the Wings Theater, the market will be held on Sangamon Avenue.

Eric Barnes, who is chairing the farmers market, told a meeting of downtown business owners and managers that the market will be held in a portion of the 100 block of East Sangamon from 4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning July 5 until Sept. 20.

As compensation for lost parking spaces, those businesses that are affected in that block will receive a free rental space at the market.

Barnes said six vendors have signed up to be at the farmers market for the entire season.

He said volunteers are being accepted to sign up for various farmers market jobs.

New this year, in addition to the location, Barnes will have greeters, which he feels will “bring a sense of community to the market.”

“They will introduce themselves, help the guests find out what products they’re looking for and even help take stuff out to their car if needed.”

He said people using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) will be able to make purchases at the market.

Brad Martin, owner of Anywhere Anytime Journeys,  200 E. Sangamon Ave., said beginning May 2, people with questions about the farmers market may contact Barnes at the business.

Mural project update
Kellie Wahl, chamber of commerce executive director, gave an update on the downtown mural project.

The mural will be created on the Thiel’s Consignments building at the corner of Sangamon Avenue and Tanner Street.

Two meetings will be held for local artists who want to participate — one at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 21, and one at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 24.

“We are getting to the final stages and final drafts to a point where we have worked with enough committees ... to where we have kind of a clear direction of where we want to go,” Wahl said.

During the latter part of May, the process of cleaning and priming the wall will begin.

“The process itself is not very hard, and we’ve been very lucky (for volunteers) to donate their time,” Wahl said.

She said she has been successful in securing donations of paints and supplies.

So far, there is about $3,000 in the mural fund, but more is needed.

“Just to coat the building to protect it, which is just one step, the cost is around $700,” Wahl said.

Rantoul Township High School art teacher Laura Billimack will help with the project.

Wahl said the annual clean-up of Constitution Grove will be held from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, May 6.

Volunteers will meet in the grove, next to the train depot, and jobs will be assigned.

Updating zoning code
Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh said the village zoning code hopefully will be updated in the next month.

He said the village is streamlining the design standards businesses must follow, lessening the expenses.

“Part of that is creating a business overlay district,” Fiegenschuh said. “One thing David (Silver of the inspection department) and I have talked about is creating a master plan. What do business leaders want to see in their downtown.”

He said Orr, Neb., where he grew up, created a microbrew district, for instance. People would drive for miles to visit.

Downtown planning
Silver said as it has opened the downtown design process, the village has reduced the number of units required for a residential building from six to four.

“That kind of kicks off more opportunities at lower costs for building owners,” Silver said.

One thing being considered is the type of street interface that will be employed. Using Leesburg, Va., as an example, he showed photos of different concepts. Leesburg found that most retail purchases occur after 6 p.m.

Silver said he will use all the data he can to determine when Rantoul businesses should focus their hours of opening.

Also to be determined: Should downtown have a car-heavy or pedestrian-heavy use downtown?

“If you want pedestrian-oriented ... it would be narrow streets that force cars to go slow with minimum parking size. ... A lot of towns that do that will tear down an old building ... and make a huge parking lot there,” Silver said. “Everyone can walk to every building. They just use the streets for eating and art shows.”

The car-oriented downtown would feature wider streets.

“I think our streets might be a hair bit wide,” Silver said. “There used to be a median in the middle of the street.”

The village will study the downtown traffic count.

An all-day presence
Few downtown businesses stay open past 6 p.m.

“Most successful towns have something that connects the people 24 hours a day almost,” Silver said. “In the mornings, coffee shops. In the afternoons, restaurants. In the evenings, restaurants and bars.”

Some customers want businesses to open early. Martin said he opens his business at 7 a.m., and customers start arriving at 7:30 p.m. Paula Hopkins, owner of A House of Flowers by Paula, does as well.

Hopkins said she would like for a sidewalk event to be held with people having a card punched when they visit every participating downtown business. Those who qualify would be entered into a drawing for a prize.

Said Janet Brotherton, owner of Lindsey Lane Bridal, “We’re not capturing a lot of our community because of the demographics. We’re not getting the word to them.”

She cited Boost Mobile, which employs several Hispanic individuals to reach out to that population.

George Papametro, who owns two downtown buildings, said they should get the schools involved in an attempt to get more participation at events such as the farmers market and the fall festival.

“If my 6-year-old girl tells me I’m going to the circus, guess what? I’m going to the circus. You know why Disney makes so much money? Because they advertise to my daughter.”



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