Champaign's downtown business sales leave some buildings derelict, dirty and forgotten

Abandoned and vacant buildings in downtown Champaign varied widely in quality, a two-semester observation project found. 

Many vacant buildings were business locations that closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022, two journalism classes observed and photographed buildings in the downtown Champaign area. 

Many buildings, such as the former Seedhouse at 502 N Hickory St and 36 E Washington St, were clearly labeled for sale.

Click on a photo to enlarge it.

Many buildings appeared to be in derelict condition. Goodyear on Walnut Street, which is permanently closed, is littered and has been for some time. Junk and debris from some locations spread outside the location. Old supplies and fixtures can be seen from the outside through glass windows on some, while graffiti, overgrowth and general wear covers thick exterior walls on others.

Some, however, were simply empty shells of former businesses with little to no damage.

Downtown along Neil Street and Walnut Street had several restaurants and retail locations either close or move to another location in town. Pekara on Neil Street, for example, closed in 2020 but a new location later opened on Springfield Avenue. Rogards also moved to another location, and Aroma Cafe joined a space elsewhere downtown.

Some areas of downtown have vacant lots in varying conditions. Many are for sale or have planned development, but others have been vacant for years. A few were photographed with clear signage.

A small survey of downtown Urbana was also conducted, which found a few abandoned buildings along an area of two to three blocks.