City To Help Fund Urbana First Fridays
The city of Urbana is giving its financial backing to the popular Urbana First Fridays, which are bringing sizable crowds to downtown Urbana on the first Friday of each month.
Mayor Laurel Prussing recently authorized providing a total of $5,000 in financial sponsorship to Imbibe Urbana, the limited liability corporation that puts on the popular Urbana First Fridays. Kristin Walters and Annie Adams, both Urbana residents, initiated First Fridays last September and have seen the monthly event grow in popularity.
The city will pay $1,000 in sponsorship for each of the First Fridays from March through June, supplementing previous city support for the Dec. 2 First Friday.
As part of the upcoming events, Walters and Adams will highlight an available building or space in downtown each month. The city money will come from downtown Tax Increment Financing marketing funds.
Prussing was convinced to increase city support for First Fridays when she heard multiple glowing comments from residents. “People have been raving about these events, and I love that they are free and accessible to residents of all ages,” the mayor said. “It seems to me this is what downtown Urbana is all about.”
The city council also could consider funding for Imbibe Urbana as part of the fiscal 2018 budget set to be considered later this spring. The city’s budget year begins July 1.
Walters said the city had already been providing free printing and some staff support for First Fridays, and that the infusion of financial assistance is welcomed. “We’re really happy about this,” she said.
Walters said she and Adams both love Urbana and its downtown and organized First Fridays to showcase it.
“We thought the narrative of Urbana needed to be more positive and celebratory of the people who live here,” she said. “We thought if we harnessed all the energy and made a critical mass of events, we could have downtown Urbana become a cultural habit.”
First Fridays occasionally, but not always, have a theme. The Feb. 3 event was a “Love For All Poetry Crawl” with poetry readings about love at a variety of locations. The Dec. 2 event was a Mistletoe Market centered at the Urbana Civic Center, with 25 local artists selling home goods, paintings, jewelry, flowers and other items.
Residents attending a First Fridays can usually find live music, dinner and drink specials and various activities such as yoga and fitness demonstrations and bicycle clinics.
The success of First Fridays comes on the heels of several years of public and private reinvestment in downtown Urbana.
Major street improvements to Main and Race streets and Broadway Avenue were made by the city, with new bike lanes and sidewalks added. The city also constructed the $9 million Boneyard Creek Crossing park.
In recent years, several existing downtown properties have been renovated and re-tenanted with dynamic uses, including Pizza M, Flying Machine Coffee, [co][lab], Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery, Sitara Indian Restaurant, Masijta Grill, SIPYARD, Bohemia and several other businesses.
New businesses in the works include 25 O’Clock Brewery and Broadway Market, both under construction, and the recently announced $2.5 million renovation of the Cohen Building at Race and Main streets.
In addition, the city hosts or sponsors longtime events like Urbana’s Market at the Square, the Folk & Roots Festival, Urbana Food Truck Rallies, Summer Movie Nights and the Uncorked Urbana Wine Festival.