R-7 Zoning Update
R-7, University Residential Text Amendment
Adaptive Reuse in Urbana!
The R-7, University Residential Text Amendment was approved by the Urbana City Council on Monday, May 12, 2022, to allow new uses in existing buildings in the R-7 zoning district. The new Zoning Ordinance language allows commercial uses in existing buildings only on Lincoln Avenue or west of Lincoln Avenue with a special use permit. Residential uses are permitted by-right in existing buildings. Please see the “R-7 Zoning Description Sheet” or Zoning Ordinance Table V-1. Table of Uses for permitted, conditional and special uses in the R-7 district.
For questions about the R-7 text amendment or about what you can do with your R-7 property, please contact the Planning Division at Planning@urbanaillinois.us or (217) 384-2440.
Special use permit applications are reviewed by Planning staff, require a public hearing at the Plan Commission, and then require City Council approval. Conditions for approval can be applied to the special use permit to ensure compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood: for example, a special use permit for a café could limit its operating hours, and a special use permit for a hotel could require the operator to lease parking spaces from a nearby parking lot.
To promote reuse and preservation of the existing R-7 buildings, allowing residential conversions as a matter of right will help to remove barriers and add certainty to the project for the applicant. A residential conversion is encouraged to preserve the original use for which the buildings were designed. In those instances where a commercial use could be introduced, the special use permit process would allow the additional layers of scrutiny required to protect against negative impacts on the neighborhood.
Structural changes to the exterior of buildings are prohibited, and certain exterior changes require review by the Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission and the Zoning Administrator. Refer to the “Level of Review for R-7 Properties” for details.
NEW Section V-14.C. For new uses in existing buildings, no structural changes may be made to the exterior of the building. In addition, any undertaking that would qualify as a minor or major work according to Table XII-1 must be reviewed and approved by the Chair of the Historic Preservation Commission Chair and the Zoning Administrator to qualify as a reuse of an existing building.
Not all buildings in the R-7 district are local or national landmarks, but many of them could very easily be designated as such. Staff feels that relying on the existing administrative review process for local landmarks would apply well to all of the R-7 properties and would prevent unwelcome exterior changes to the buildings. In addition, for properties in the Lincoln-Busey Corridor, any exterior changes must also comply with the Lincoln-Busey Corridor Design Guidelines, and are subject to review by the Design Review Board.
 Lincoln Busey Corridor Design Guidelines, Ordinance No. 2009-01-004