Urbana’s Local Storefronts Stagnate

How to Fix Urbana’s Melacholy Marketplace

Chris Shea

giantPhoto Courtesy of Natelli Communities

Has anybody else noticed that when it comes to shopping, eating out, or doing pretty much anything beyond getting gas and Burger King (the two are pretty much synonymous), Urbana is not the place to be? I mean, you’re good to go if your diet consists solely of buffalo wings, gasoline and rectangular pizza, but if your needs stretch beyond those dietary staples, you’re hopelessly out of luck. Want to get high-end food? You gotta leave Urbana. Want to go shopping? You gotta leave Urbana. God forbid you want to go to a gym or a post office, since you really gotta leave Urbana for one of those! Now, one could argue: “Hey! There’s one of those places over by the grocery store!” but I have a hard time believing that a pizza hut and wedding gown store stuck on top of a handful of small businesses crammed into townhomes the size of port-a-potties can really sustain the needs of the massive Borg-like civilization that is the Villages of Urbana.

While the lovely minds behind Urbana’s development are busy playing residential Tetris by cramming houses literally everywhere they can/can’t fit, they seem to be forgetting one thing: people need more than houses. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to drive out of town to find a good restaurant? Especially once rush-hour hits, oh, that’s fun! I’m no city planner, but it doesn’t take one to know that Urbana is sorely lacking in the “stuff to do” department. All we need to do is take a break from the nonstop sardine-can house construction, and focus on giving the upwards of ten thousand people taking up residence here something to do. As you can probably tell by the vast field of lush brown dirt and bulldozers working away by the firehouse, Urbana (or at least its suburban division) isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.

The thing that I find the most frustrating about the lack of… well, pretty much everything in Urbana is the fact that on multiple occasions, they’ve had the chance to fix it and completely blew it. Way back in the prehistoric year of 2011, they were starting construction in a big empty field by the Dunkin’ Donuts. “Oh boy!” I fictitiously exclaimed, my mind racing with the possibilities. Roughly 2 months later, I looked on in exasperated disappointment as I saw a bunch of beige office buildings where hope once stood. Remember back when they were building the new CVS? Once they demolished the mummified husk of a building that used to be the Cracked Claw, I was legitimately excited for the possibilities in that area. “Oh boy!” I fictitiously exclaimed yet again; “What could it be?” It was, as it turned out, the new home to a gas station, a Burger King, an Advance Auto Parts, and another gas station that also sold colorful foam and chicken. You know, the necessities! My hopes and dreams were all crushed in one fell swoop and sad violin music began to play as I gazed wistfully at what could have been. I still can’t go into Burger King without crying.

Now that you are familiar with my plight, I’d like to take a break from this tragic saga and propose some possible solutions on how to improve Urbana’s miserable excuse for a “Market District.” One of the things I feel Urbana desperately needs is a more diverse selection of restaurants. As it currently stands, your selection is limited to pizza, fried meat, donuts, frozen yogurt and an irresponsible amount of Chinese food. What we could really use are more different ethnic restaurants to break the monotony. C’mon, don’t try to pretend that you wouldn’t want a Chipotle within walking distance from your house. I don’t know about you, but I would sell a kidney to get a good Indian food place nearby. It doesn’t even have to be my kidney!

Another area of improvement for Urbana is shopping. Think, if you need to buy pants or a cool hat or something, where do you go? As far away from Urbana as possible, that’s where! A shopping plaza here in Urbana could certainly alleviate our storefront struggles, and would bring all sorts of useful businesses to Urbana. I’m not saying that we should build a massive quadruple-decker mall in the middle of town, but at least build some more areas for businesses to flourish.


At this point, Urbana is too reliant on neighboring towns for nearly all of its needs to sustain itself as an independent community. Right now, Urbana is best known as the amorphous blob of houses on the edge of Ijamsville. That doesn’t sound appealing, does it? (I would know, having held many years of experience as an amorphous blob.) Well, if these real estate developers would just stop for a second and focus on the needs of the huge community they can’t stop throwing houses at, we could have a much livelier and more convenient Urbana filled with stores and restaurants that are useful to all, as opposed to our current selection of a tanning salon, vape shop, and twenty thousand chinese food places. What does this place look like, Ocean City?