City of Champaign Location Selected as Inaugural State-Designated Cultural District

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced that the City of Champaign’s North First Street has been selected as one of the ten inaugural State Designated Cultural Districts. The North First Street Cultural District, which is home to sections of the African American Cultural Trail and newly redesigned Skelton Park, contains landmarks that are as old as the City of Champaign itself and play a significant role in its cultural heritage. The businesses in the area have been serving African American Residents for 170 years and for much of that time operated as “downtown” for African American residents of Champaign County, with businesses such as theatres, stores, barbershops, and restaurants.

Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen said, “we are excited as a city to have been selected as one of the 10 designated communities in the state. This is a great opportunity to generate equitable economic growth and build on the historic and rich cultural legacy of the African American community through the preservation of North First Street.”

DCEO announced there are ten (10) total districts, five for 2023 and five for 2024. Of the ten districts only 3 are located outside of the Chicago Metropolitan area. The City of Champaign would like to thank its partners who supported the application through letters of support including State Senator Paul Faraci, State Representative Carol Ammons, the Champaign County Black Chamber of Commerce, University of Illinois Chancellor’s Campus-Community Compact to Accelerate Social Justice, Champaign County Economic Development Corporation, and Experience CU. As designated recipients, the City will be eligible to apply for $3 million in funding that is being made available to meet the needs of the cultural districts. The City of Champaign will be able to continue to work to celebrate and preserve the unique cultural heritage of North First Street. Learn more about the State of Illinois Designated Cultural Districts at