North First Street | 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.  Launched in 2023, the State-Designated Cultural Districts program aims to uplift the unique contributions of historic cultural districts with the overarching goal of increasing economic development opportunities. City staff from E&E and Planning applied for the designation last fall.  DCEO will make $3 million in funds available to designees to support programming and preservation in the new 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.  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.