An academic enclave in a sea of farming communities, Champaign is home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As the largest campus in the University of Illinois's system, U of I--as the university is known--largely drives the culture of the city. The university adds a cosmopolitan note to the rural area surrounding the city. The school's students hail from all 50 states and more than 120 nations. The university is also a major economic engine for Champaign. The school's well-respected science and technology research programs have helped to draw tech startup companies to the area, making Champaign a significant player in Illinois's "Silicon Prairie." A steady and readily available supply of U of I interns and graduates feed into the industry.
The University of Illinois is the oldest and largest campus in the state public university system. The campus--which sprawls out in both Champaign and its sister city, Urbana--has more than 280 buildings on almost 1,500 acres of land. The facilities are divided between the two cities. Known for its engineering and applied and basic sciences programs, the university offers more than 150 programs of study in its 18 colleges. About 32,000 students attend this campus and call Champaign their (perhaps temporary) home. Known for its distinctive landmarks, the U of I campus also adds interesting architectural points to Champaign's landscape--some historic buildings from the university's founding and some newer buildings on the always-growing U of I landscape. Of course, U of I also offers Big Ten sports and arts performances to the Champaign events calendar.
The city is more than just your average college town, with a thriving economy in several sectors. Of course, given its location, Champaign is known for its excellent agricultural production. The city's large technology and software industry is centered in Research Park, which is in the city's southern section. The park is home to several well-known and respected tech players, including:
The city's industrial citizens include a Kraft Foods plant, a FedEx Ground hub, and Herff-Jones. Champaign's major employers are:
Given the presence of the university and tech industry, it's not surprising that Champaign is populated overwhelmingly by white-collar workers. Champaign residents tend to work in teaching, office and administrative support positions, and sales jobs. Almost 43 percent of residents hold at least a bachelor's degree. The city's population of more than 70,000 people is racially and economically diverse, with about 74 percent white, almost 16 percent African American, and about 6 percent Asian. Latinos of any race account for 4 percent of the population. The area's median household income is almost $33,000. The median family income is almost $53,000. However, almost 22 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, including 13 percent of those under 18.
Champaign is broken up into dozens of small neighborhoods that vary greatly in social and economic makeup. It would seem, however, that most of the city's inhabitants have one thing in common no matter where they live: an enviably short commute. On average, Champaign residents spend a mere 14.59 minutes getting to work every day. Most of the city's housing stock was built between 1940 and 1994. Single-family homes dominate (especially in areas away from the university).
With such a large university in town, it stands to reason that the city would have a large renter base, and--indeed--almost 50 percent of local realty is occupied by renters. Renters tend to cluster around U of I and Champaign's other college, Parkland College.
The area bordered by County Highway 25 and Old Church Road has some of the area's most expensive housing. The quiet area caters to families and offers mostly single-family homes built between 1970 and 1994.
Champaign's downtown area offers cultural opportunities, as well as shops, restaurants, and nightlife. The area had suffered from some blight, but programs and committed citizens have been working to make it the city's hub once again. The area draws residents of mixed ages, with most being renters, and features a stock of historic homes and apartment buildings.
The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts maintains that education is its primary focus. The center has been called a professional laboratory for the University of Illinois' dance, theater, opera and music departments. The center has hosted such notables as Ravi Shankar, Emmylou Harris, Herbie Hancock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Spurlock Museum contains galleries of Africa, Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, Europe, East Asia and more. It also comprises an auditorium, a learning center and an educational resource center.
Carbondale boasts several Christian denominational churches, as well as a Unitarian Universalist congregation, two mosques, a synagogue, an Islamic center, and a Hindu temple.
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