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March 2019 Member Spotlight: Eric Van Buskirk

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

The APA-IL is starting 2019 with a new members-only newsletter feature called Member Spotlight. Every month, the APA-IL will turn the spotlight on members who are making an impact in Illinois urban planning and with the APA-IL. These members exemplify the APA-IL's determination to Make Great Communities in Illinois!

This month, we talk with...

Eric Van Buskirk

Associate Planner, City of Champaign

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Medford, Oregon and moved to Illinois to attend music school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagin. While studying Oboe Performance, I also took urban planning classes to fill general education requirements and ultimately decided to stay longer to get a Dual Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. While I was finishing my undergraduate studies, I interned with the Champagin County Regional Planning Commission, and worked at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District doing peer-based community outreach to persons at risk of contracting HIV.

I relocated to Dubuque, Iowa after graduation to work as a Planning Technician for the City of Dubuque. Although on paper this was more of an administrative assistant job, Laura Carstens (Planning Manager) and the other planners let me work on long-range planning projects and put my graphic design and research skills to work. While I was working there, I prepared a regional Community Health Needs Assessment, assisted with the Historic Preservation Program, and did preliminary work on an eventual Comprehensive Plan update.

I returned to Champaign in 2015 when I was hired as an Associate Planner for the City of Champagin. Outside of the typical municipal planning duties and case management for Plan Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Historic Preservation, I have worked on the Curtis Road Interchange Master Plan, Neil Street Corridor Plan, Neil Street Plaza Placemaking Plan, and wrote an ITEP grant which helped Champaign secure $2 million in funding for pedestrian and bicycle improvements over Interstate 57.

In addition to my work at the City of Champaign, I am currently attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagin working on a Master of Urban Planning degree. My primary focus in graduate school has been on economic development policy, state and local government finance, and marijuana legalization. I am also a member of the University of Illinois Student Senate.

What are some of your current or notable projects?

Most recently I was involved with re-writing development regulations and design standards for the In-Town Neighborhood, which includes the historic residential neighborhoods around Downtown Champaign.

I am also preparing maps and graphics for an update to the Champaign Tomorrow Comprehensive Plan.

In addition, I am in the process of completing my master’s capstone. My primary focus is researching the feasibility and funding potential of using special service areas in Champagin to implement some recently adopted plans. I am also exploring long-term funding options for infrastructure maintenance and program funding in downtown Champaign.

One of the benefits of being in graduate school is having the opportunity to work on projects outside of my normal day-to-day duties in Champaign. One of these projects is a Downtown Revitalization Plan for Viola, Illinois, which is coordinated with the University of Illinois Extension and Prof. Bev Wilson’s Small Town and Rural Planning Workshop.

How have you been involved with the APA-IL?

I was a member of the Legislative Committee from 2015 to 2017. I was also a presenter at the APA Upper Midwest Conference in 2017. I also (infrequently) organize our local Planner’s Happy Hour here in East Central Illinois.

What is one thing that most people don't know about you?​

I think that most people in the ‘planning world’ don’t know that I am a classically trained oboist and flautist.

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