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In-ground or above, backyard pools are easy to create, enjoy

CHAMPAIGN – Members of the Law family point out that an in-ground pool costs no more than a nice automobile – $30,000 to $60,000.

An above-ground pool – a big seller this year – starts at $2,900.

"It's like putting Legos together, you can do it yourself," said Amy Law. She married into the Law family and pool business 10 years ago. "I think that's why they call it 'The Big Easy.'"


Official: Economy likely to delay development near Burnham 310

CHAMPAIGN – It will likely be at least two years before Champaign residents can expect to see new multifamily housing on two city-owned blocks near the Burnham 310 apartments, according to the city planning director.

The Pickus Companies of Highland Park had planned to develop the vacant blocks with "stacked flat condominiums" and possibly row houses. But Pickus officials notified the city a few weeks ago that the company is no longer interested in developing the two blocks.


Champaign County home sales lag

CHAMPAIGN – Homes in Champaign County aren't selling as briskly as they were a year ago, and the ones moving tend to be lower- to middle-priced homes.

Of the 610 homes sold during the first four months of this year, only 88 sold for $200,000 or more, said Kathy Simmons, president of the Champaign County Association of Realtors.


Officials say they will have close eye on Gateway Studios

CHAMPAIGN – City officials say they'll be keeping a watchful eye on the now-condemned Gateway Studios complex before it becomes a target for vandals and other lawbreakers.

"No one from the neighborhood has voiced any concerns yet," said new Champaign city council member Will Kyles, whose north Champaign district includes the hotel, "but I know for myself that if I lived near there, I'd be concerned."


Champaign reviewing lessons from Gateway Studios

CHAMPAIGN – Gateway Studios was officially condemned by the city Wednesday. No-trespassing signs and "condemned" stickers are now posted all over the sprawling former motel building at 1505 N. Neil St.

With the immediate crisis over, city officials are assessing what lessons they can take from the abrupt closure of Gateway.


Power to Gateway Studios cut off; housing found for residents

CHAMPAIGN – The Gateway Studios drama appeared to draw to a close Tuesday, after AmerenIP shut off electricity to the former motel and city officials said they had found temporary housing for roughly 30 residents.

The shutoff of electricity came at 1:35 p.m., after AmerenIP attorneys came to the conclusion they weren't bound by a state law that requires tenants of an apartment building to be given 10 days' notice before power can be shut off.


Gateway Studios tells residents they must move out

CHAMPAIGN – It was a Friday afternoon, generally a time for relaxing in anticipation of the weekend.

But the residents at Gateway Studios, 1505 N. Neil St., were anything but relaxed. Rumors began spreading Thursday that the company that owns the downtrodden former hotel – which rents rooms by the day, week or month – was far behind on its utility bills.


Complaint process for assessments can be daunting

Property taxes are based on a property's assessed value, calculated each year. And while homeowners cannot challenge their tax bill, they can challenge their assessment.

A formal complaint of a property assessment value might be intimidating and confusing to those who are not familiar with the assessment process or complaint procedure. Appeals are filed with the Champaign County Board of Review. Steve Bantz, one of three board members, said the best bet is to come in and talk to one of the board members.


Country club neighbors see hike in assessments, taxes

CHAMPAIGN – Jimmy John Liautaud owns one of the largest and most glamorous homes in the neighborhood surrounding the Champaign Country Club.

Liautaud is chief executive officer of the Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwich chain, with 855 shops nationwide. His huge, three-story house at 1002 W. Armory St. is an obvious reflection of his business success.

In most cases, that success would be viewed as a good thing. But when City of Champaign Township Assessor Brian Christie reassessed the country club neighborhood last spring, the assessed valuation on Liautaud's home was increased by 23 percent.


Firm not interested in developing 2 Champaign-owned blocks

CHAMPAIGN – The Pickus Companies of Highland Park, developer of Burnham 310, has told city officials it is no longer interested in developing two vacant city blocks near its new 18-story apartment project.

Pickus principal Jeff Pickus informed the city of the company's decision in a phone call Monday, according to assistant city attorney Joseph Hooker.