Some sites won't work for high school in Champaign, city says
CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board has taken several sites off its list of options for a new high school, and two more appeared on the school district's list this week.
However, the city of Champaign doesn't necessarily think those two sites will work for a new high school.
The new locations on the school district's list are one in the Bristol Place or Garwood neighborhood, both near the intersection of Market Street and Bradley Avenue, and one in the Boulder Ridge subdivision in northwest Champaign.
Superintendent Judy Wiegand said the school district doesn't have a formal plan for either site, but is simply keeping them on the list of options. She said the school district's attorney, Mike Tague, brought up the Boulder Ridge location as a possibility. It's the subdivision located between Interstate 57 and Staley Road north of Bradley Avenue.
Wiegand said the school district has been working with the city of Champaign in considering the locations.
City Planning Director Bruce Knight said the city and school district have an intergovernmental agreement that has the city providing planning services in the hunt for a new high school location.
However, Knight said, from the city's perspective, neither of these sites would be ideal for a new high school.
If a new high school went to Boulder Ridge, it would be located north of the areas in the subdivision that are already developed. It's in the same general area where years ago, the school district discussed adding an elementary school, although on a larger piece of land, Knight said.
"From the city's perspective, we've indicated this would be a problematic site," Knight said, primarily because of the traffic that a high school would add to the neighborhood.
Similarly, Knight said, Bristol Place, the neighborhood south of Shadowwood Mobile Home Park to Bradley Avenue, east of Market Street, won't work well, either.
"I can tell you, that area is not large enough to site a high school," Knight said.
Nearby, the city wants to "preserve and promote reinvestment in" the Garwood neighborhood, which is located between Market and Neil streets, Knight said.
"While some reinvestment would be beneficial, it's still a sound neighborhood," Knight said.
The school board has said it doesn't want to use eminent domain to take over residential properties in order to develop a new high school, and building in that area would require relocating hundreds of residents, he said.
Knight said the city's role is to provide advantages and disadvantages for different sites the school board may consider.
"Ultimately, the school district and school board will be the decision makers," Knight said. "We're just trying to provide them analysis and information about the sites."
In January, the school board decided it wouldn't simply renovate its two current high schools and leave them in the same locations. They also decided not to tear down Jefferson High School in order to expand Centennial High School.
Wiegand said Wednesday that the idea of buying Judah Christian School, located on Prospect Avenue and west of Franklin Middle School, is also off the table.
Tague estimated the cost of just buying land and preparing the area for a new high school at between $12 million and $15 million, and said the school district may have to buy as many as 70 properties to acquire enough land to build.
After hearing this, many school board members said at Monday's meeting that they were ready to take the idea off the school district's list of options.
So in addition to the Bristol Place/Garwood and Boulder Ridge options, the school district is still considering possible locations at Olympian Drive at Market Street, Neil Street or Prospect Avenue, sites at First Street and Windsor or Curtis roads, a property at Cardinal and Duncan Roads, a property on Kirby Avenue east of Interstate 57 and west of Centennial High School, and the Country Fair shopping center on Mattis Avenue.
Tague has also estimated it will cost between $7 million and $10 million to develop the Country Fair property for construction, Wiegand said.
The school district has budgeted between $1.5 million and $3 million of its money from the school facilities sales tax to buy land for a new high school.
Some school board members have indicated they want the school district to build the school inside the city, rather than on an edge of town.
But the school district needs a minimum of 40 acres for a high school. As a comparison, Knight said, Champaign's West Side Park is 12 acres.