Bristol Place strategies on tap for approval

Bristol Place strategies on tap for approval

CHAMPAIGN — City officials would begin negotiating with the owners of 91 properties in the troubled Bristol Place subdivision if council members OK their proposed strategies this week.

The city council will meet in study session at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

Officials plan to buy all the properties in the 22-acre subdivision, demolish the homes and build mixed-income housing. The large-scale leveling of the Bristol Place neighborhood, northeast of the intersection of Bradley Avenue and Market Street, is a smaller part of a years-long plan to revitalize the larger Bristol Park area.

City officials have said the Bristol Place subdivision, with its high crime rate and low property values, is not salvageable, and the only way to fix its problems is to build a new neighborhood.

In a memo to the city council, administrators say they anticipate that they would only need to use eminent domain to buy a small number of homes. City officials have been working on the plan with Bristol Place residents for years, and they have said throughout the process that many of the homeowners will be willing sellers.

The city plans to offer owners up to the appraisal amount or the assessed market value of the home, whichever is greater. According to their plan, city officials would negotiate as long as they can — until construction is "imminent" — before using eminent domain to acquire homes with unwilling sellers.

According to the memo, they expect it will cost $4 million to buy the 91 properties. Based on a 2008 analysis completed by the city, about 70 percent of the homes are renter-occupied.

The city will first negotiate for residences with clear titles and whose owners do not have relocation needs. They would next approach sellers with relocation needs.

The Housing Authority of Champaign County already has agreed to provide up to $1.1 million in assistance for those who cannot afford higher rents elsewhere or who cannot afford to move.

The final phases of the mass purchase would include properties with clouded titles, and finally, using eminent domain to buy properties whose owners do not wish to sell.

City officials have budgeted $7.4 million for the purchase of the properties, relocation of their residents and demolition of the neighborhood. After that, the city would contract for the redevelopment of a mixed-income neighborhood.

Further into the future, city officials plan to buy a smaller number of homes in the Garwood neighborhood on the opposite side of Market Street, but according to the memo, they would buy those properties on a volunteer-basis only.

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