Neighbors skeptical of development proposal

Neighbors skeptical of development proposal

CHAMPAIGN — Plans for a two-block-long apartment complex along East University Avenue are being met with skepticism from homeowners who say it could change the character of their neighborhood.

As the student housing market booms locally, private developments are beginning to creep north of University Avenue. A neighborhood group that rallied for the cleanup of a toxic site at Fifth and Hill streets is now saying the large apartment complex poses a new risk to their livelihood.

Indiana-based Investment Property Advisors is seeking approval from the city to build a four-building, 552-bedroom apartment complex with 15,900 square feet of ground-floor retail space along the north side of University Avenue between Fifth and Wright streets. The company has dubbed it the Latitude housing development.

The city's plan commission is scheduled to open a public hearing when it meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St. The commission would need to approve certain waivers of some city rules, and is expected to postpone a decision on the proposal until its January meeting. The city council will have the final say after that.

City officials have not yet taken a position on the development. They and the developer met with residents on Monday night, and they will likely hear more during public meetings in the months to come.

"We are waiting to get some public input," said Lorrie Pearson, the city's land development manager.

Some neighbors, however, have formed an opinion.

"It's going to affect the neighborhood," said resident Eileen Oldham.

Oldham lives just across the street from where the developer plans to build a surface parking lot to accommodate its residents. She worries the development will bring the bustle of campus north.

"If you've ever tried to travel down Springfield, at the corner of Springfield and Fourth, you see how congested it gets," she said.

Currently, about two blocks of used car sales lots, single-family homes and a surface parking lot are on the site.

Investment Property Advisors, which has applied for city approval for the apartment complex, specializes in student housing. Its website features projects it has completed at Ball State University, Valparaiso University and in Indianapolis.

A $60 million student housing complex it completed at the University of Louisville features 540 beds, 30,000 square feet of commercial space, a pool, hot tub, fitness center and multimedia room.

Developer Chase Sorrick told residents Monday evening that he thinks the development will bring investment to the neighborhood.

"We do feel as though this is going to be a positive impact on this neighborhood," Sorrick said. "We build a high-quality product."

While the group specializes in student housing, Sorrick said he believes some young professionals — particularly those who work in the nearby hospitals — will want to sign leases in the Latitude building.

Because 35 percent to 40 percent of the units will be one-bedroom, he thinks the development will be desirable to students who want to focus more on their studies.

"We try to attract a different type of student," Sorrick said. "One that's more serious, grad students."

Eventually the complex would provide 323 parking spaces.

He said managers at buildings he's done in the past run a tight ship.

"Neighborhoods surround the university, and students are going to live in those neighborhoods," Sorrick said. "All we can do is provide an environment that is as safe as possible."

City officials in both Champaign and Urbana have been busy lately with proposals for student housing. Projects are already underway on Green Street in Champaign, including a high-rise at Fourth Street and two buildings at Sixth Street.

Student housing has already begun to creep north in Urbana at the 1000 block of West University Avenue, only a few blocks from the Champaign site, where the Florida-based Bainbridge Cos. plan to build a five-story, 197-unit complex with beds for 510 students.

Oldham thinks it's a sign that campus is expanding.

"They've done it before, especially if you are to travel east into Urbana, they've got it there," Oldham said.

At a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, the Fifth and Hill Neighborhood Rights Group plans to make the case that the development could have consequences for the neighborhood. Among the group's concerns, it thinks the complex will remove green space from the neighborhood, vastly change the scale of buildings in the area and raise the costs of living for nearby residents.

Residents say they want their property values to rise without pricing them out of the neighborhood.

"The residents of this neighborhood want to have a voice in what happens in their neighborhood," said Claudia Lennhoff, the executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers and one of the organizers behind the neighborhood group.

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the University of Illinois Department of Urban and Regional Planning, 29 percent of the 37 North First Street and East University Avenue business owners surveyed supported an expansion of the university district to the north, and 43 percent said they did not support it. The rest had mixed feelings.

Associate Professor Stacy Harwood said those who did support the push north said it would bring more customers to their businesses.

Those who did not support the push north worried about gentrification of the area, and said it posed a risk to the predominantly black community.

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alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 17, 2013 at 8:12 am
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Have Ms. Oldham or Ms. Lennhoff actually looked at the properties they are going to build this development on?  I just looked at all of the structures they are tearing down on Google Street View, and nearly every one of them looks unoccupied and/or in horrible condition to the point of falling apart.

Ms. Oldham and her neighbors should be thanking this developer for removing filth from their neighborhood.  I fail to see the logic behind how severely delipidated homes, empty lots, and a seedy used car lot are better for her neighborhood than this development is.

I'm also confused by the assertion that having non-black people in the neighorhood "threatens" the black people currently there.

cjgxw3 wrote on December 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

I think what the residents are trying to say is that the developer is catering to the university and not necessarily the community/neighborhood. Sure it might make the area more aesthetic but it doesnt mean this developers plan is the solution. I'm sure if the community had a say they would suggest other things that would actually benefit the neighborhood. Gentrification might be another fear of theirs. If this building gets the OK then whats stopping the city and other private investors from buying out the neighborhood and pushing residents further away to make room for their own monetary needs as well as the universities? 

As for the safety concern from what I've seen crime seems to be at a higher rate for the city near campus than in the neighborhoods. Having more students in the area might bring crime by creating a larger target group as well as bringing tenants who get don't have a interest in the community since they're just passing by temporarily. 

The thing that concerns me is the polution site that is just a block away from this possible development. I'm curious to see how safe is safe enough for this to be ignored? 

Lennhoff wrote on December 17, 2013 at 9:12 am

The residents of the 5th & Hill neighborhood are NOT opposed to redevelopment of the properties on University Avenue and some on Park Street.

But they are opposed to this particular proposal, because it would create massive, dense housing in a neighborhood that is a mix of primarily single family homes and a few small apartment buildings. The proposed Latitude development would add as many residents as there are currently residents in the neighborhood. This is a massive development.

The proposed housing development would add congestion to the neighborhood, light and noise pollution, affect vehicular and pedestrian traffic on University Avenue (like what has happened on Springfield Avenue with the addition of private student housing apartment complexes), reduce green space and old growth trees in the neighborhood and replace those with parking lots, and fundamentally alter the character of this historic neighborhood where the families of the residents have lived for generations.





alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm
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Those are certainly some valid concerns, but how have Ms. Oldham and her neighbors stepped forth to address the blight near their homes until now?  Do they have any realistic proposals for that area for the city to consider?  Have they ever?

aantulov wrote on January 10, 2014 at 10:01 am

Define blight?

Giving a FORIEGN owned building/company 30 years tax free status doe not solve the problems of "blight", only increases the pain.  Blight- as defined as people still suffering from the affects of ...history...

A park with a summer staff to engage youth would also NOT PAY TAXES, and bring people to town for lunch.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on January 11, 2014 at 12:01 am
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I would define blight as neglected and run-down properties, which are what this complex is replacing.

mrseeu2 wrote on December 17, 2013 at 10:12 am

How in the world can a city turn down  millions of dollars in new development that would take away a blighted area?  How in these times can a city turn down a new taxing revenue? Let's get real here. All too often the north neighborhood has said that development has passed them by, and when it comes knocking at their door they will not accept it.  If you pass on this development, I can guarantee you will be waiting 10-20 more years before another one comes along.  You can't pick and chose what developer wants that land.  This is a recession.  The city and the neighborhood shoud be happy anyone wants that place. How long has those lots been empty or under used? Much too long. This project must pass and it will pass because to say no just because some green area will be used or a little more traffic congestion will happen or your property will increase in value is just ridiculous. "My property value will increase" and that's a negative.  The city council will listen as is their job but in the end this is a no brainer and must proceed.

Local Yocal wrote on December 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm
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How can the north end let development pass them by? Because it's not for them. The developer Chase Sorrick was very clear about this. In a black church he stood before their congregation, and explicitly said, "This is not for you to live in."

pattsi wrote on December 17, 2013 at 1:12 pm

If one takes time to look at the project from an urban design perspective, one might realize that this creates a second barrier between the community and the north end. The first was Beckman and no doors on the north side of the building.This was a conversation focus when that building was going up. If a plan is to add housing why with such a high profile, not just this plan but what has been built along Springfield and not going up on Green. The high profile does not fit the community, Such is out of scale. Why not an urban design plan along University that matches the profile going north, in other words integrate it into that long standing area? A secondary question, how much of this category of housing can this town support? The supply and demand curves will eventually come together and then what.

And just to be a devils advocate--I hear Unit 4 is looking for infill acreage for a new Central HS centrally located.  :-)

alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm
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The complaints about the tall buildings on campus being "out of scale" become more and more ridiculous with every tall building that goes up there.

I know you and others prefer run-down buildings, strip malls, and empty lots to new high-end much more "character," after all.  But you will keep losing that battle.

And yes, why would Beckman (a facility FOR STUDENTS) not have an entrance on the north side, a direction from which students would not be expected to arrive from?  Truly puzzling.  Let's just assume it's racism.

Also, not enough space on that property for a new high school, but nice try.

football jingoists wrote on December 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Local, is that some kind of strange joke? I'm having a hard time believeing that happened...

Local Yocal wrote on December 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm
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Not a joke. The developer stood before Salem Baptist Church and described the new tennants to live in these behemoth structures as strictly students or a few "young professionals from the hospital," which according to his company's market analysis is an "underserved population for private housing." Starting price, with everything included, will be about the market rate of $1270-a-month. He said that his company serves a high-end market that maximizes a quality-type of college student for tennants.

When asked if he was offering any low-income units within these complexes, he said that was not his company's intent, but when repeatedly pressed on the issue he finally said he "would look into it." (The City of Champaign has a 2007 ordinance that allows landlords to deny renting to anyone for the sole reason that payment will be Section 8.) When one of the ladies in the congregation asked what benefits are for the black community that have been in the area for 3-4 generations, he said property values [taxes] will rise.

When criticism continued, Chase Sorrick said he had his property rights too, everything was legal, and it was unfair to discriminate against students. And there would be 12 new permanent jobs created. When asked if he would be willing to work with the black community and invest in the black community too, he had no comment.


alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm
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Just because he's building a development near low-income black neighborhoods doesn't mean he's automatically obliged to invest in the black community.

lebloom wrote on December 17, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Yeah, why does an out of state company need to come into Champaign/Urbana to build for their own good a large housing complex for UI students?  How much off campus housing do these students really need?  Isn't there enough housing on campus to live in?  Bad enough they had to build multi unit complexes in single housing areas on Green St. right in peoples back yards  We don't need this large complex there and neither do the residents of that area.  Just how much kick back is city getting for letting these companies come in and do what they want?

Kirsten wrote on December 18, 2013 at 6:12 am

Local Yocal, I hope you can repost your excellent comment from last night, which seems to have disappeared. I really appreciated your analysis.

Local Yocal wrote on December 18, 2013 at 6:12 am
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I certainly didn't remove it. Mike Howie, what happened? I thought the criteria was hate-speech for removal, any explanations?

Local Yocal wrote on December 18, 2013 at 10:12 am
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"Just because he's building a development near low-income black neighborhoods,
doesn't mean he's automatically obliged to invest in the black community."

A completely legal and probably widely accepted observation. In the name of Free Enterprise, those with the capital to spend, free to earn money how ever they so choose; feels like a sound principle most would agree with. In fact, the residents of the 5th and Hill neighborhood have no problem with the developer building housing for students. It's the lack of process and transparency, the size of the buildings and the locating of so many people in such a small area that has the residents in shock.

This consistent process of the city governments soliciting secret deals with out-of-town developers has given no voice to anyone as to how the twin cities will be designed, both architecturally and economically, for a sustainable future. This economic model of the last 20 years is not working for the residents who live here, work here, pay their taxes here, send their kids to school here, and do their business here.

Out-of-town developers have no history, no sensitivity, and operate from a pure profit motive that often seeks to quickly exploit the cash-cow student market. They send the profits to corporate headquarters elsewhere, hire out-of-town contractors to build their structures, and leave behind a few minimum wage jobs to clean and maintain their buildings. All the while, the city governments laddle tax break after tax break for them (has a single story residence ever received a property tax exemption in the history of the twin cities?) and despite all the enormous investments of our tax dollars toward infrastructures of roads, parks, schools, boneyard creek detention, sewage, bus service, fire protection, and police protection; despite building high-rise apartments after high-rise apartments, all the hotels, all the restaurants, all the liquor establishments, all the $350 million dollars worth of sports facilities, all the computer high-tech gobblygook, all the research park amenities, and a few sculptures thrown around for decoration;.....all ideas and initiatives from out-of-town developers......where are we after following this economic model for the last 20 years?

In 2000, we had 10% of our population living at the poverty rate. In 2013, the poverty rate is now 24.5% in Champaign County, the 3rd highest rate in a state of 103 counties.

Unemployment is near 9%. The Eastern Illinois Food Bank can't keep up with demand, the soup kitchens need to double their service yesterday. The law enforcement community wants to spend $22 million dollars on a new jail. What is this, Washington D.C? The hometown of the flagship state university isn't smart enough to maintain its own bathtub?

While many would say this is a comparison of apples to oranges, we have been here before only a few months ago over the proposed 160-unit apartment complex over on Cobblefield Road west of Interstate 57. Residents packed city council chambers to express outrage over a secret plan they believed would drastically alter their quality of life. That was different many would claim, Section 8 voucher families are trouble, whereas the Latitude Development is for wealthy U of I students.

Really? Have you ever lived on campus? Have you seen the crime reports, the crime maps, and the trash after a night's baachanal, the trash after a weekend of moving in or moving out? Have you attended UnOfficial St. Patrick's Day celebrations? Do students prefer soft music or loud music? How often do students house-party, drink, do drugs, and celebrate after studying? What sort of hours do students keep? Do they have friends who are underage?

For those who live in a quiet, single-story residential neighborhood, take a look out your front yard and imagine a six-story monolith packed with 534 people with the parking lot for 300 cars that comes with it directly across the street. And if you don't like that idea, tough titty for you because free enterprise is not obligated to consider your welfare, your quality of life. Oh, and by the way, the township assessor has just upped the value of your property, and now you owe double in property taxes next year. Howdy, neighbor!

GeneralLeePeeved wrote on December 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Part of your comment caught my attention, LY.  You brought up the outrage that some people had about the Turnberry Ridge housing project ("the proposed 160-unit apartment complex over on Cobblefield Road west of Interstate 57").  While it is definitely true that people are really honked-off about this, has that stopped the project from going forward? (I ask because I really don't know it's current status)  If it is still "on", then I guess the entities involved didn't really care about the concerns raised by some of those who were upset.  I seem to recall people raising the spector of increased crime, how the project would change the landscape, how "if they didn't want someone to build there, they should have bought it themselves" etc, etc......some of the exact same arguments that are being raised now.  Why should the concerns of the people involved in this current proposal be accomodated any more (or any less) than those from the west Champaign project?

bmwest wrote on December 21, 2013 at 11:12 am
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LY, I can't speak to your entire post but I do agree with some of your sentiments about costly developer incentives, lack of corporate citizenship, and misprioritizing jails over diversion programs and much needed quality jobs. However, I did want to answer your question about tax exemptions for single family homes. There is a Homestead Improvement Exemption which exempts the value of improvements to your house for four years ( By my math, that is worth up to about $1,325 per year or $5,300 total for a $50,000 improvement or, at the top end, $6,000 per year or $24,000 total for a $225,000 improvement.

Local Yocal wrote on December 20, 2013 at 11:12 am
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"This consistent process of the city governments soliciting secret deals with out-of-town developers has given no voice to anyone as to how the twin-cities will be designed,..."

"Why should the concerns of the people involved in this current proposal be accomodated anymore (or any less) than those from the west Champaign project?"

There should be no difference. Hopefully our legislators on City Council will honor what Thomas Jefferson stumbled upon while blogging to the British: "All men are created equal," and consider the concerns of both the current residents near the Turnberry project and Latitude Development with equal respect, and not... equal disregard. Disregard isn't in the City Council's job description, at least as far as what Ben Franklin was intending.

Meaning,...perhaps...: Developer, Construction Company, current landowner, current homeowner, Section 8 voucher holder, U of I student, police officer, nearby business owner, car driver, bicyclist, pedestrian, farmer, and all other affected parties to these very significant and permanent changes to the landscape and economy should have a chance to, at least, be heard.
Secrecy and hurry aren't serving anyone very well so far. By "anyone," I mean anyone who lives here.

The bigger question you are asking: if a group of nearby residents remain opposed to a development in its current proposal form after a thorough debate, can it be changed or refused? Stay tuned sports fans would be my best guess. This is a very educational moment in both situations would be my final answer.

A worse guess is corporations have stolen the Civil Rights language meant for actual human individuals; and have paid to have their status changed from a group of wealthy shareholders to people.
So the answer to your question, from what I understand of the law, is no, property owners cannot be told what to do with their property under property rights, and cannot be denied access to a property based on prohibitions-against-discrimination rights.
People far smarter than Local Yocal should weigh in on the question, and hopefully they will, in Council Chambers on January 15, 2014 at 4:00 p.m.

The government of the City of Champaign should be advised to take its time and process both of these projects very, very carefully.
The attitude of "We don't want to be a bad prostitute and keep the customer waiting, or else, we'll lose out to another whore..." on the part of city politicians (particularly that one politician with the bushy mustache) should be what's absolutely disregarded.

As for the status of the Turnberry project, a look at the Housing Authority of Champaign County's website doesn't make it clear to me what the current status is of the project. (Reading comprehension can be faulty) There are many answers to the frequently-asked questions about that project.

Try this link if you would like to see them:

aantulov wrote on January 10, 2014 at 10:01 am

The real question here is this :

Why are all these mega buildings going up owned by china and few local bigshots without paying taxes for the next 30 years or even enough to cover education so that Parkland has to spend 90 million and raise taxes and so does the school district or even the sewers?

The taxes for the rest of us should be going down. Its not just the cost of the new schools systems but the focus of both schools to serve a small defined "public."