Champaign councilman says more discussion needed on housing project

Champaign councilman says more discussion needed on housing project

A Champaign councilman isn't tipping his hand on his support for a proposed housing complex in his district.

Officials are looking at putting up several buildings with housing and retail space north of University Avenue between Fifth and Wright.  Some residents in the area are opposed to the project, saying it will cause traffic congestion and a rise in the cost of living, among other things.

Councilman Will Kyles said more public input on the project is needed.

Kyles added that if things progress as scheduled, the housing project will go before the city council in early February.

Kyles made the comments Thursday on the WDWS Morning Show.

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Local Yocal wrote on December 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm
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Nor is Kyles tipping his hand when he first became aware of a large developer buying up properties in the area for the last year and a half and for what reason. It's possible Kyles was kept out of the loop but he probably doesn't want to disturb his good relationships with city staff and council either if he did know well beforehand.

For Kyles to represent his constituents now with some of that good old fashion Repubican morality, he needs to recognize that Salem Baptist Church deserves to have their concerns taken seriously.

mrseeu2 wrote on December 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

There are no valid concerns that have been given to why this project shouldn't go forth and Mr. Kyles recognizes that.  He's a councilman,  a professional that is keeping personal feelings out of the mix and is considering the financial impact this will have on the city as as a whole. This discussion has no place for selfish thinking, this is a major, major project that will have a very favorable impact on this city and all of its citizens.  The few that are opposed to this  must yield to the greater good here.  We can not be prejudice against students, they have a right as everyone does to live in that neighborhood.

Local Yocal wrote on December 20, 2013 at 6:12 am
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An excellent, well articulated response that is probably widely accepted. With all due respect, it is doubtful this project, as currently designed and designed for, will benefit the entire community. Like so much of "the economic development" before it, there is no greater good. It might look prettier than what is already there, but it will continue the slow rot that has infected this community for the last 30 years as currently designed and designed for. 

bmwest wrote on December 21, 2013 at 11:12 am
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I just wanted to chime in with my two cents. My family and I have lived in this neighborhood for almost a decade. It is definitely a transitional neighborhood between campus and downtown as well as between campus and the neighborhood to the north. And it has, itself, been transitioning over the years with more investment in the neighborhood, both public and private. It also has a rich history - for example, our 1894 home built by a German hardware merchant was also home to an Irish Catholic farmer, a German railroad engineer, an African American couple, a Holocaust survivor, and a not-for-profit after school program.

It's hard to speak to the demographics of the overall neighborhood since that depends on how you define the boundaries but, focusing on the specific blocks where the new buildings would be located, this development would remove 5 rental houses, two of which are rented to students. There would be 3 houses that will not be removed which, again, are rented to students. The 6 blocks immediately adjacent to the proposed development are primarily (75%) non-residential (churches, businesses, and parking lots). Out of 90 parcels, only 5 are single family owner-occupied homes (including mine) while 10 are rentals (4 to students) and another 8 are or will soon be vacant. Clearly, these 8 blocks are very different from the single family home neighborhood that exists to the north and west.

Although the development may not be directly providing housing for the residents to the north and west, the addition of over 500 bedrooms is likely to shift students out of single family houses, making those houses available once again to neighborhood residents. The infrastructure improvements, environmental remediation, and job opportunities are more direct benefits to the neighborhood. It's great that the developer is willing to explore an affordable housing component. Due to the land, remediation, and redevelopment costs, I suspect that it may be cost prohibitive and one reason why other developers have not come along. However, it would be helpful to see a cost analysis to highlight the economic reality that led to the current proposal. It may be that such a development is the only way to fight the urban decay (reverse gentrification) resulting from lack of private investment. It also promotes a more healthy mix of incomes within the neighborhood rather than concentrating poverty.

Some have expressed concern with the size of the 6 story development. However, several nearby buildings are comparibly sized. Beckman is 5+ stories tall, Presence is 8 stories tall, St. Mary's Church is 3+ stories tall with an 8 story tall steeple, Salem Church is roughly 4 stories tall, and the apartments at the southwest corner of Fifth & University are 4 stories tall.

It is certainly healthy to have a discussion about this development and its impacts on the neighborhood. It may be that some of the concerns expressed can be accomodated in the developer's plans. I hope this can be part of a larger conversation about how this neighborhood and similar neighborhoods around the city can work together to improve conditions and opportunities in an inclusive way.