Urbana set to buy another property near high school

Urbana set to buy another property near high school

URBANA — Slowly but surely, the Urbana school district is gobbling up property one block north of the high school.

A home at 906 S. Race Street will soon become the 15th lot on its block owned by the district, according to chief financial officer Carol Baker.

"I estimate there were originally 21 lots on that block," Baker said. "We now own all but six of them."

It's part of a long-term, land-banking strategy that Baker said the school board began in the 1990s.

The district sets aside $100,000 a year for "property acquisition." This year, most of that will go to Cari A. Eyer, who'll get $97,000 for the property at 906 S. Race.

In the short term, the district's plan is to continue to lease it to the current resident for "as long as possible," Baker said.

The district will systematically buy properties on that block if they become available, she said.

"We wanted to gradually acquire these properties rather then go through the process of eminent domain," Baker said. "Usually, the owners come directly to us to let us know their property is for sale."

The district does not have a grand plan for what to do with the block — or when to do it. But for a growing school district like Urbana's, Baker said, it is important to have land available for future projects or uses not yet dreamed of by current school officials.

"The board has not discussed any use of the properties," Baker said. "The board instructed me that: If any owners in the block north of the high school should become available, buy them."

Most of the homes the district has purchased have been leased to tenants until the buildings deteriorate or become too expensive to maintain.

"Then we demolish them, plant grass, and they become green space," she said.

The one recent exception was a lot that the district used to expand school parking.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 28, 2014 at 9:03 am

More vacant land to be developed by the city?  If the current vacant land parcel downtown could be sold, it would free up money to buy more land.  How much will the Kendall Gill House cost?  Before long, Urbana will have so much green space that it will be able to graze sheep.

Huh wrote on March 28, 2014 at 11:03 am

Yeah, more land taken off the tax rolls. That will help pay for pensions. I'm glad they stated there is no "grand plan", we would have never guessed.