Council backs development on University

CHAMPAIGN — In what was called an "unusual" case of a developer working closely with neighborhood residents, the city council on Tuesday night gave the final OK for a large student housing complex to go up on the eastern edge of the city.

Developer Chase Sorrick said he plans to have his two building, six-story apartment complex on University Avenue between Fifth and Wright streets under way by next spring.

The proposal at first received pushback from residents immediately north of the site, who said it would increase parking congestion, raise their cost of living and harm the residential tenor of their neighborhood.

After hearing from those residents, Sorrick revised his plans. The developer had scrapped plans for two buildings on Park Street, providing a buffer between the apartment complex and the single-family homes.

Residents came to the city council thanking him and praising the project on Tuesday night.

"I thought that was very unusual for a developer of his magnitude to do something like that," said resident Ebbie Cook.

The efforts earned the praise of some city council members, too. The council OK'd the project in a 9-0 vote.

"It's not usual," said council member Will Kyles. "It's an unusual thing that developers and community members can work together in this way."

Sorrick, however, said it's maybe not so unusual.

"I don't know," he said. "We've been doing it in other communities, but we really do want to be advocates. That's just the difference, I guess."

He plans to have Latitude open by August 2016. When it's done, Sorrick said, people should expect to see new services and shopping opportunities on that part of University Avenue.

"It will change it quite a bit," he said. "That couple-block area will be quite a bit different when it's finished."

The site previously contained vacant lots, a used car sales lot and a few single-family homes.

"I look forward to this coming in and taking an area that is underwhelming at best right now and really, not only making it look better, but also bringing the university a little bit closer to the rest of town, the core of the downtown," said council member Marci Dodds. "This is something to look forward to and be proud of."

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