Champaign council to vote on deal with school district for Central work

Champaign council to vote on deal with school district for Central work

CHAMPAIGN — Coming in 2018 to the neighborhood surrounding Champaign Central High School: orange cones and "road closed" signs.

With construction on parts of Unit 4's $183.4 million facility upgrade package set to begin this year, the Champaign City Council tonight will take the first of two votes on an intergovernmental agreement with the Champaign school district. It calls for the evacuation of three city blocks over the next three years:

— Park Avenue, between New and Lynn streets, sometime in 2018, to accommodate the biggest-ticket project — the $87.1 expansion of Central's campus, which is expected to be completed by August 2022.

— James Street, between Park and University avenues, early in 2019, as part of the demolition and rebuilding of Dr. Howard Elementary School. According to the district's timeline, construction on the $16.1 million project will take place from August of this year through May 2020.

— Lynn Street, between Hill and Church streets, in 2020, to make room for the construction of new athletic fields for Central soccer and softball.

Each block being evacuated is in a city-designated historic streetlight district, according to a city report. Included in the council vote is a decision to uproot those lights and either incorporate them into the construction or put them in city inventory.

"If they're reused, the whole thing would be reused, not a piece or part of one," Bruce Knight, the city's planning and development director, said of the streetlights, which have large round bulbs on top.

The three blocks are also part of a city-designated brick street preservation area, which would be waived if vacation is approved by the council.