Urbana council keeps proposal for housing development in committee

Urbana council keeps proposal for housing development in committee

URBANA — The city council voted Monday night to keep a rezoning and annexation proposal for a housing development in the northern part of the city in committee for two weeks.

The development, Union Gardens by Lafayette-based Trinitas Ventures, will include 406 units of duplexes and townhouses aimed primarily at students and young professionals.

It's planned to be built in a 40-acre lot of farmland just north of Bradley Avenue, straddling the Champaign-Urbana city line.

The Champaign City Council is set to vote tonight on its part of the 40 acres.

The Trinitas plans would offer four access roads into the area, with Carver Drive being the most contentious for some, as it would mean cars cutting through the Carver Park subdivision.

Alderman Bill Brown said he disputed the notion put forward by city staff that the extensions of Fourth and Fifth streets in Champaign would be the main arteries for the subdivision, especially for students headed to campus.

Brown said the majority of university buildings are southeast of the site and more easily accessed through Carver Street.

And Alderman Jared Miller questioned whether students would consider Union Gardens a viable housing option to begin with.

"If you had come and surveyed students here, you'd have found that most students don't think anything exists north of University Avenue, let alone four or five blocks north of University," he said. "Two miles away for students — in their worlds, that's a long ways away."

Miller also pointed out that there's almost no shopping nearby, with the closest grocery store being the County Market at Fourth Street and Springfield Avenue in Campustown, and said students would be isolated in the area.

Alex Sanders, who is on Trinitas' development team and chose the site, said students won't be the only people living at Union Gardens.

Alderman Aaron Ammons, who moved to table the decision on the development, said the plan would further isolate a black community that has historically been chipped away at.

He also balked after learning that Trinitas' leasing policies do not allow people with felony convictions on their records to live in their properties.

"We're all very concerned about what future developments look like and if they really take into consideration the area," Ammons said of the neighborhood, which is in his ward. "Given the concern about housing in Champaign-Urbana, to deny people with felony convictions, that's just a nonstarter for me."

Ammons also called for more involvement on the side of the developer when it comes to minority participation in the building of the site.

He said he's excited for the possibility of development in the area, but not at the expense of an already existing community.

At two public hearings in April and May, held at the Church of the Living God — which would end up being wedged between the development and Carver Park neighborhood — only six people attended each meeting, with all of them saying they supported the plan.

Dr. Evelyn Underwood, who spoke during the public-comment portion of Monday's meeting, said that if the developers had talked to more people, they would've gotten a different response to the project.

She also called this new development another example of something bigger.

"This is the first African-American neighborhood in Urbana," she said. "Carver Park will now be surrounded. I don't know where they're going to put all of us. They call it progress, but to us, we're being sucked up and taken out of our communities."

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