CHAMPAIGN — City officials will next look to a federal agency to help finance the Bristol Place redevelopment after the city council this week officially signed off on a plan to demolish the entire neighborhood and build new housing.
The vote codified a plan to buy the residents' homes, move them to new housing and demolish the seven-block neighborhood.
Council members on Tuesday also formalized an agreement with the Housing Authority of Champaign County where the housing agency will provide $1,092,000 in assistance to help relocate Bristol Place residents.
The redevelopment plan for one of Champaign's most troubled neighborhoods has been the source of much discussion during the past months as officials worked toward Tuesday's vote.
City officials have said the Bristol Place subdivision, with its high crime rate and low property values, is not salvageable, and the only way to fix its problems is to build a new neighborhood.
"Now we've got the go-ahead to do this redevelopment," said the city's community development specialist Greg Skaggs. "And we have a plan in place of how we're going to deal with the residents there."
The first phase of the redevelopment — purchasing homes, moving residents and leveling the neighborhood — is expected to cost $7.4 million. The Housing Authority has agreed to provide just under $1.1 million, and city officials plan to ask the Department of Housing and Urban Development for a $3.4 million loan.
Officials have been meeting regularly with Bristol Place residents during the past months to keep them up to date on the project, but now the city can begin sending notices of its intent to purchase those properties.
Those notices are required by law, as is a 90-day waiting period before the city can close on the properties. During that 90 days, Skaggs said, the city plans to do appraisals and conduct resident interviews to see what their needs are as the city forces them to relocate.
City administrators plan to consult with the city council again in February to finalize relocation plans for the residents. Skaggs said the city does not plan to write its first check before July.
As the city begins acquiring and demolishing properties, they will also begin to work on what kind of housing will return when the dust settles. That is the second phase of the redevelopment.
Housing Authority Executive Director Ed Bland told city council members this week that the partnership between the city and his agency makes sense, and that the Bristol Place redevelopment plan will improve the quality of life for those residents.
"I believe that the majority of citizens in Champaign County don't want anyone living in substandard housing," Bland said.
Officials say most of the residents are supportive of the redevelopment based on the discussions they've had in community meetings and going door to door.
Champaign resident Seon Williams, who has been involved in some of those community discussions, said he has heard the residents were eager to get to this step, where the city can start moving toward buying their properties.
"I think that's what the residents have been telling us as we go door to door and talk to neighbors," Williams said.
The plan had stalled for some time in front of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners as its members debated whether to provide the $1.1 million assistance on the project. After responding to some community push-back, commissioners were able to work out a deal.
Housing Commissioner Clyde Walker said he has been "gung-ho" about the plan since first hearing of it.
"There were some bumps in the road, and we did it," Walker said.