CHAMPAIGN – It's taken four years to get there, but the Champaign City Council is poised to approve a development agreement Tuesday night for the old Burnham City Hospital site.
City council member Tom Bruno said he will be glad to be able to sign off on a definite plan for redevelopment of the old hospital, which closed in the early 1990s and eventually became a blighted area in the center of town.
"I think it's a good thing that we are finally coming to this next milestone," he said.
City officials expect the agreement with The Pickus Companies of Highland Park to generate $20 million in property tax income in the city's North Campustown Tax Increment Financing District over the next 20 years. That money that will be used, in part, to pay off $7.8 million in debt the city has from purchasing and demolishing the hospital.
The agreement with Pickus Companies – which calls for at least one, and possibly two, high-rise apartment buildings – is much denser than the city council had envisioned just a year ago.
City officials had talked about creating an "urban village" where graduate students, young professionals and empty-nesters owned townhouses, row houses and condominiums. That's what an October 2004 master plan proposed.
But the city in July selected the Pickus Companies from among three development proposals. Pickus proposed a 190-unit apartment building up to 12 stories high, a grocery store and other retail businesses, and 64 townhouses.
Since this summer, the Pickus proposal has evolved. Its main building, north of West Springfield Avenue and between Third and Fourth streets, would have 250 apartments, most with two bedrooms. The building could be up to 20 stories tall.
The plan also calls for a 50,000-square-foot grocery store near Fourth Street to serve apartment residents, or, if a grocery can't be landed, other smaller retailers, such as a restaurant and dry cleaner.
A second apartment building, with up to 150 units, reserved for University of Illinois graduate students, also might be built just north of Stoughton Street. That depends on Pickus reaching an agreement with the UI.
The plan also would allow Pickus to build and sell more than 100 "stacked flat" units, with buildings up to three stories in height, as well as townhouses or row houses, in other parts of the development.
City Planning Director Bruce Knight said that while the density of the project has changed, it will still target graduate students, young professionals and empty-nesters who want to live in an urban environment.
Bruno and fellow council member Ken Pirok say they aren't bothered by the increased density.
"Having a dense campus community where students, faculty and support staff live within walking distance of campus can provide a customer base that can bring good retailers and restaurants to Campustown and downtown," said Bruno.
Pirok noted that construction of the main apartment building alone will provide enough tax increment for the city to pay off the $7.8 million in bonds.
Pickus would pay the city $1.6 million for the property, with partial payments made as each city block is developed. That price is considerably less than the appraised value of the land, which was put at $4.2 million.
Selling the land at less than its full value would constitute the city's main subsidy of the project, Knight said.
The city will also contribute a minimum of $100,000 for a streetscape for the project, and about $400,000 for street and sanitary sewer improvements, Knight said.
Construction is slated to begin in August 2006, with the first phase, with the largest building, to be completed by August 2008. The entire project would be completed in 2010.
The city is also agreeing to pay up to $250,000 for environmental cleanup if the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency determines that a further cleanup of the site is required, which Knight said is "extremely unlikely."