CHAMPAIGN — The firing of Lovie Smith in December hasn’t affected Lovie Lane, a street in northwest Champaign named after the former Illinois football coach.
Building permits were recently issued for six new homes on the street in the Clearview development, adding onto the 17 structures that have been completed.
“It hasn’t had any impact whatsoever,” said Kevin Brumback, vice president of residential for The Atkins Group.
Smith was fired in December after finishing five seasons with a 17–39 record.
“I think most of our tenants — quite a few are professors or doctors from out of state and don’t even know the relation,” Brumback said.
That was the case for Rebecca Tamburello, who recently moved into one of the homes on Lovie Lane.
“I had no idea actually,” she said. “I just thought it was such a super cute name for a street.”
Tamburello said she doesn’t closely follow sports, so “I didn’t know that it actually came from a coach.”
But she said she likes the home.
They’re “cute, modern homes, concrete flooring, very Scandinavian, which I like,” Tamburello said.
Like all the other residents on Lovie Lane, Tamburello is renting, a market Brumback said is rapidly growing.
“We originally built two in 2018, and the market was a little slow,” he said. “And then we built an additional five in 2019, and the market was still a little bit soft.”
The Atkins Group initially tried to sell the homes, but around that time, Brumback read an article about how the rental market for higher-end, single-family homes “was a booming business in other parts of the country,” he said.
The Atkins Group put a “For Lease or For Sale” sign in the yards, and “very rapidly, in a matter of two months, we had everything leased,” Brumback said.
“And they’ve stayed leased,” he said. “It’s a good business plan for us.”
He said rentable, higher-end homes work well for Champaign-Urbana, which has professors and doctors moving here who might not end up staying here long term.
“I don’t know if those professionals feel that it’s going to be a lifetime commitment,” he said.
And he said some business owners “just prefer to rent. They like the single-family home and like having their own space and their own yard and the privacy it provides and none of the hassles of homeownership.”
The Atkins Group already rented out apartments, so Brumback said it was a relatively easy addition to the business, which also leases homes at Stone Creek and Cobble Creek in Urbana.
The Clearview homes on Lovie Lane will also be next to the Clearview Farm across Olympian Drive, where The Atkins Group is planting a variety of crops, including a large sunflower field.
“That is going to be really exciting,” Brumback said.
And while Lovie Smith has departed, Brumback said he doesn’t regret the streets being named after him.
“He represented the University of Illinois extremely well,” Brumback said. “He ran a clean program. …
“Not having a winning football record doesn’t mean you weren’t a good addition to the university.”