Bright ideas on the way for Garden Hills


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CHAMPAIGN — A team effort by the city and Busey Bank has resulted in a $67,500 grant to help improve the exterior lighting on 20 homes in the Garden Hills neighborhood.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the city council approved receiving the funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program.

“Basically, the area is very dark right now,” said Jimmie Howlett, Busey’s vice president of community development. “The effort of Busey and the city of Champaign is to bring more light in that area, make it more visible and safe at night. So we’re glad to be a part of this effort.”

Last spring, the city partnered with the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission and Ameren to launch the Safety, Lighting, Energy Efficiency Program.

SLEEP offers homes in Garden Hills free safety and energy-efficiency improvements.

Bright ideas on the way for Garden Hills

The city initially committed $122,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to the program and got 59 applications from homeowners in 2019.

The city “estimates more demand will be evident once the initial homes receive these improvements,” a report noted.

The new funds will go toward “emergency escape and rescue windows, and the lighting features at the entry points, as well as the yard poles,” said Jennifer Carlson, the city’s neighborhood programs manager.

“When we developed the SLEEP program, we always had the intent that we would seek out other funding sources because we see it as a great need and a great opportunity,” Carlson said.

In addition, Busey Bank will lend up to $75,000 for five qualified homeowners to finance additional upgrades to their homes.

Garden Hills Neighborhood Association President Chad Smith said he was pleased to see additional funding for SLEEP.

“The more money that’s out there to help aid in things like the SLEEP program, (for) safety and lighting — that’s one of the things that is important,” he said.