Shadow Wood residents endure short-term construction disruption for long-term gains

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Luke Cooper

Traffic accumulates outside of the Shadow Wood Mobile Homes on N. Market St. on Sept. 11. This has been the usual seen on N. Market Street due to utility construction, creating a bottlenecked road where drivers wait for the direction of traffic to alternate.

There is only one entrance to Shadow Wood, a mobile home park home to around 923 residents, and its entrance resided on a bottlenecked road because of extensive road construction on North Market Street since late July.

Until late October, the former two-way road was temporarily a one-way, with drivers waiting for their turn to cross on either side of a traffic signal. Streets intersecting streets like Bradley Avenue and Bellefontaine Street have been closed off completely.

Because of this, residents have had to inevitably traverse through traffic build-ups created on the road just to enter and exit their community. 

Roxanna Almaraz, an office manager for Shadow Woods, said such traffic alterations have impacted residents leaving and entering the residency, affecting those commuting for work at peak traffic hours.

“They have to leave earlier because the lights will take like 15 to 20 minutes before they turn green,” Almaraz said. “They were telling me that they have to be at work by 7:00 (a.m.), so they will leave their home like usually around 6:30 (a.m.).” 

Middle- and high-schoolers, she also said, have had to walk to and from a temporary bus stop for school a half-mile away from Shadow Wood on Neil Street.

Around 923 people — predominantly Hispanic — reside within Shadow Wood, according to data from the 2017 American Community Survey. The estimated median household income in 2017 was $34,375, $28,617 lower than the state’s median household income in that same year.

Though residents own the mobile homes within Shadow Wood, they do not own the land as Shadow Wood is privately owned by Marc Lofman, who bought the property in 2004 from the former owner, Warren Huddleston. Archived satellite images show the land on which Shadow Wood resides as having been used as a mobile home park dating back to the late-1950s.

The construction ultimately producing these traffic alterations was a part of a string of multi-year public works projects of the City’s intended plan to improve the North Boneyard Creek, which runs under Market Street and its surrounding areas.

The North Boneyard Creek Project aims to “provide protection” to the North Champaign area in the event of a “1% annual chance storm event (100 year flood)” along the creek, according to the project’s report, and is expected to finish its current project phase around Market Street by late December. 

“Though, the driving force of the project is the stormwater improvement and flood control,” Eleanor Blackmon, an assistant city engineer working on the project, said. “We incorporate a lot of aesthetic improvements for neighborhoods.”  

In addition to flood protection, the City is improving the area along the creek with the creation of walking trails and to the existing flood-detention center located within the Human Kinetics Park next door to Shadow Wood.

All of which are planned to “spur neighborhood reinvestment,” according to the project’s report.

Construction has been an interference for Shadow Wood residents, “but besides that, everything is good,” she said, as the inconveniences are for things that will benefit them in the long-run.

The Boneyard Creek Project is also interconnected with the ongoing construction of the Bristol Place Residences, an affordable housing project next to Shadow Wood on Market Street.

It started in November 2018 and is scheduled to finish this December for people to move into its 64 single-family homes and 26 townhouse apartment units.

An accompanying recreation center called the Martens Center, estimated to cost $10 million is in its fundraising phase and is expected to be built at the Human Kinetics Park in 2021, according to Jennifer Carlson, the Neighborhood Services Department’s program manager.

“There is a lot of construction around there at this point in time,” but it is all for a purpose, Carlson said.

“We want to build a neighborhood, a community [in North Champaign],” she said. “If you take Bristol Place, the Martens Center, the Boneyard Project, I mean, look at the growth in that few mile radius in the North End of Champaign; that wasn’t there just a couple of years ago. I think that’s pretty significant. I think that speaks volumes.”

Shadow Wood residents have also had the opportunity to attend meetings with others from surrounding neighborhoods like Garwood and Beardsley Park to discuss the future of the North Champaign community. 

“Everyone is aware of what’s going on,” Jean Algee said, a community development specialist for the City of Champaign who helps to conduct these neighborhood meetings. “We want to let the neighbors know what’s going on to get their input and communicate with them about what’s happening with the projects.” 

The City of Champaign reported that the area’s road closures and traffic alterations would be removed in October, for which Almaraz said the community is eager.

And as Shadow Wood endures the effects of surrounding construction for the next couple of years, residents will reap the benefits afterward, she said, but for now “it’s just been inconvenient.” 

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