With the South Willis area relying heavily on community-centered events and interactions, the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for neighbors to interact and participate in activities like they have in the past. Despite these challenges, they have found a way to come together in an even stronger way during these unprecedented times.
The site of the old Bristol Place neighborhood on Bradley Avenue and Market Street in Champaign was demolished in March of 2018. The neighborhood was riddled with crime, was a blight that could not be eradicated without rebuilding the area from scratch, the Bristol Park board stated.
Urbana Park District planning demolitions of affordable housing to expand park space, neighbors concerned
Two homes at 907 and 909 East Main St. were demolished to create more open space to expand Victory Park, located at 1000 E. Green St., Urbana.
The Urbana Park District began the demolition process on Monday, Oct. 8, and is finished with the whole process.
Although this project is expanding the park, there were some concerns with the demolition.
Scott Dossett, head of the Historic East Urbana Association said one of the association’s biggest concerns with the demolitions is the loss of affordable housing. Dossett said there were conversations between the project director about the matter, but the decision had already been made.
“That is something the neighborhood association is concerned about, is quality housing for people of whatever means,” Dossett said. “And those are two [homes] that were pretty affordable.”
Dossett said that the association has worked closely with the park district to make Victory Park what it is today.
According to Dossett, the positioning of the current playground, resurfacing of the tennis court and the maintaining of the basketball court and shelter, were all due to a collaborative design between the neighborhood association and the park district.
He said that Victory Park is on a 14-to-15-year rebuild window and that the Park District involves them in planning as much as possible.
“We’ve been working with the park district for years about that, we got lucky in about 2002 or so, a couple of our members, we went to talk to the director at the time about some improvements there because it was really pretty sorry… So they invited us to kind of participate in a re-visioning of the plan for the park.”
Dossett discussed some possible ideas for the open space, but said none of the plans have been discussed any further.
The neighborhood association isn’t the only one expressing concerns about the demolition.
The neighborhood Facebook page is a place where neighbors and community members can share stories and opinions and issue in the community.
When the topic of this demolition came to the discussion, there were 19 comments discussing the issue.
There are mixed opinions among neighbors, but some that live nearby are concerned that the expansion of the park may keep spreading.
Kathleen Jones has lived in Historic East Urbana for 15 years and fears that projects like this may keep spreading, leading to a decrease in historical houses.
“I’m sure the opinions are mixed.
Anschick’s First Neighborhood Association disbanded in September without a replacement neighborhood association, leaving a group of residents without representation within the community.
These residents live in single-family homes, most occupied by one or two people on average, according to the U.S. Census in 2010. As a working-class area, homes are moderately kept and there is little crime in the area in comparison to other parts of the city.
In the past 6 months, there have been 56 violent crimes, most of which were assault and domestic violence-related offenses. Urbana police reports also show a plethora of break-ins and domestic violence.
While Dibenedetto acknowledges that violence is an issue, she says that efforts have been made in the community to decrease violence in all forms, including a new name change.
A brand-new apartment on the 300 block of W. Washington St. was built in 2019 right where a vintage Victorian home once stood and residents say it doesn’t match the neighborhood.
O’Rourke, a 77-year-old health education expert with a passion for communities, founded the South Willis Neighborhood Group 35 years ago and has been running it ever since.
The former two-way road is 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.
Only one house on the north side of Hedge Road has been demolished. Several more have been vacated recently, with the rest still being occupied.
Yet by 2022, all of the 46 properties on the three-block section are scheduled for demolition and purchase by the City of Champaign, in order to make way for a drainage pond to be built between Hedge Road and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
In the ongoing battle over the construction of big homes in the Clark Park Neighborhood, there have been some victories for the residents: one is the limits on the size of garages that will reduce the size of the homes.
The neighborhood was zoned “light industrial.” This ordinance prohibited any resident from making any substantial repairs to their home. This was over 45 years ago. Today, despite news articles and the efforts of James and his former colleagues, Wilbur Heights remains a “hodge-podge” of residential and commercial properties.