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.
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.
Urbana city officials acknowledge the crumbling conditions of Busey Avenue between Green Street and Illinois Avenue, but ask residents to wait another two years for the Public Works Department to address it.
West Urbana resident, John Krehbiel, expressed his frustration over Urbana’s lack of attention to the road’s condition over the years.
“Honestly, it’s embarrassing,” Krehbiel said. “This road is located just a few blocks away from a world-class university, and people from out of town probably drive on it pretty frequently.”
He believes the lack of attention to this crumbling road might send a negative signal to outside residents about the quality of life in the West Urbana Neighborhood Association. He also blames the continuing work on Green Street for the lack of response to Busey Avenue. “It seems like Green Street is definitely taking priority on the city’s list of projects, which leaves behind the residents who live on non-major roads,” Krehbiel said.
Busey Avenue before Green Street floods due to deteriorating road conditions. Photo taken Oct.30, 2019.
Garden Hills, originally a suburban subdivision outside of the city limits, is one of the largest neighborhoods in the city of Champaign, made up of over 1,000 homes. The neighborhood currently deals with many problems including gun violence, poverty, excessive amounts of vacant homes, lack of street lights and major flooding issues.
With the nearest grocery store a 25-minute walk away, the Beardsley Park area is one of the food deserts of Champaign. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food deserts as “neighborhoods that lack healthy food sources.” The USDA recognizes different ways of measuring access to healthy food for individuals and for neighborhoods, most of which through measuring the distance to a grocery store. The USDA Food Access Research Atlas is an interactive map that presents a spatial overview of food access indicators for low-income households. The map identifies the Beardsley Park neighborhood and surrounding areas as low-income census tracts, where a significant number or share of residents is more than half a mile from the nearest grocery store.
However, grocery shopping is about to get easier for the residents in the area, thanks to the Beardsley Park neighborhood garden. Last September, the city of Champaign acquired one acre in the Beardsley Park neighborhood to put the homeless to work and provide fresh produce for local residents.
Plans are now underway for gardening to begin in 2021.
Residents of In-Town, a part of Champaign that prides itself on its vibrant diversity,
rallied together against possible zoning developments last fall.
nearly two years of meetings and advocacy, the residents, specifically the
members of both the Old Town and Washington St. Neighborhood Associations,
successfully negotiated a set of conditions with the City Council that new
developers must abide by when building in the In-Town District of Champaign.
From all corners of her home’s basement in Clark Park, Amy Thoren combats flooding with four active water pumps. If rainfall or drainage issues become more prevalent, Thoren may have to rely on her fifth pump in the years to come. “It’s like the Mississippi in here,” Thoren said, describing her basement’s condition during heavy rainfall. “The whole house shakes from the pumps, and you can hear the water flowing like a waterfall.”
In January 2018, the city delayed the zoning vote on increasing floor-area ratio, FAR, for areas like Clark Park. It currently sits at .35, but was proposed to rise to .50, meaning more of a house’s lot can be covered with parts of the home.