Urbana plans for ‘green’ housing

By Marie Wilson

The Urbana City Council reviewed a preliminary report Monday about an environmentally friendly neighborhood planned for the surrounding area of Kerr Avenue.

Jeffrey Engstrom, Urbana city planner, presented the report from the plan’s general design phase.

After setting the goal in 2006 of designing a nationally recognized, affordable, energy-efficient model neighborhood, the city hired Farr Associates to create possible designs for the site.

The report presented to the board Monday included two plans for the neighborhood, each with 46-48 housing units, water retention areas, public gardens and geothermal wells.

Council members said this plan could change the culture of the home-building industry in the area and shift it toward more energy-saving techniques.

Mayor Laurel Prussing noted that most Council members preferred the second plan for the site, which keeps the land more natural by leaving a hill on the land untouched.

“I like the fact that we’re thinking of this as an educational showcase,” said Danielle Chynoweth, Ward 2. “If we’re going to make this a model neighborhood, then the showcase aspect is important.”

Chynoweth also said she thinks the second plan, with the new street off to one side of the property and the hill left intact, is the more aesthetically pleasing option.

No matter which plan is followed for the site, the new street will connect to the existing Crystal View Townhomes neighborhood.

Engstrom said both versions of the Kerr Avenue plan will be presented to potential developers to consider and tweak before breaking ground and marketing the homes to potential buyers.

Additional topics discussed:

The Council also discussed plans for celebrating Urbana’s 175th birthday. Ward 5 Council member Dennis Roberts said the first of many celebrations will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17 at Lincoln Square Mall.