C-U growth marked by new housing projects

By Nicola Crean

While the national economy and housing market remains in a slump, the city of Champaign continues to see growth and development, particularly throughout campus and downtown areas.

“One can certainly see the (city’s) growth,” said Bart Taub, economics professor at the University.

The majority of the projects now visible to residents have been underway for a long period of time.

“A lot of those projects were in planning phases well before the economy got bad,” said T.J. Blakeman, city planner for the city of Champaign. “These projects were three or four years in the works.”

Teri Legner, economic development manager for the city of Champaign, said the city is somewhat insulated from the national economic crisis.

“I anticipate there being follow through on current projects,” she said. “Fortunately, we live in a community where we continue to see growth. It is great that we are still able to develop as a community.”

During the past two years, Campustown has seen a series of high-rise apartment buildings become popular among students, and Blakeman said there are more to follow.

The city has approved the second phase of the 309 Green Apartments project, which will be a 20-story apartment building located at 311 E. Green St. In addition, an 11-story building will be built by Campus Property Management on the corner of Second and Green streets.

“Strengthening the Campustown area is good and the projects help it to thrive,” Blakeman said. “Developments are allowing students to stay close to campus in newer residence.”

Legner said the students want a higher quality product and the new development can meet their needs.

“Think about some of the properties located on the fringe of campus and even in the core of campus,” Legner said. “They are getting older. There is a high demand for new construction and new apartments.”

She added that it is too early to tell what will happen to the older apartment buildings on campus.

“There may still be a market for those older units,” Legner said. “But the new units are more natural for students to want to live in.”

Investment and redevelopment is still ongoing in downtown Champaign, in both commercial and condominium projects.

In the past three years, Champaign has seen record-breaking numbers of development projects, Blakeman said.

“We returned to about an average amount of construction this year,” he said. “We have not seen an extreme decrease in the amount of projects yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see projects start to slow down.”

Taub said the economy’s effects on Champaign and development depends on how long the recession lasts.

“If the recession continues, then we will see projects slowing down, certainly new projects,” he said.